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What I want to know about George W. Bush’s presidential library in Dallas

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Howdy y’all- the robot LBJ keeps us yukkin’, pic from here

There are 13 “presidential libraries” in the US. These are grandiose shrines that contain the papers and records of every president since Herbert Hoover. Tomorrow the library dedicated to George W. Bush will open in Dallas and all living presidents will be there to celebrate – rather like one of those episodes of Doctor Who where the current incarnation meets with his past selves to foil a Dalek invasion.

I have visited three of these libraries. The first was Nixon’s, which I explored while staying with a friend in California 10 years ago. At the time, Nixon was still sufficiently notorious that his library was the only one to receive no support from the federal government. Instead it was run by members of his fan club – a group of thoroughly fearsome elderly ladies, I might add. (Since then Nixon has been welcomed back into the fold and tax dollars now flow toward his library).

Close to the entrance there was a small cinema, almost totally abandoned, and a giant Nixon head appeared on the screen. It rambled on about mountain peaks and valley troughs, and how you cannot truly appreciate the highs of life until you have spent time in the depths. Thus it seemed Nixon viewed his disgrace philosophically, and his celluloid shade assured us that his impeachment had actually strengthened his (dearly departed) soul.

The rest of the library was fascinating. Being foreign, and until that time not very interested in American politics, I had not known that Nixon had run against JFK for the presidency, and thus his election a few years later constituted a truly remarkable comeback. The museum organizers were very proud of Nixon’s outreach to China and wanted us to view him as a great statesman. Watergate was not neglected and had its own wing, but my favorite exhibit was in the room dedicated to the 1969 moon landing. There they had the script of the speech Nixon would have delivered if the astronauts had…

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Daniel Kalder is an author and journalist originally from Scotland, who currently resides in Texas after a ten year stint in the former USSR. Visit him online at www.danielkalder.com
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