New Bush Library vs. the United Methodists

The religious left moves to stop construction on a new library dedicated to the former president.

The new George W. Bush Library at Southern Methodist University (SMU) campus in Dallas is finally about to begin construction after wails of protest from left-wing Methodists and professors.  But now the anger is rising again thanks to a preliminary exhibit at SMU featuring, among other Bush artifacts, Saddam Hussein’s handgun and President Bush’s bullhorn from his first post-9/11 Ground Zero visit.

“I hope that a bullhorn will not become the symbol for the entry of the United States into an unjustified war and that a pistol of Saddam Hussein’s is not seen as some strange symbol of victory in that horrendous misjudgment,” harrumphed anti-Bush United Methodist theologian Tex Sample to The New York Times. “That these should be the symbols of the values and commitments of the Bush administration and should now become the face of Southern Methodist University is cause for alarm.”

A more charitable interpretation of Bush’s bullhorn would recall the President’s words of encouragement to the toiling and grieving New York firemen at Ground Zero. And shouldn’t advocates of gun control at least celebrate that one particularly egregious mass murderer was mercifully relieved of his pistol before killing again?

Of course, the ongoing hostility to the Bush Museum at SMU and in United Methodist circles is informed more by Bush Derangement Syndrome than serious concern about museum displays.   The new exhibit is called "Breaking New Ground: Presenting the George W. Bush Presidential Center."   Besides the artifacts, it will also feature a model of  the insidiously impending new Bush Library, which frenzied critics fear will transform SMU into the host vessel for the contagion of Bush militarism.

“It’s the approach they’ve taken all along; it fits their worldview,” explained leading Bush library critic and SMU professor emeritus William K. McElvaney, who is an ordained United Methodist whom The New York Times also quoted.  “It’s a tragedy for SMU to hitch its star to this.”  Evidently McElvaney has promised there will be demonstrations at the library’s groundbreaking this month.  With the Rev. Sample and other left-leaning United Methodists, he unsuccessfully tried to persuade SMU’s board and the denomination’s bishops to halt the library. More temperate minds understood that whatever controversies surrounded the Bush years, the library’s archives would be a boon to SMU scholarship.  George W. Bush, who’s wife Laura attended SMU and sits on SMU’s board, is himself a United Methodist.  The pastor of his Dallas church also sits on the SMU board and has outspokenly defended the library.

More benignly, the library sneak-peak will also display wooden Easter eggs, golf balls, one of Laura Bush’s evening gowns and Air Force One water bowls used by the presidential dogs, Barney and Miss Beazley.  Presumably, the library’s enemies don’t object to the dress or the canine items, or even to the letter from Bono about AIDS relief in Africa, a cause on which the Bush Administration lavished funding, without credit from critics.  Perhaps more problematic will be Bush’s handwritten preparation notes for his post-9-11 speech (evidence of warmongering!), letters from soldiers (further warmongering!), and jewelry gifts from the Saudi King (a pay off for warmongering?).

The library exhibit will also feature a special exhibit for children about President Bush’s preference for Sharpie pens and Laura Bush’s fondness for Texas bluebonnets.  Doubtless these subterfuges are also aimed at brainwashing little ones about the virtues of American imperialism.

"I think they'll really love some of the interesting items like the bullhorn," promised Alan Lowe, director of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, according to published reports. "There's such an emotional connection with these objects that I think people will have because they'll remember those points in history: remember what they were doing on 9/11 or the war in Iraq. They'll remember the day Saddam was pulled out of that spider hole."

In truth, most of the Bush Library critics likely have greater contempt for Bush than for Saddam, whose millions of voiceless victims never incited much sympathy among sufferers of Bush Derangement Syndrome.   They implicitly would not have extracted Saddam from a spider hole but instead would have left him grandly in his palaces, plotting, thieving, starving, torturing and murdering for many more years.  “We want to give them a sneak peek at what the library and center will be," Director Lowe cheerfully explained, maybe not fully realizing that even impartial museum displays about the Bush years will further enrage the library’s not yet reconciled opponents.

"We saw advisers who said torture was permissible under U.S. law," one irritated anti-Bush “peace” activist told The Dallas Morning News. "We've seen economic policy that favors the rich over the poor. We've seen unprecedented power invested in the executive branch that has never been quite as blatant. And we've seen diminished civil rights with the Patriot Act."  No exhibits about White House Easter eggs or golf balls are likely to mollify such anger.

Ironically, the United Methodist Church’s Emory University in Atlanta quietly has partnered for years with the library of another controversial president. His “malaise” filled administration presided over impoverishing recession, inflation, and gas shortages, not to mention the fall of many nations into communist and Islamist tyranny, from which the world still reaps the whirlwind.  But there have been no United Methodist protests against the Jimmy Carter Library. Evidently anti-Bush United Methodist clerics and other leftists prefer presidents who empower tyrants, not remove them.