The question plaguing America for six years has been answered: it takes $500 million to get George W. Bush to finally go to a library.
When word came that fundraisers would raise half-a-billion dollars for a George W. Bush Library, the surprise was how much room do you need to store a couple of Shakespeares, My Pet Goat and The History of Salt? You'd have thought they could have gotten by with a fancy Bookmobile for only 75 grand.
Apparently they need extra space to store all the un-read Presidential Daily Briefings. For that matter, the Shredded Paper Room will be a popular (and huge) wing, overloaded with destroyed Iraq War planning communiqués and more.
On the positive side, when the President cut taxes for the upper-1% of Americans, we now at least see where some of the savings are going. We just don't know who's giving it. (Donations can be anonymous.)
Moreover, defenders of the project point out that half-a-billion dollars for the Bush Library is actually peanuts, the equivalent to just two days of the Iraq War. That's like ending the fighting June 19, 2017, rather than on the 21st.
Keep in mind that when Bill Clinton funded his Presidential library, Republicans went loony, their collective heads exploding at the exorbitant cost. That exorbitant cost was $165 million. And Bill Clinton actually owned books. The Bush Library will be $500 million. (You can never say that too many times.) To put this in perspective, you could build the Clinton Library and Madison Square Garden - and still have $135 million left over to try and find the WMDs.
Half a billion dollars for a library? Perhaps it's part of a new "No President Left Behind" program. Only this one clearly isn't un-funded.
For half a billion dollars, you don't expect just books at Libraryland, there'd better be fuzzy mascots, themed roller coasters and a laser light extravaganza.
Happily, the place already has an audio-animatronic President. It repeats, "Stay the course," all day.
According to Thomas M. DeFrank of the New York Daily News, this isn't just a library, but also an institute. The Bush Library will be hiring conservative scholars and, says a unidentified Bush insider, "give them money to write papers and books favorable to the President's policies."
And so the picture becomes clear. They're trying to burnish the President's image. Of course they need $500 million! Mind you, writing books doesn't mean anyone will read them. After all, if someone is so hugely unpopular that you need half a billion dollars to make him sound "favorable," why would you think anybody would want to spend money to buy a hardcover about the fellow?
Then again, perhaps that's another reason they need a $500 million library: to house all those books returned to the publisher. Maybe they plan to have a really big $1 bin.
"It's so much bigger than anything that's been tried before," another source acknowledged to DeFrank. "But the more you have, the more influence [on history] you can exert."
Honestly, you couldn't exert that much influence on history if you had a Time Machine and a nuclear-powered sledgehammer.
Yet still they try, sucking money into their Black Hole in order to somehow, desperately "spread the gospel" of the Bush Presidency.
The 12 Apostles couldn't spread that gospel if they used jet packs. If they gave away free iPods pre-loaded with "The Sermons of George W. Bush," they couldn't spread a gospel like that.
So, what's the big deal, other than gargantuan waste and utter senselessness? After all, if people want to donate private money to help a pal, they're entitled to.
Well, for starters, one hopes for a better example than gargantuan waste and utter senselessness from a President (although, in fairness, that's as good a monument to the Bush legacy as any). But also, see, as mentioned, these donations can be private. And if Republicans were up-in-arms about what favors Bill Clinton might do with $165 million, just imagine half-a-billion in giveaways.
Bush fundraisers want "megadonations" of up to $20 million from "wealthy heiresses, Arab nations and captains of industry." It's hard to tell if this is a bad romance novel or Homeland Security's worst nightmare.
But there's something else fascinating at play here. Look at the remaining quotes in DeFrank's article:
"'You can't ask people in Dallas for $20 million until they can be sure the library won't be in Waco,' one Bush source noted."
"'The money will be there,' a senior Bush adviser said."
Notice a pattern?
No one wants to go on the record. Every single quote in the entire piece is unidentified. And those donations will be private.
It's as if this was a super-secret, underhanded, spy mission, so shady it had to be protected by Executive Privilege. But they're just building a library. And nobody involved, nobody donating, nobody at all wants to go on the record!
Isn't building a library supposed to be a good thing? Isn't giving money for history research supposed to be noble? Isn't helping the President of the United States supposed to be patriotic?
And no one wants to talk about it.
Maybe it's that whole "gargantuan waste and utter senselessness" thing. And maybe it's just plain sleazy.
Welcome to Libraryland. After all, neocons say they are creating their own reality: here finally is their Happiest Place on Earth.