During an interview on Thursday with NBC News’s John Yang, President Bush talked about his life after the presidency, namely, putting together his presidential library at Southern Methodist University. A “think tank” will accompany Bush’s library there, and during the interview, Bush claimed the institute won’t attempt to burnish his legacy:
BUSH: The klieg lights will be off as far as I’m concerned and the new president will have his chance to serve in this great job. And I’ll be occupied with some interesting things to do. We’re going to build a freedom institute at Southern Methodist, a policy center that’s going to not be a place where we herald George Bush or [the] Republican Party.
But the institute Bush is referring to will be completely independent from the academic governance of the university. It will reportedly “sponsor research and programs designed to promote the vision of the president” and “celebrate” Bush’s presidency. One university professor said that “[a]cademics everywhere should be concerned about this” and that it “goes against the idea of dispassionate inquiry.”
In fact, Bush’s chief political operative Karl Rove — who is orchestrating the “Bush Legacy project” — will serve as a “critical resource” for the institute. Moreover, the library “will rely chiefly” on a design firm, rather than historians, to showcase Bush’s policies.
A number of SMU professors have expressed outrage that the library will trade academic scholarship for partisan praise of Bush. And after the United Methodist Church referred a petition to reject the library to its local jurisdiction that owns the university property, Methodist ministers launched a PR campaign highlighting the institute’s partisan nature. While the petition ultimately failed, a church committee offered a resolution urging the Bush library to protect the academic “integrity” of SMU.
Indeed, Bush has already begun promoting his tenure in the White House and he seems happy enough to rewrite history to do it.