The Reviews Are in For the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

A sampling of what’s being written about the exhibits you’ll find in the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s museum:

Not surprisingly, Bush media adviser Mark McKinnon gives the place high marks, calling it an “impressive return” to the national stage for the former president. His words for the Daily Beast:

I suppose the best one could ask of a presidential library and museum is that it accurately reflects the work of the administration and personality of its namesake. On this count, score a 10. The library is bold, honest, gracious, respectful and humble. Those were all strong characteristics of George W. Bush.

McKinnon praises the much-discussed “Decision Points Theater,” in which visitors are challenged to consider what they would have done in Bush’s shoes:

 The bottom line is that even if you don’t like Bush, if you are willing to put yourself in his position with the facts that he had at the time, you will likely come away with a much greater appreciation and understanding for how and why the decision were made. The museum does a magnificent job of making that point—no matter how much you might disagree with the outcome of the decisions.

Politico notes that there are some important figures of the Bush Administration largely absent from the exhibits:

Politics is downplayed; the 2004 reelection campaign goes unmentioned. And essentially invisible are Karl Rove, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney, who the president became somewhat estranged from in his second term.

Bush wants to be remembered as a statesman, not a hawk. An oversize painting of him with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair hangs at the entrance of a theater.

Social issues, from his steadfast opposition to abortion to his push for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, are ignored, too.

As he gets the inevitable second look, Bush World is eager to remind everyone of how vulnerable the country felt on Sept. 12, 2001.

CBS News says that, based on precedent, we shouldn’t be surprised if the Bush museum glosses over some aspects of his presidency that are considered controversial:

When the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas first opened in 1994, it directly addressed, “however fleetingly,” as the New York Times reported, former President Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky. [Presidential historian Douglas] Brinkley said it may take years — decades if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton runs for office — before the Lewinsky affair and Mr. Clinton’s subsequent impeachment are more fully addressed.

Other presidential libraries have broached the less flattering aspects of a president’s tenure years after they opened. The Lyndon B. Johnson Library, for instance, now tackles the Vietnam War, Donius said, and the Richard Nixon Library recently updated its Watergate exhibit.

Yet Brendan Miniter, a liaison between the Bushes and the library, told the Associated Press that he’s proud of how the museum doesn’t shy away from controversial matters:

“I suspect that people would have thought that we wouldn’t have talked about say enhanced interrogation techniques or the decision to create the prison in Guantanamo,” he said, adding that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is featured in a video about why the administration felt both were necessary.

Visitors also are taken through a timeline of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A display at the end makes the case against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, including that he ignored 17 United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding he disclose his weapons programs and fired at British and American pilots monitoring the U.N.-imposed no-fly zone.

The exhibit also acknowledges the biggest controversy about the justification for war: No weapons of mass destruction were found.


  • ReasonMan

    I doubt Clinton’s library could have mentioned his scandals in 1994, just two years into his first term.

    • Jason Heid

      Ha. Yep, pretty sure CBS News meant 2004.