UP   |  April 27, 2013

Does library accurately represent Bush’s presidency?

“This American Life” contributor Starlee Kine, son-in-law of Richard Nixon Ed Cox, former director at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library Timothy Naftali, and former Congresswoman Nan Hayworth join Steve Kornacki to discuss how former President George W. Bush will be remembered.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> bush has been, george w. bush has been very quiet, remarkably quiet compared to past former presidents in his four years in office. this was his coming out as an ex-president. i want to set thunder by playing just a little bit of the centerpiece of the museum that opened called decision points theater. george w. bush likes to think of himself as decider, his book is called "the decider." you're to see choice that were presented to bush during his presidency. there's some dispute already these choices are framed the way they should have been framed. let's take a look what visitors are seeing.

>> george w. bush made many tough decisions as president. now you'll get a flavor for what that's like. president bush had to make a choice. one seek a u.n. coalition. take no action. times up. it's time to make a decision. people in the theater could not come to a decision. the president did not have that choice.

>> so, i think that kind of to me that sort of sums this up. this is the history of the administration right now presented with a little bit of a slant towards, you know, hey try to see it my way, maybe your opinion of me will change.

>> it seems really, it's towards him being under a lot of pressure. the time limit is what they are emphasizing. he would be able to make the right decision if he wasn't so hard pressed to make the decision right away.

>> that's just one part of this museum. and that's what the bush foundation want us to focus on. i want to see the rest of the museum. i want to see how balanced the rest of the museum is and the extent to which the real context contextualization of this library is. these libraries are publicly financed. they are built with private money . once the national archives take them over they become a public utility and have to meet certain standards.

>> the bush foundation or any sort of president has a foundation. bush foundation came in and paid for this and there's a role -- there's tension between the private, you know fundraising.

>> you saw in that exhibit and i was there at the opening of the library, as you know, trisha represented her father, there were four former presidents, the president and four presidential families that were represented there all together in the same room and walked around the exhibits together for about an hour and a half. it was quite interesting to see the interaction. but if one watched w. bush 's speech and what he said and he choked up at the end talking about his own freedom agenda then you know why he made the decision that he made with respect to iraq . he really believed that freedom and democracy would free people like the iraqi people to be, to be a stable force in the mideast and in the world. that legacy whether it works out or not is yet to be determined and determined in part on whether the shi'ites stick together or the iranian people and arabs split and that in part will determine what his legacy is.

>> i think what's interesting in the video we just showed the set up presumes that he had to make a choice about iraq and i think, you know, sort of critics of that administration and maybe of that exhibit would say well how did it get to the point that iraq was on the table and the president had to decide because the president didn't have to make a decision about iraq .

>> it was a war of choice . he could have continued the way it was, work with the cia to get rid of saddam hussein , the military could have remained in power. the shi'ites a majority in the country. different course of history. he chose a different course based on his freedom agenda.

>> that's why the context matters. that's why if you pull it out of history and present it the way it's presented you have no sense that you still have a war in afghanistan and you still have al qaeda and you haven't found osama bin laden and that's your main target because those are the people that attacked you not saddam hussein .

>> iraq the being torn by sectarian strife and it's not clear that war of choice most us would say and i've said it that if i had known then what we know today i would have voted no to pursuing that action.

>> there is a part of this, when they talk about there is acknowledged in the museum that no weapons of mass destruction were found but there's also an added line after that but we know that saddam hussein had the capacity --

>> it did change the course of american political history though. because of that war, mrs. clinton then a senator decided that she could go the middle, had no threat from her left and voted for the war. because of that barack obama came up on her left, made speeches he was against the war, she was for it, the base of the democratic party is anti-war going back to vietnam, he got the nomination, she didn't, he was elected president she wasn't. so it changed the course of american politics .

>> the bush library should explain the iraq war gave us barack obama ?

>> not the library but that decision certainly did.

>> that's why barack obama --

>> that's why they are so happy.

>> that's interesting because that -- it's how the conservative movement has understood the barack obama presidency. understood the rise of barack obama . i watched this transition play out in 2008 and 2009 and we're still living with it today where basically the conservative movement lost to obama in 2008 and the tea. the tea party was saying george w. bush as president violated conservative principles, spent too much money, big government conservatism and confused voters and gave rise to obama and the only way to defeat obama is to purify ourselves. conservatives have had no interest in the last four or five years.

>> i would disagree with your interpretation. nan, they are just real fiscal conservatives. this is a silent majority that's very upset by trillion dollar deficits.

>> but, okay. fiscal conservatives. that's the knock on george w. bush after his administration. the key is the cries of george w. bush was not a fiscal conservative and didn't intensify until after he left. the conservative movement reinterfretd bush presidency after he was president. i'm wondering -- go ahead.

>> but the events of 2008 made that sort of a crisis in his legacy, if you will, inevitable. of course the biggest motivator for the tea party was actually the passage of the affordable care act because that was seen as massive invasion. but yes many did make ties to both parties and said look president bush was a big government conservative.

>> did not veto any budget presented to congress or items presented for six or seven years.

>> right.

>> medicare part d .

>> i'm hearing reinterpretation of the tea party . your father-in-law, when he wrote that ise silent majority speech. silent center. what he was doing was talking to the center. the center has changed in our country. i don't think anybody, tea party anybody believes the tea party is the center of the united states political spectrum .

>> from the point of view of debt and deficits, the center -- a lot of them are very centrist in believing we shouldn't spend beyond our means.

>> they balance their own budgets. why will government raise taxes on me.

>> what we can stipulate here they are a region component of the republican party right now and in the last four years their assessment of the bush presidency especially on fiscal matters has not been favorable. we're talking about bush trying to recast his legacy and i think there might be an incentive for conservatives to move back towards him. in teased it before, i'll tease it again, we'll talk about it next. you hurt