Nixon Presidential Library Fraud Ends As Bush's Begins
With each day, the Bush presidency more and more resembles the disgraced tenure of Richard Nixon. This past week alone brought dubious assertions of executive privilege, new revelations of domestic surveillance and civil rights violations, similarly dismal poll ratings and even a presidential pardon. And now, it seems, the disturbing Nixon-Bush parallels extend to their presidential libraries.
As the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and others reported today, federal archivists officially took control of the Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California. With that change came an end to three decades of revisionist history and apologies for the criminality and wrong-doing of President Nixon. As Crooks & Liars noted:
Venturing into that room, visitors learned that Watergate, which provoked a constitutional crisis and became an enduring byword for abuses of executive power, was really a "coup" engineered by Nixon enemies. The exhibit accused Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein - without evidence - of "offering bribes" to further their famous coverage.
And as Digby reported Sunday, that whitewashing of history by Nixon supporters was aided and abetted by none other than Hugh Hewitt. The right-wing commentator and Bush administration cheerleader hoped to offer a "conservapedia" of his own during his time as the Nixon Library's first director:
Yet from the start, the library had trouble being taken seriously. Its first director, Hugh Hewitt, announced that researchers deemed unfriendly would be banned from the archives, singling out the Washington Post's Bob Woodward as a candidate for exclusion. Scholars cried foul; Hewitt revoked the plan.
Which brings us full circle to legacy of George W. Bush. Down in Texas, Southern Methodist University has started the process of building the Bush Presidential Library and accompanying think tank on the university's grounds. The search for an architect is well underway. (Ironically, the project may be held up by claims from local homeowners, who assert that their property is being seized illegally under eminent domain. Of course, that process worked fine when then Texas Rangers owner George W. Bush wanted to build a new baseball stadium; it should prove no barrier now.)
With the Nixon experience and the Bush presidency in mind, however, the Bush library plan had met stiff opposition on the SMU campus. And it's easy to understand why. As ThinkProgress described in December:
The legacy-polishing centerpiece is an institute, which several Bush insiders called the Institute for Democracy. Patterned after Stanford University's Hoover Institution, Bush's institute will hire conservative scholars and "give them money to write papers and books favorable to the President's policies," one Bush insider said.
Clearly, for an administration that has doctored scientific reports, muzzled its Surgeon General and leading NASA figures, led the way in denying global warming and delayed the Plan B emergency contraceptive deemed safe by the FDA, academic freedom and the scientific method are not prized values. It's no wonder Chicago area Methodist minister the Reverend C. Joseph Sprague voiced his worries in April about SMU becoming the home of the Bush Presidential Library:
"I am hesitant to see Southern Methodist University welcoming the institute of a Methodist who has been so contrary to the teachings of the Methodist Church."
Contrary to the teachings of the church, to be sure, but not the Republican Party. So while the Nixon Library fraud may have ended today, the fraud that will be the George W. Bush presidential library is still to come.
UPDATE: Yesterday, the National Archives released 11 hours of new Nixon tapes. The new material features an unhappy Tricky Dick complaining the failure of George H.W. Bush to tow the line as U.S. representative to the United Nations. "That whole staff up there is violently anti-Nixon," he said, "and Bush hasn't done one damn thing about it. He's become part of it."