Everything You Need to Know About the Bush Center/Library/Theater/Museum/Thing

Categories: Events

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Journalists across the globe have been busy churning out copy about the looming Thursday dedication of the Bush Presidential Center at SMU. Some of the pieces wrestle with the Bush legacy, some describe the center itself. Others explore the practical effect that a massive ceremony featuring five presidents and innumerable other dignitaries will have on your commute.

We've mostly avoided the coverage in favor of more important endeavors, like debating alt-country acts and talking about pizza. We're finally wading through the mass of information and have assembled this road map to everything you need to know, and probably some things you don't, about the center's opening.

The Guest List: The dedication will be one of the almost unprecedented moments when all five living U.S. presidents -- Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Dubya, and Barack Obama -- will gather in the same place.

The presidents will be joined by 1,000 or so Bush-Cheney alumni, SMU officials and a random guy from Colorado. Plus a million or so Secret Service agents.

Tickets: You can buy tickets to get into the presidential library when it opens to the public on May 1, but unless you're a former president, a high-ranking official in the Bush administration, or gave a lot of money toward the presidential center's construction, you'll have to watch from the other side of Central with the protesters.

The Building: The sprawling, quarter-billion-dollar presidential center occupies 25 acres on the eastern edge of SMU, blending in with the red-brick Georgian architecture of the campus. It was designed by New York architect Robert A.M. Stern and took shape over about two years or. Or, in this time-lapse video, two minutes.

Mark Lamster, the Morning News' new architecture critic, gives it a lukewarm review, describing it as competent but uninspired though he does praise the "genial" 15-acre park that sits beside it.

Inside: At the heart of the center is the George W. Bush Library, which is administered by the National Archives and houses the records from Bush's time as president. These include some 70 million pages of documents, 1,200 cubic feet of photographs, videos, audio recordings and 80 terabytes of electronic records.

The complex also houses the Bush Institute, an independent think tank that churns out mostly conservative research and policy recommendations on free market economics, education reform, global health and a small handful of other issues.

But it's the museum portion of the center that has been getting the most attention. That's where you'll find full-scale models of the Oval Office and Situation Room, a container of the chads that helped Bush win the 2000 election and the bullhorn he used to address first responders at ground zero after 9/11.

Most intriguing is the Decision Points Theater, in which visitors are offered the chance to step into the president's shoes and weigh how to respond to famous Bush-era events -- or debacles, depending on who's doing the describing -- like Hurricane Katrina and the invasion of Iraq.

Why SMU?: From Bush's point of view, the location seems ideal. SMU's a quiet, respectable institution with a well-kept campus. It gathers a good deal of its money and support from Dallas' business elite, meaning it tends to be more conservative than a lot of universities. It's also Laura's alma mater and just down the road from their Preston Hollow home. It's also a Methodist institution, just like the Bushes.

For SMU, it's a matter of prestige. Having a presidential library, even one that's been opposed by some of its faculty members, was touted by SMU President Gerald Turner as a way to raise the school's national visibility and spur economic development.

Traffic: If at all possible, stay home from Wednesday to Sunday. Matter of fact, you might want just knock off right now to buy bottled water and other provisions. Otherwise, have a list of choice obscenities ready to hurl when you find the road you're traveling on turned into a parking lot.

SMU itself will basically be impassable, with a complicated schedule of road closures you can view here (the southbound Central Expressway service road from University Boulevard to Mockingbird will be closed on Thursday). Expect major congestion on SMU-area roads that aren't closed, including Central, Mockingbird and any other roads in the immediate vicinity.

But with five presidents rolling through town and security tight, police are shutting down various stretches of road in and around downtown and Oak Cliff. The Dallas Morning News put these on a map.

Security: Officials are keeping details of their operation quiet. Police Chief David Brown briefed the City Council's Public Safety Committee on preparations behind closed doors. In public, he said that DPD has been collaborating with the Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies to ensure the event goes off without a hitch.

"The support role we play, obviously, with so many dignitaries coming to our city is one that is going to involve a lot of our resources, both personnel and equipment," Brown told council members. "We are acutely aware of the sensitive nature of this three-day event."

Needless to say, security will be tight, particularly in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings.

Protests: Bush has been admirably quiet in the years since he left office, but whenever he says anything, or even just whistles exuberantly while clearing all manners of brush, his critics are there to pounce.

True to form, protesters are quite literally lining up to voice their dismay with the Iraq War, the War on Terror, waterboarding, torture and any other Bush-era decision they might take issue with. The center won't open for two more days, but anti-war activists have already begun positioning themselves across Central from SMU. This, of course, comes on the heels of a federal judge's decision that a city of Dallas ordinance that could could be used to prevent the demonstrations was "unconstitutionally vague."

There are only a handful now. Expect many more by Thursday.

Stephen Colbert: For reasons unknown, the Bushes opted not to invite the comedian to Thursday's dedication. Colbert considers this a snub, as he noted recently on his show.

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31 comments
ajain31
ajain31

50 Reasons We Despised George W. Bush's Presidency: A Reminder on the Day of His Presidential Library Dedication


1. Bush stole the presidency in 2000. People may forget that Republicans in Florida purged more than 50,000 African-American voters before Election Day, and then went to the Supreme Court where the GOP-appointed majority stopped a recount that would have awarded the presidency to Vice-President Al Gore if all votes were counted. National news organizations verified that outcome long after Bush had been sworn in.

2. Bush’s lies started in that race. Bush ran for office claiming he was a “uniter, not a divider.” Even though he received fewer popular votes than Gore, he quickly claimed he had the mandate from the American public to push his right-wing agenda.  

3. Bush covered up his past. He was a party boy, the scion of a powerful political family who got away with being a deserter during the Vietnam War. He was reportedly AWOL for over a year from his assigned unit, the Texas Air National Guard, which other military outfits called the "Champagne Division.”

4. Bush loved the death penalty. As Texas governor from 1995-2000, he signed the most execution orders of any governor in U.S. history—152 people, including the mentally ill and women who were domestic abuse victims. He spared one man’s life, a serial killer.

5. Bush was a corporate shill from Day 1. Bush locked up the GOP nomination by raising more campaign money from corporate boardrooms than anyone at that time. He lunched with CEOs who would jet into Austin to "educate" him about their political wish lists.

6. Bush gutted global political progress. He pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol which set requirements for 38 nations to lower greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change, saying that abiding by the agreement would “harm our economy and hurt our workers.”

7. Bush embraced global isolationism. He withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, over Russia’s protest, taking the U.S. in a direction not seen since World War I. 

8. Bush ignored warnings about Osama bin Laden. He ignored the Aug. 6, 2001 White House intelligence briefing titled, “Bin Laden determined to strike in the U.S.” Meanwhile, his chief anti-terrorism advisor, Richard Clarke, and first Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill, testified in Congress that he was intent on invading Iraq within days of becoming president.

9. Bush ramped up war on drugs, not terrorists. The Bush administration had twice as many FBI agents assigned to the war on drugs than fighting terrorism before 9/11, and kept thousands in that role after the terror attacks. 

Kyungju Park
Kyungju Park

The Observer did a story this week on the best cheese boards in Dallas. Now that the Bush Library will be opening, we know where the best waterboards in town will be.

Indira Pea
Indira Pea

Nah, I didn't troll you, I gave you the benefit of the doubt with your original comment of "get a job"...... carry on.... you will go far with that.....

Johnny Horton
Johnny Horton

^I'm not sure how you will. You're the one trolling me. I took one look at your timeline and saw that you are nothing more than an Occupy Loser. Sorry your movement died off after all the rapes and arrests. Now get a job, and a life or kys.

Indira Pea
Indira Pea

Oh no :/ first you post something ignorant and then a snarky "comeback" how am I ever going to live with myself.....

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

I hope they have Mr. President Bush the Younger's personal copy of My Pet Goat (the one he pondered upon on 9/11) will be exhibited in the War on Bad Guys part of the museum.

PepperoniCalzone
PepperoniCalzone

You left out the most important question: How many copies of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" does the library have?

Josiah Cline
Josiah Cline

Dallas Observer, how do you attract so many crazies?

Russ Coffman
Russ Coffman

BYOC (bring your own Crayons) First the Kennedy assassination, now this. Shame!

ChrisYu
ChrisYu topcommenter

well the guy in Campisi's that sold me a library card said it would give me complete access to all the events.

Vaun Norwood
Vaun Norwood

George Bush war crimes library, what a black eye for Dallas.

Tim Smathers
Tim Smathers

It's such a big deal, I heard W even learned to read!

Johnny Horton
Johnny Horton

Surely you've mistaken those people already lined up to protest as just the usual beggars that harass everybody at the stoplight there. Otherwise those people need to get a life (and a job).

Gabriel Garza
Gabriel Garza

Some of the dignitaries must be staying at the Omni for all that closure around the taxpayer funded hotel.

Joe Aguilar
Joe Aguilar

This article didn't tell me if the "library' would have numerous copies of "My Pet Goat" for a viewer to peruse in its 'Decision Room.'

Patrick W. Soileau
Patrick W. Soileau

The city of Dallas sure does seem to attract some less-than-handsome buildings, now don't it?

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

"...competent but uninspired..."

So it's a shit ton better than the guy for whom it was constructed?

BrotherBrother
BrotherBrother

Gitmo would be a more appropriate setting for such a well respected War Monger for Profit.  It would give him and Cheney a chance to show us how waterboarding is NOT torture.  I would be fine with them showing us that everyday. 

Americano
Americano

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz  

Many world leaders took that same view towards their enemies.  Stalin, Hitler and Mao just to name a few.

NewsDog
NewsDog

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz Please cite the statutes on which specific crimes you can prove were committed

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