Former first lady Laura Bush led the design committee, officials said, with a keen eye toward ensuring that her family’s Texas roots were conspicuously reflected. Architects used local materials, including Texas Cordova cream limestone and trees from the central part of the state, in its construction.
The public look back on the tenure of the nation’s 43rd president comes as Bush is undergoing a coming-out of sorts after years spent in relative seclusion, away from the prying eyes of cameras and reporters that characterized his two terms in the White House and his years in the Texas governor’s mansion before that. As the library’s opening approached, Bush and his wife embarked on a round-robin of interviews with all the major television networks, likely aware that history’s appraisal of his legacy and years in office will soon be solidifying.
An erroneous conclusion that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, a bungling of the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina and a national debt that grew much larger under his watch stain the memory of his presidency for many, including Obama, who won two terms in the White House after lambasting the choices of its previous resident. But on Wednesday, Obama staunchly defended Bush’s commitment to the America’s well-being while addressing Democratic donors.
“Whatever our political differences, President Bush loves this country and loves his people and shared that same concern, and is concerned about all people in America,” Obama said. “Not just some. Not just those who voted Republican.”
There’s at least some evidence that Americans are warming to Bush’s presidency four years after he returned to his ranch in Crawford, even if they still question his judgment on Iraq and other issues. While Bush left office with an approval rating of 33 percent, that figure has climbed to 47 percent — about equal to Obama’s own approval rating, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released ahead of the library opening.
Bush pushed forcefully but unsuccessfully for the type of sweeping immigration overhaul that Congress, with Obama’s blessing, is now pursuing. And his aggressive approach to counterterrorism may be viewed with different eyes as the U.S. continues to be touched by acts of terrorism.
Although museums and libraries, by their nature, look back on history, the dedication of Bush’s library also offers a few hints about the future, with much of the nation’s top political brass gathered in the same state. Clinton’s wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, stoked speculation about her own political future Wednesday in a Dallas suburb when she delivered her first paid speech since stepping down as secretary of state earlier this year. And Bush talked up the presidential prospects of his brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, in an interview that aired Wednesday on ABC.
“He doesn’t need my counsel, because he knows what it is, which is, ‘Run,’” Bush said.
Obama, too, may have his own legacy in mind. He’s just a few years out from making his own decision about where to house his presidential library and the monument to his legacy.
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