In the firmament of the Bushes, it was meant to be George W’s week, what with the dedication of his presidential library and an attendant spate of TV interviews, not to mention the rare gathering of all five living US presidents and ex-presidents to celebrate the occasion. In an odd way, though, last week belonged to Jeb.
The term “library” is a bit of a misnomer. These peculiarly American institutions, covering every presidency since Herbert Hoover’s, are indeed repositories of official papers, and managed by the federal government at taxpayers’ expense. But their construction is privately financed, and for the average visitor they are primarily museums, designed – not surprisingly – to present the men who raised the money for them in the best possible light.
If you doubt me, try Richard Nixon’s at his birthplace in Yorba Linda, California. True, the section dealing with a small matter called Watergate has been considerably beefed up, but overall the place retains an almost reverential air. And if the rehabilitation of the much-reviled “43” is to start anywhere, it will be at the George W Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.