The plan to include a partisan think tank in the proposed George W. Bush presidential library at Southern Methodist University has provoked an outcry from many SMU faculty and alumni as well as concerned United Methodist clergy and laypeople from around the country. In a press release circulated last week, some of those critics charged that the proposal of the George W. Bush Foundation was approved without being put through procedures required by United Methodist church law.
But wait, there’s more. According to the press release by Andrew Weaver, an SMU alum and the initiator of a petition against having the institute at the university,
"The controversial institute, dedicated to promoting the domestic and international views of George W. Bush, would not be under the supervision of SMU and would hire without regard to university policy. No other university with a presidential library has permitted such an institute on its campus.”
Last October, Media Transparency got into the act:
Opponents are "question[ing] the educational value of the Bush complex" given that earlier in his administration Bush issued Executive Order 13233, "which," the press release notes, "provides former Presidents with virtually unlimited powers to deny or grant access to documents generated under their administrations." The Executive Order extends these powers to a president's heirs.
Recently, SB 866, the Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007, a bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman, which would rescind Bush's Executive Order 13233, was assigned a number, made its way to the Senate floor and has since been stalled by Republican Sen. Jim Bunning.
"Professors within the history department at Southern Methodist University, the future home of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, may not all agree on the benefits or legitimacy of the library, museum and institute. However, they unanimously agree about SB 866 and the need to rescind the presidential order," Laray Polkfor recently wrote in the Dallas Morning News.
Was SMU Bush-wacked? If it was, he had a lot of help from SMU. I’m not surprised that a foundation operating in George W. Bush’s name would act in ways that resemble the way this President has conducted himself in office—an obsession about keeping his own secrets (an obsession that does not extend protecting the privacy of citizens) and a disregard for the law. As an SMU alum and UMC minister, what does causes me great dismay is that the university president, the trustees, and ten bishops have endorsed the plan for an institute at the university that would not have any accountability to the academic standards of the university and unquestioningly accept the president’s unlimited powers to deny or grant access to documents generated under their administrations.
These folks who are supposed to be guardians of academic integrity apparently don’t see a problem here. That bothers me. I don’t know the intricacies of church law enough to know whether the action of the ten bishops is legal or not. That ten of eleven bishops of the South Central Jurisdiction failed to see the larger issue when they gave their approval is what grieves me.
The good news is that there are professors, administrators, bishops, clergy and laity who clearly see what is at stake here both for the university and the church. If you are so inclined (I was) you can sign the petition. As a meteorologist friend of mine says after every forecast, “We’ll see what happens.”
In the meantime, I am back to watching the still-in-office president continue to “Bush- wack” the American people trying to protect his illegal wire-tapping actions by granting immunity to the telecomms in the FISA legislation before the Senate.