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Sunday, November 14, 2004

Competition for Dubya's presidential library doesn't include Yale

"Bill Clinton is a rock star," said Skip Rutherford, head of Clinton's nonprofit foundation that built the $165 million library and continues his post-presidential AIDS-fighting and racial reconciliation initiatives. "He is Elvis."

His drawing power will be on full display this week, when the current and former U.S. presidents, foreign leaders and celebrities are expected to be among 30,000 invited guests gathered on the library lawn, overlooking the Arkansas River in downtown Little Rock.

Thus CNN reports the opening of Bill Clinton's new presidential library in his home state of Arkansas. But today's Houston Chronicle includes an AP story, entitled "Five vie to land library," on the competition among cities and universities to host the presidential library of his successor, George W. Bush:

Bush has not chosen a site, and those plans "will be announced at some point," said White House spokesman Taylor Gross.

The cities and educational institutions that are listed in the AP story as competing for the Bush-43 article are —

  • Baylor University: In Waco; the Baptist university is about 30 miles east of Bush's Crawford ranch.
  • Southern Methodist University: In Dallas; the alma mater of first lady Laura Bush.
  • University of Texas at Austin: Where Laura Bush earned her master's degree, the alma mater of one of the couple's twin daughters and the home of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum.
  • Texas A&M University: In College Station; home to the presidential library of Bush's father.
  • Texas Tech University: In Lubbock, 110 miles north of Bush's childhood home in Midland.
  • Midland College: Near Bush's childhood home.
  • City of Arlington: Where Bush was managing partner of the Texas Rangers baseball team before he was elected governor.

Counting Clinton's, there are twelve existing presidential libraries scattered around the country. A considerable amount of ego gratification and a certain amount of political pork-barrelling is involved in these institutions. But each successive administration generates its own increasingly massively sized archives of paperwork and other materials that become legitimate grist for historians, and some sort of accessible and responsible repository must be set up for them, so I'm not much offended by their being distributed outside of Washington.

Certainly when I was a student from 1975-1980, I enjoyed the broad sloping lawns and tasteful fountains and plazas of the LBJ Library because they were adjacent to my three other primary campus hang-outs at UT-Austin — Townes Hall (home of Texas Law School), the Music Building-East (home of the Longhorn Band), and Memorial Stadium. I recall some snickering over the LBJ Library being sited at UT-Austin because it was not LBJ's alma mater; but LBJ certainly had family ties to Austin and had long chosen to underplay his own nearby alma mater (then Southwest Texas State Teachers College, now Texas State University-San Marcos). Neither, of course, did Bush-41 ever attend Texas A&M or live in College Station, Texas, where his library is sited; the University of Houston might have made more historical sense, given that G.H.W. Bush lived and lives in Houston and once represented one of its congressional districts, but A&M is bigger and has vastly more political clout.

Putting JFK's library at Harvard was, I suppose, a comparatively easy and apt decision. Unremarkable too, I suppose, were the decisions to put Hoover's in West Branch, Iowa; FDR's in Hyde Park, New York; Truman's in Independence, Missouri; Ike's in Abeline, Kansas; Gerry Ford's in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Carter's in Atlanta, Georgia; Reagan's in Simi Valley, California; and Clinton's in Little Rock.

Conspicuously absent from the list of existing sites for presidential libraries, however — and from any mention as a serious candidate for Dubya's — is the college or law school alma mater of our last three presidents: Yale University of New Haven, Connecticut. Shunned by Elvis, and shocked by the still-smoldering wreck of alumnus John F. Kerry's presidential campaign, Yale no doubt continues to keep its powder dry and await a grateful presidential alumnus acceptable to its blue-state values.

Indeed, a childish part of me wishes Dubya would choose Yale out of spite — for such it would have to be, and so it would be perceived and received. I imagine tasteful marble plinths, imported from the Texas hill country, each supporting a polished brass spittoon tastefully underwritten by Skoal Tobacco — and perhaps an ivy-covered "Mandate Monument" in the center of footpaths under shade trees for the perpetual protesters.

Realistically, though, there's no chance that George W. Bush's presidential library will be sited anywhere outside Texas, and my guess is that Baylor and Waco probably have the inside track. That'll leave the Yalies plenty of opportunity for self-righteous smirking, and everyone will be happy.


Update (Sun Nov 14 @ 2:15pm): Prof. Bainbridge quotes a few archly choice lines from The Economist about the Clinton Library.


Update (Mon Nov 15 @ 9:40pm):  My commenters below have exposed and corrected my mistaken assumptions about the locations and university affiliations of some of the presidential libraries listed above.  Mea culpa, and thanks as always to them for their courtesy,  diligence, and shared knowledge.

Posted by Beldar at 12:03 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Competition for Dubya's presidential library doesn't include Yale and sent a trackback ping are listed here:


(1) LazyMF made the following comment | Nov 14, 2004 12:14:04 PM | Permalink

Will he allow his presidential documents to be released to the library? Or will it consist only of tattle-tale books by his ex-cabinet members?

(2) Zev Sero made the following comment | Nov 14, 2004 1:08:54 PM | Permalink

Yale will have to wait until Connecticut produces a president (or even a vice president), which it hasn't done yet, and doesn't look likely to do any time soon.

(3) BigSprang made the following comment | Nov 14, 2004 2:13:21 PM | Permalink

Midland would be fun - right down the road.
It might be interesting to see how Austin would take to having W's library - if you think the Yalies would be protesting??? One very blue county in a sea of red.

(4) Mark L made the following comment | Nov 14, 2004 3:50:49 PM | Permalink

I know it is not just me because other friends at work have noticed it, too. The Clinton Library looks like a single-wide for 20-foot tall people -- the kind of thing Jack's Giant would live in.

Considering President Bubba's tastes, I think that singularly appropriate, but what got the Big He to sign off on a design that would even remotely remind people of a trailer park?

(5) Dave made the following comment | Nov 14, 2004 4:00:24 PM | Permalink

The Clinton Liebrary,, finest raised double wide on Earth. Geez, even the "research"facility is low rent.

(6) Connecticut Yankee made the following comment | Nov 14, 2004 5:17:12 PM | Permalink

Beldar: With regard to Yale's not being in the running, my guess would be that it has more to do with the scarcity of land in New Haven than with "blue state" issues. Like most cities that were built before the coming of the automobile, New Haven is quite compact geographically. As a long-time resident of the city, I've been trying to visualize just where a new library could be located anywhere near the rest of the Yale campus without causing an uproar at City Hall. Since Yale has one of the most acrimonious town/gown relationships in the Ivies, the administration probably doesn't want to make things worse.

On the other hand there have been rumors going around Yale that the building where W's parents were living when he was born will be made a national historic site. As Drudge would say, developing ....

(7) Jimmy's Attack Rabbit made the following comment | Nov 14, 2004 6:49:36 PM | Permalink

Having the 41st and 43rd presidential libraries together on the A&M campus, (a.k.a. the center of the universe), will be unique.

Gig 'em Aggies!!

(8) Steven Jens made the following comment | Nov 14, 2004 10:16:05 PM | Permalink

Actually, JFK's library is by UMass-Boston. I'm not sure whether or not it's considered part of the campus -- it's set off from the other buildings, if it is. At any rate, it's a good trip on the Red Line from Harvard.

Harvard did name their School of Government after Kennedy, which might be what you're thinking of. And they might have some of his papers -- I wouldn't know. But the official library isn't there.

(9) Steve L. made the following comment | Nov 15, 2004 7:29:09 AM | Permalink

I know it is not just me because other friends at work have noticed it, too. The Clinton Library looks like a single-wide for 20-foot tall people -- the kind of thing Jack's Giant would live in.

Today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette ran a cartoon (page 13) about just that fact.

Living here in Arkansas, I am sick and tired of hearing about this damn library. The media started in on it last week and has been pounding away at it since. Wednesday, there are several local, primetime specials dedicated to it. I am about to vomit.

The best part about it is that Clinton screwed Arkansas when he put his library here. Needless to say, they gave the foundation big tax breaks to encourage it to be build in Little Rock. Clinton repaid them by requiring 80% of the work to be done by union workers. Arkansas is a right-to-work state and is only 6% unionized and not many of them are in fields related to the construction of the library. As a result, the jobs the library was supposed to create went to people from outside the state.

Bill, thanks for doing to us what you did to Monica.

(10) SemiPundit made the following comment | Nov 15, 2004 9:09:50 AM | Permalink

I notice that Liberty and Bob Jones are not in the running.

(11) Michael made the following comment | Nov 15, 2004 12:32:49 PM | Permalink

To expand on the Kennedy Library, it was originally proposed for the site, owned by Harvard, now occupied by the Kennedy School of Government. Objections were raised about traffic in the area. Nothing gets built in Cambridge without objections being raised, but this time the objections were sound. The Library, overlooking Boston Harbor, is unaffiliated with Harvard, and quite beautiful.

(12) DemEnTEd made the following comment | Nov 15, 2004 8:50:43 PM | Permalink

Gerald Ford's museum is in Grand Rapids, MI, not Ann Arbor.

A slight difference of perhaps 100 miles...

(13) Justthisguy made the following comment | Nov 15, 2004 11:29:28 PM | Permalink

I remember all of the bumper stickers on Atlantans' cars saying, "Build it in Plains!" I was a neighbor to Jimmih's thing when it was going up, and I and my neighbors thought he was being a bad neighbor. We wanted that I-485 land turned into the "Great Park" we thought he'd promised us. It's sort of like that, but not very nearly.

(14) Byron L made the following comment | Nov 15, 2004 11:39:42 PM | Permalink

As long as the University of Texas isn't tainted by Dubya's library, I don't care. I'd suggest Baylor... it's in Dubya's adopted home county and they deserve each other.

(15) Attila made the following comment | Nov 16, 2004 1:45:06 PM | Permalink

Forget about Yale. In the early 90's, Yale was offered $20 million by the Bass family to start a program in Western Civilization. After a new president took over at Yale, the program was effectively killed. Story here.

When I graduated in the 70's, Yale was already well to the left of most of the country. It's way out there now, barely visible from the center.

(16) Ryan Scott made the following comment | Nov 16, 2004 7:07:14 PM | Permalink

Before you got to saying that Baylor has the inside track, I was thinking that as well. Baylor is a good school and Waco has a bad name since the razing of the Branch Davidians by the previous administration...we should never forget what happened there but the people of Waco would much prefer to have their wonderful town known as the home of the George W. Bush presidential library and not the site of the razing of a cult compound.

(17) Old Red made the following comment | Nov 17, 2004 10:32:22 PM | Permalink

Gotta be Texas Tech. Bush is a West Texan, just like Tommy Franks, and TTU is the premier university of West Texas. It's also the home of the Vietnam Archive, which will provide some tasty resonance with the SwiftVets contribution to W's re-election.

(18) David R. Block made the following comment | Nov 19, 2004 4:57:18 PM | Permalink

As a former student of A & M, I think that the choice should be obvious. However, UT-Arlington, UT-Dallas, or University of North Texas would also put it in close distance to the Texas Rangers. So would TCU or SMU.

(19) F Shippey made the following comment | Nov 19, 2004 6:10:21 PM | Permalink

>>Gerald Ford's museum is in Grand Rapids, MI, not Ann Arbor.
A slight difference of perhaps 100 miles...<<

The Ford library is on the Campus of the Univesity of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The Ford museum is in Grand Rapids.

(20) reliapundit made the following comment | Nov 20, 2004 5:12:40 PM | Permalink

btw: ford was a yalie/eli too (law)

(21) Keith Webb made the following comment | Mar 10, 2005 10:30:03 AM | Permalink

The JFK Presidential Library sits on land that was donated to the organiztion. It is therefore affiliated but not part of the UMass-Boston campus. By the bye UMass-Boston did snag a center for JFK's brother, Ted, which is coming soon! It will focus on studying the procedures and documents of Ted's career in the senate.

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