Dogging the Presidential Library

Interesting piece yesterday in The New York Times about the (impending?) (inevitable?) (invidious?) George W. Bush Presidential Library and Think Tank and Juice Bar on the S.M.U. campus. There was nothing terribly new, mind you: It dealt mostly with the concerns some faculty members have with turning the school into the Dubya Learning Annex pushing and peddling the prez's ideologies on his old lady's former campus.

This has been burbling since mid-December, after all, when Susanne Johnson, associate professor of Christian Education at the Perkins School of Theology, sent out the well-publicized missive pickin' on Bush for, among other things, his "degradation of habeas corpus, outright denial of global warming, flagrant disregard for international treaties, alienation of long-term U.S. allies, environmental predation, shameful disrespect for gay persons and their rights, a pre-emptive war based on false and misleading premises, and a host of other erosions of respect for the global human community and for this good Earth on which our flourishing depends."

Blah blah blah. Anyway, most interesting thing in the story is the revelation that Johnson didn't mean to e-distribute the letter in the first place. Get this: "The draft was on her computer screen, she said, when her dog climbed on the keyboard and hit 'send.'" Seriously. What she says, anyway. Then again, if you go to the Web site The Smirking Chimp -- guess who that refers to -- you'll actually find a much earlier essay-open letter written by Johnson and William McElvaney, Professor Emeritus of Preaching and Worship at SMU. In a November 29 piece headlined "Bush Presidential Library: Asset or Albatross?" they say they "believe the library will be a step backwards in terms of international respect for the city and the university." That, and a terrorist "magnet."

They wrote:

"The Bush library raises additional ethical issues. What does it mean for universities bidding for a particular presidential library to claim that the outcomes of a given administration are inconsequential to the value of that library for their campus?

What does it mean ethically for SMU trustees to say that a pre-emptive war based on false premises and destined to cost more American lives in Iraq than 9-11 is beside the point?

What moral justification supports providing a haven for environmental predation and outright denial of global warming, for shameful exploitation of gay rights, along with the most critical erosion of habeas corpus in memory? Given the secrecy of the Bush administration and its virtual refusal to engage with those holding contrary opinions, how can there possibly be any confidence in the selection of presidential papers turned over to the library? Our conviction is that these ethical issues transcend partisan politics."

That was their first missive. Then, on December 6, came the second missive -- the one everyone quoted. Doesn't really look like someone's dog sent it; if so, that pup has excellent HTML skills and is welcome to work at Unfair Park. The letter once more says those who are upset with the university should send a letter to university president, R. Gerald Turner. And, ya know, in case you didn't know what to write, Johnson had a cut-and-paste suggestion:

In my understanding, Southern Methodist University is seeking to house the George M. Bush Presidential Library. I encourage you to rescind this bid. Moving forward with your present plans will undermine the prestige and credibility of SMU in the eyes of overwhelming numbers of Americans, and citizens around the globe. Bush's policies have injured our country and caused the death of too many Americans; we do not want to see his political thought promulgated by your school. Because you are training young people who eventually will become our leaders, we have a strong stake in what you do.

--Robert Wilonsky's Dog, Lily

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky