Comedy writers and lovers of the absurd all across America have a bounce in their step today, buoyed by news that President Bush is looking to raise half-a-billion dollars to build his legacy-burnishing presidential library.
The idea of Uncurious George building a $500 million shrine to his disastrous presidency is the political equivalent of a whoopee cushion; a veritable laff riot. The punchlines write themselves:
A George W. Bush Library? What's it going to house, 100,000 copies of The Pet Goat -- with some Shakespeares and a Camus thrown in for good measure?
Will there be a Heckuva Job Memorial Wing saluting W's sterling political appointments? A Hurricane Katrina Photo Gallery, with each image housed in its own airplane window frame? An exact recreation of Dick Cheney's secure undisclosed location (try to step inside and a recording of the Veep tells you to "Go fuck yourself!")?
Will visitors to the Iraq War Wing be handed rose-colored glasses before entering and having flowers thrown at their feet? Or will they don blinders as they stagger forward, sinking deeper into a man-made quagmire?
Will there be exhibits on waterboarding, illegal wiretapping, and the quaintness of the Geneva Conventions? A room devoted to the nobility and greatness of the Hanging Chad? A holographic image of Osama bin Laden (try and grab him and he slips right through your hands)? The Abu Ghraib Game Room (must be over 18 to enter)?
At Bush 41's Presidential Library, there is a twelve-foot piece of the Berlin Wall, which came down during his presidency. Will 43 try to recreate the finest moment of his presidency by bringing in a pile of Ground Zero rubble? This would be an interactive feature, allowing visitors to climb atop the pile, grab a megaphone, and take a crack at uttering the best unscripted line of his time in office: "I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!"
Presidential libraries are traditionally archives dedicated to preserving the written record of a presidency. President Clinton's library, for example, has over 75 million pages of paper documents. But since two hallmarks of W's administration have been an obsession with secrecy and a clamping down on the release of government documents, that part of the library might be a little vacant. Of course, this can be balanced out by the over 750 (and counting) presidential signing documents Bush has used to circumvent Congress and run the country by Oval Office fiat. Might take a whole wing to house all of those.
Even so, $500 million is a mighty high price tag for a presidential library. In comparison, Clinton's cost $165 million, which was more than double the tab for Bush 41's.
So why is Bush 43 shooting for half-a-bil? According to an insider, the amount is "so much bigger than anything that's been tried before. But the more you have, the more influence [on history] you can exert."
In other words, it's going to take a hell of a lot of money to try and perform the political alchemy of turning Bush's legacy of tragic failure into something future generations won't need a gas mask and an air sickness bag to study.
So where is the $500 million going to come from?
According to the New York Daily News, Bush fundraisers hope to raise half their goal -- $250 million -- in "megadonations" of $10 million to $20 million from "wealthy heiresses, Arab nations, and captains of industry."
Wealthy heiresses? Somehow I just can't picture Bush putting on an ascot and turning into a Beltway version of The Producers' Max Bialystock, chasing rich old ladies around the Oval Office, trying to romance them out of a seven-figure check. Or maybe the Bush Twins are closer to Paris Hilton and Ivanka Trump than we know.
On the other hand, I get the Arab nations part -- it's a family tradition: the Sultanate of Oman, the King of Morocco, the Emir of Qatar, the Bandar bin Sultan family, the state of Kuwait, and a sheik from the United Arab Emirates (Dubai Port flashback!) all kicked in to help build Poppy Bush's library.
As did a whole host of "captains of industry" -- including Kenny Boy Lay. RIP.
Which brings us to the real problem with this story: people just don't give money -- especially not "megadonations" -- for no reason. Megadonors always expect a quo in return for their legacy-polishing quid.
Don't forget, Marc Rich's ex-wife Denise had donated $450,000 to President Clinton's presidential library fund in the two years prior to Clinton's last-day-in-office pardon of the billionaire fugitive.
Bush 43 may be a lame duck, but he still has two years left in which he can throw open the doors of the White House favor bank. So it's especially troubling that the names of donors to his library don't have to be made public.
That's right, captains of industry, Arab nations, wealthy heiresses, and anyone else with very deep pockets will be able to curry $10 million or $20 million worth of goodwill with the president of the United States -- and no one need know.
Whatever happened to the concept of government transparency?
It would be one thing if Bush waited until he was out of office before hanging a For Sale sign on the Oval Office. But if he insists on going for the gold while he's still president, the least he can do is make sure the public knows who is contributing to his library fund.