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Bush’s high-dollar legacy

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The New York Daily News reported last week that President Bush, as he rides roughly into the last quarter of his eight-year tenure, is starting to think seriously about his legacy.

And that’s nothing new’… everyone who’s sat in the big chair starts to think about the light in which history will cast him, what the textbooks will say, whether people will praise his name or spit on the ground when they utter it.

And Bush is hedging his bets.

According to the Daily News story, Bush hopes to raise $500 million for the construction of his presidential library, the bulk of it coming from private “megadonors” – “wealthy heiresses, Arab nations and captains of industry” according to a “Bush loyalist” quoted in the piece – who will cough up as much as $20 million a pop.

That amount is roughly twice what the Bush campaign raised for the 2004 election, and a similar dollar amount to the projected cost for the Indianapolis Colts’ new 60,000-seat, retractable-roof stadium. And it is the most expensive presidential library in history, topping Bill Clinton’s monument by a whopping $335 million.

Reagan’s library in Simi Valley, Calif. cost a mere $60 million, housing exhibits like a land-based Cruise missile circa 1987 and Reagan’s Air Force One, as well as a healthy smattering of photographs and documentation about the Iran-Contra affair, perhaps his administration’s biggest scandal.

Bush Sr.’s library cost about $83 million and in it is a piece of the Berlin Wall, which came down during his term, with five bronze mustangs leaping over it, allegorizing that president’s legacy.

The Clinton Library, a huge $165 million trailer on the banks of the Arkansas River, houses his CD collection and also an alcove dedicated to the Monica Lewinsky affair and Whitewater.

So what will W’s shrine contain? What bits of his legacy will he choose to preserve? A piece of the wreckage after 9-11 perhaps. A veto stamp that was used just the one time. Maybe a small-scale replica of the city of New Orleans displayed in a salt-water fishtank. The severed head of Saddam Hussein.

Whatever.

The museum will be funded by private dollars, but thanks to the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955 it will be given to the US government and will then be funded by federal tax monies as part of the National Archives and Records Administration.

We can’t speculate on what the annual upkeep of a $500 million building will be – the Clinton Library, at least, is a “green” structure with solar panels and floors made from old tires – any more than we can predict the degree of revisionism, if any, the framers of the new Bush Library will employ.

But 10 will get you one that Halliburton secures the contract to build it.

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