Star-Studded Political A-List Gathers for Bush Library Unveiling

Image: Star-Studded Political A-List Gathers for Bush Library Unveiling U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and former Presidents (L-R) George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter arrive on stage for the George W. Bush Presidential Center dedication ceremony in Dallas, Texas, on April 25, 2013.

Wednesday, 24 Apr 2013 10:31 PM

By David A. Patten

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An extraordinary gathering of all the living former U.S. presidents will mark Thursday’s dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

And beyond the presidents themselves, the presence of two very special guests will ensure the occasion is of current political relevance. On hand will be two oft-mentioned front-runners for the Oval Office in 2016: former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Their attendance guarantees the buzz among the glitterati in Dallas will be about the political future as well as the past.

The cable networks are planning wall-to-wall coverage of the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, which was built at a cost of over $300 million. Boasting more than 225,000 square feet of space, its library and museum will house nearly 70 million pages of presidential records, plus fascinating historic memorabilia from the 43rd president’s time in office.

Among the highlights: a precise replica of the Oval Office as it appeared during the second Bush presidency; a gown worn by first lady Laura Bush; the former president’s flight suit during his service with the Texas National Guard; and the bullhorn he hefted to rally the spirits of a shocked and embittered nation on 9/11.

Among the star-studded lineup of guests at Thursday’s dedication: President Barack Obama; former President Bill Clinton; former President George H.W. Bush; and former President Jimmy Carter.

Editor’s Note: Newsmax Celebrates the Presidency of George W. Bush With a Special Issue, “His Legacy: A Showcase of George W. Bush’s Greatest Achievements”  -- Click Here Now.

The new Bush library and museum open at a unique turning point in the public’s perception of the 43rd president, whose two terms were marked by the 9/11 attacks, two wars, Hurricane Katrina, and the meltdown on Wall Street in September 2008. According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, Bush’s favorability ratings have steadily climbed ever since he bid Washington adieu.

When the younger Bush left office, 33 percent of voters approved of his job performance, and 66 percent disapproved. Today those numbers have drastically improved: 47 percent approve of Bush’s handling of the job, compared to 50 percent who disapprove.

To put those poll numbers in context, Bush’s approval rating today is identical to the current approval rating of President Obama, at 47 percent.

How to account for the Bush comeback? Historians cite the grace with which he handled the attacks leveled on him in the waning months of his presidency; the popularity of his best-selling memoir “Decision Points”; and the fact that his strategy of putting al-Qaida on the defensive kept America safe from major domestic terrorist attacks for 11 years, leading up to last week’s tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon.

The dedication of his presidential center affords historians an opportunity to re-evaluate the key moments of the Bush presidency — his decision to surge troops into Iraq when his own Joint Chiefs opposed it; his tripling of funding to fight AIDS in Africa; and his visionary support for Social Security and immigration reform — and may be the next major step in recasting perceptions of his time in office.

Today, there are 13 presidential libraries in the National Archives and Records Administration, and the powerful role they have played in shaping the presidents’ legacies is the focus of a moving tribute by noted presidential historian Douglas Brinkley in the May issue of the award-winning Newsmax magazine.

Brinkley, who has toured all of the presidential libraries, gives Newsmax magazine readers his colorful, insightful review of the highlights of each. And he describes the new Bush library on SMU’s stately, tree-lined campus as “an architectural masterpiece.”

Brinkley also shares details of an exclusive, private tour he was given of the new Bush library and museum. Its particular focus, he says, is how 9/11 became the defining moment of the Bush presidency.

“The museum evokes how shell-shocked our nation was that unforgettable September day,” Brinkley writes in the Newsmax cover story, “and how President Bush calmed the waters with his reassuring leadership.”

Other features of this special Newsmax magazine report: profiles of each of the 13 presidential libraries; an in-depth analysis of how the Bush presidency will ultimately be perceived by history; and a probing look at the battle now under way over where Obama’s library and museum will ultimately be located.

As for the presidential center being dedicated Thursday, one of its first traveling exhibits this summer will display George Washington’s personal copy of the Acts of Congress, an historic volume documenting the first laws enacted by the very first U.S. Congress. That book’s display is especially appropriate given that 2013 will mark the opening at Mount Vernon of the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington.

Most Americans assume the nation’s founding president already had a library. But in fact, as the May issue of Newsmax magazine reports, the 45,000 square-foot library opening at Mount Vernon this September will mark the fulfillment of a dream the first president expressed on the eve of leaving Washington to return to his beloved Mount Vernon.

“I have not houses to build, except one,” wrote the father of his country, “which I must erect for the accommodation and security of my military, civil, and private papers, which are voluminous and may be interesting.”

As both Georges finally receive their libraries, beginning with Thursday’s dedication in Dallas, this will indeed be an interesting — and historic — year for American presidents.

Editor’s Note: Newsmax Celebrates the Presidency of George W. Bush With a Special Issue, “His Legacy: A Showcase of George W. Bush’s Greatest Achievements”  -- Click Here Now.

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