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So, the George W Bush Presidential Library and Museum will be dedicated tomorrow and open to the public next Wednesday. "So what?", you may ask and I don't contest your right to this stance. This library may mean nothing to us as citizens who lived through his presidency and it may mean nothing to history.

The latter is a more difficult issue to address, in my own humble opinion. The library and, in particular, the museum is President Bush's final attempt to define himself and his presidency. In fact, that is the purpose of a presidential library, is it not? Journalists may get to write the first draft of history and scholars may get to write later versions of it but presidential memoirs and libraries are a politician's best tool to define their own version of that history.

In that light, I have taken the news of the Library's dedication and opening to heart. Mostly as a student of history who has spent time in archives and other Presidential Libraries doing research. I am intrigued by all of the fancy media interactivity and the design of the "visitor experience". And I find myself wondering how the museum will shape the understanding of the Bush Administration by future generations.

In particular, I am intrigued by the interactive Decision Points Theater that presents information from advisors on different scenarios that occurred during the President's eight-year term in office including the Iraq invasion, Hurricane Katrina, the "Surge"and "Too Big to Fail".

from the Washington Post

The theater puts visitors in front of their own terminals, where former White House chiefs of staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and Josh B. Bolten narrate a presentation about the policy choices Bush faced during those events. As visitors weigh the options, breaking-news alerts interrupt them, aimed at heightening the pressure and complicating the decision making process. Visitors vote on their preferred response to each situation, and then Bush offers his explanation of what action he took and why.
The point of the museum is to dramatize the difficulty of dealing with complex issues, sometimes conflicting information, and the advice available at the time that every president faces. I would offer that the theater is Bush's attempt to say, "See, I just acted on what my advisors said was right at the time."

Except here's the thing that you and I know, George W Bush may likely be the least intellectually curious president ever. Also, his vice president and advisors probably held more sway than in any other administration. Names like Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, and Rice formed a brain trust that controlled policy through the advice they gave and the manner in which they presented it.

All presidents are influenced by their advisors but it seems to me that President Bush was beholden to his advisors in a way that none was before him. And that should be the central legacy of the Bush years. Be careful who you surround yourself with. They may control the flow of information but it is your name on the library, and in the history books.

030325-D-9880W-079.Pentagon, Washington, D.C. (Mar. 25, 2003) President George W. Bush announces his $74.7 billion wartime supplemental budget request at the Pentagon as Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld (center) and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul
In my opinion, the theater is attempting to distance Bush from his advisors. Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, et. al. pushed for war. The proof of that is right there in vivid color for us to see.

The key decisions that President Bush made were colored by the events of the time. The museum is trying to turn him from a "What, me worry?" president to a "See, I just got bad advice." president.

It is up to us as citizens to remember that the legacy of the Bush Administration should be that he made poor executive decisions, that he surrounded himself with bad advisors, and that he was too quick to heed that advice.

Let's not let this president fade into history as a victim of events and bad advice. Let's make sure that we stress that he allowed others to create the policy and that his self-styled moniker of "The Decider" was a great fiction. Let's do our part to make sure that the history is told correctly, in any way we can.

Originally posted to Salted and Cured on Wed Apr 24, 2013 at 04:32 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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