February 19, 2014

"There are reports that Mr. Obama used to be skeptical of having a library at all..."

"... a bold move would be to revert to tradition and deposit his papers at the Library of Congress."
Failing that, he should set himself apart by thinking small or, at least, smaller. Mr. Obama has written a moving book about his early life; there’s no need to retell that story. His library should be more of an archive and less of a museum, more of a house, less of a shrine. In an austere age, a modest library could be the grandest statement of all.
That's Witold Rybczynski, the urbanism scholar, and I love this idea of presidential humility and minimalism and can even imagine Barack Obama opting to further his glorification and magnification through the old humility and minimalism gambit.

But come on. Well, maybe he will go smallish or arguably smallish... if that's the only way left to make a big impression. Personally, I find gigantic presidential libraries creepy and embarrassing, but then I've only ever been to one. I can't imagine making a pilgrimage to the library of some President I adulated, but then, that's not how I've ever felt about a President, so I'd inevitably be keeping the grim in pilgrimage.

Also, I'd like to question this line of Rybczyki's: "Mr. Obama has written a moving book about his early life; there’s no need to retell that story." That book was written at the outset of his political career, part of an enterprise of packaging, framing, and mythologizing. It is quite obviously in need of retelling. And Obama in his own preface to the 2004 edition acknowledged that he could (and perhaps should) have written a different book:
I think sometimes that had I known [my mother] would not survive her illness, I might have written a different book—less a meditation on the absent parent, more a celebration of the one who was the single constant in my life. In my daughters I see her every day, her joy, her capacity for wonder. I won’t try to describe how deeply I mourn her passing still. I know that she was the kindest, most generous spirit I have ever known, and that what is best in me I owe to her.

54 comments:

JackOfVA said...

I can see it now ... the first combination Presidential Library and 18 hole golf course.

mesquito said...

When I was interred at the Austin Asylum I was told on numerous occasions that the LBJ Mausoleum is uniquely horrible.

rhhardin said...

The Obama library should have a wrecking ball in the economics section.

ddh said...

It's going to be huge, Jerry! Huge, I tell ya!

Skeptical Voter said...

Considering Obama's ego, I expect his revised "auto" biography will start, "I was born in a manger."

Of course it will be written by a holy ghost writer. Obama leaves the heavy lifting to others.

Edward Lunny said...

Put it in Detroit. It's representative of his legacy.

CStanley said...

I can't imagine him showing any real humility. However, he will put on a good pretense of it. I predict the project will be huge, expensive, and over the top, and when criticized for that he will claim that he personally wanted it to be understated but others felt that it represented the greater hopes of the people.

Curious George said...

"....I love this idea of presidential humility and minimalism and can even imagine Barack Obama opting to further his glorification and magnification through the old humility and minimalism gambit."

Bless your heart.

tim maguire said...

"maybe he will go smallish"

If Obama were any smaller, he'd disappear.

No, no small Obama for me. I prefer the puffed up made up Obama that 52 million people voted for in 2008.

Scott said...

Obama is a man driven by a meager vision of the country; an unexceptional president who rejects American exceptionalism. A big grand Obama library would mock the whole notion of presidential libraries.

(We're back to The Paranoid Style in Blog Comments again, huh.)

The Crack Emcee said...

The Obama library should have a basement, with an entrance only for Tea Partiers to stroll through, featuring a glass ceiling that, naturally, would be a floor to the room, above, on the main level. In THAT room would sit two perfectly-timed dual-playing holograms of Barack Obama, and Bob Dylan, on permanent loop.

From the main level, what you see - behind a see-through scrim where every speech on race Obama made is scrolled, Star Wars-style - one hologram shows Obama repeatedly killing a fly that's annoying him. But the "smack" of his hand, destroying the creature, is what sets Bob's hologram into action, doing one of two things:

Either strumming his guitar as a voice screams "Judas!" and he replies "I don't believe you,…you're a LIAR!" - or he just jump-cuts to sneering "How does it feeeeeeel?" to those below.

Finally, the end of each loop triggers a visual of John Boehner, on a background wall, saying "COME ON!" as permanent text, below his image, repeats his charge that Ted Cruz knew they were going to lose the shut-down before it began.

Smack! How does it Feeeeel? COME ON!
Smack! How does it Feeeeel? COME ON!
Smack! How does it Feeeeel? COME ON!

I'd hang around that spot all day,...

Scott said...

There is a temple in Bangkok with a courtyard surrounded by statues of The Buddha, each made during a different period of Thailand's history. The skinny Buddha statues came from eras when times were rough; the fat ones, from prosperous times.,

Biff said...

Greek columns, anyone? Or maybe he could build his library near the Victory Column in Berlin.

Somehow, this also reminds me of the post-inauguration ritual whereby state transportation departments rush to replace the name of the former governor on hundreds of highway signs with the name of the new governor. Perhaps someday, a new governor will start a precedent by insisting that the old name simply be covered up with blank space.

Patrick O said...

Obama is big, it's the libraries that got small!

Deirdre Mundy said...

The LBJ library had a joke-telling Animatronic Lyndon Johnson, though! That was totally worth the trip! (My daughter, who was 3 at the time, was totally fascinated)

Though the Ladybird Johnson wildflower garden was far nicer. Maybe Michelle can start a Michelle Obama organic vegetable garden in retirement....

Meade said...

LOL. That was great, Crack.

Browndog said...

How do you dare limit a man like Obama--a man like no other--to one library, one simple structure, in one place?

By popular demand it is hereby Decreed that the Obama Library consists of all of Africa, most of Europe, half of Asia, The Americas, Mars, and the closest asteroid at the time of this Decree.

RecChief said...

I call bullshit on the statement that he considered not having a library. The Narcissist in Chief wouldn't simply drop his shit off at the Library of Congress.

ErnieG said...

The Obama library would not be complete without a subterranean vault with a twelve ton door. All of the material upstairs would be window dressing, impressive, elaborate, and uplifting. The real stuff would be in a single file cabinet in the vault, which would not be opened for a hundred years.

T Rellis said...

Maybe it will be right on the ocean shore, since he did stop the seas from rising.

Tank said...

He needs two libraries really. One for his white side (killing Bin Laden, killing the pirates, playing golf), and one for the black side (shooting hoops, Detroit).

Jim said...

I grew up in independence mo. The Truman library is cool to an eight year old.

Will said...

This President will have a $3 Trillion Library with giant styrofoam Greek columns and his own personal seal larger than the presidential seal.

Unfortunately, all the records will be sealed, so it will be quite boring.

Unknown said...

I don't get it, what does having written a book have to do with having your own library? Is this the only place you can get it? Is the book that bad?

carrie said...

But what would Obama showcase in his library? I bet it is easier to hide a mediocre presidency in the Library of Congress than it would be to hide it in a library that is dedicated to Obama's presidency.

carrie said...

But what would Obama showcase in his library? I bet it is easier to hide a mediocre presidency in the Library of Congress than it would be to hide it in a library that is dedicated to Obama's presidency.

JRoberts said...

I think it would be wiser for him to raise all that money and then use it to build a mansion in a nation that does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S.

BAS said...

I used to feel the same way about presidential libraries. I have now been to LBJs, Nixon and Reagan libraries and really enjoyed all of them. It is a chance to see how the President views himself and how the current historians who work for his library view him.

Hagar said...

When last heard from, the Clintons had collected $495 million for their "double-wide" in Little Rock.
I think the Democrat Party establishment is going to insist on topping that for Obama's presidential library.
However, the location is going to be a problem. Hawaii will have great visuals, etc., but is way too far away from the Beltway. Or, perhaps that will be considered a plus; kind of like a Shangri-La if not a Camelot.

Valentine Smith said...

"…she was the kindest, most generous spirit I have ever known…"

"…she was the kindest, most generous spirit I have ever known…"

"…she was the kindest, most generous spirit I have ever known…"

"Raymond?"

"…she was the kindest, most generous spirit I have ever known…"

"Raymond."

"…she was the kindest, most generous spirit I have ever known…"

"Raymond!"

"…she was the kindest, most generous spirit I have ever known…"

[turns over the Queen of Clubs]
"Raymond! Wait! Come back!"

EDH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EDH said...

Some of the exhibits in the JFK Library are interesting, like the Nixon debate artifacts, but overall I found it underwhelming.

For JFK, especially, I thought it would have a better story arc, be showier, historically dramatic, infused with the popular culture of the time, more fashionable.

In a word, sexier.

Paul said...

Obama will be lucky if he can get Harlem to take his library.

Mid-terms will turn him into a eunuch for he is truly the ghetto president for that is what he means to turn America into, one big ghetto.

John (the other John) said...

Winner: "Harold Lucas, president of the Black Metropolis Convention & Tourism Council in Bronzeville, said his organization plans a grass-roots effort to build support for building the library on the site of the now-demolished Michael Reese Hospital, a 37-acre plot near the lakefront.

"We're not asking for permission from people who don't respect us," said Lucas, a longtime community organizer on the South Side. "We will bypass the process and go straight to the president if we have to.",


This is an effort that mirrors the Obama adminsistration best - bypass Congress and do want we want.

CWJ said...

My understanding is that Obama's papers from his Illinois days are sealed or otherwise unavailable for scrutiny. So all we have are his two autobiographies.

I foresee a very small presidential library with only books written by one putative author.

Hagar said...

Books?

Presidential libraries are not about books. Archives would be a better name as the written material is mostly in file boxes. Or, has been. Todays and future material may be all on chips and harddrives. Maybe Obama's "library" should be built in "the cloud." And of course there are the NSA "black towers" in Utah.

But there still has to be a visual memorial to His Awsomeness.

Hagar said...

That can be shown in video clips and that the public can visit and worship.

dbp said...

Obama could go for the minimalist approach and just give everything to the Library of Congress or do the usual Monument to Me! approach.

Either will be spun in opposite ways.

The Left: See how wonderfully humble he is. OR A grand library for a great president!

The Right: See, just as lazy as we always said he was. OR Look at the ego on Barack.

SteveR said...

Well he can continue the tradition of using a library project to raise funds to funnel to your wife's political interests.

Shanna said...

"When last heard from, the Clintons had collected $495 million for their "double-wide" in Little Rock."

It really does look like a doublewide, but it's very pretty inside. I went because it's in my town. I have considered going to Bush's in Dallas next time I'm there...

Peter said...

One could argue that FDR should have a library, because he served an unprecedented four terms, and because his times momentous events of Great Depression and World War. Whether you like him or hate him, his presidency was important.

But it's absurd that those who followed him also have them.


Browndog said...

Obama could go for the minimalist approach and just give everything to the Library of Congress...

Good idea.

Congress is nothing but a useless detriment to the progress that is "Obama". Didn't he say he wasn't going to leave D.C.?

Executive Order: Congress has 48 hours to clear their junk out of my new Library before the dumpsters roll in.

Shanna said...

Presidential libraries are not about books.

The thing I liked best at Clinton's were all the gifts from foreign countries/dignitaries that were displayed. I don't remember any books at all, although there is fake oval office.

mccullough said...

It would be better to build one giant presidential amusement park in the middle of America and just keep adding to it for each successive president.

Ficta said...

I found the Hoover library fascinating, moving, and convincingly humble.

Deirdre Mundy said...

She was the kindest, most gentle spirit he'd ever known--

Yet he sees babies as punishment for unwed mothers and has said he wished she'd had access to abortion and has commented that unplanned pregancies ruin lives.

Was she really kind and gentle? If so, where did Obama pick up this narrative that his very birth was evil and should have been prevented?

Hagar said...

Obama was sceptical of a lot of things - or said he was, anyway - before he became president.

Hagar said...

But presidential libraries as non-profit, cultural, and educational institutions are much too useful - and economical - opportunities for ex-presidents and their factions of their parties to pass up.

Humperdink said...

So many interesting possibilities for the Obama presidential library and flea market:

> A pen and a phone
> An Obamaphone
> The 3AM phone "out of order"
> Portrait of Trayvon Martin
> Portrait of Henry Gates Jr.
> Portrait of Lois Lerner
> Portrait of Jeremiah Wright
> Photo of the New Black Panther Party w/obligatory nightsticks
> The original copy of the ACA
> A Red Line
> Another Red Line
> A Cash-for-Clunker car
> A Solyndra solar panel
> A map of the 57 states
> The Nobel Peace Prize superimposed on a drone bomb sight
> His first presidential teleprompter (autographed)
> A full dress Corpseman
> A framed welfare check

Ah, the memories.


Archie said...

The word on the street is that Mr.. Obama is having the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace (Notre Dame de la Paix) in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast disassembled stone by stone, reconstructed in Chicago and renamed the Barrack Hussein Obama (PBUH) Library, Golf Course and Bath House.

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

Everything except press releases - and there will be plenty of those - is destined for the shredder.

southcentralpa said...

We are talking about the incumbent President of the United States ... ? The one who celebrates every occasion with a self-portrait ... ?

I've got "tries to acquire the old Sears Tower" in the pool. (Wikipedia informs me it's the "Willis Tower" (for the time being))

William said...

I think it's long past due for a state to be named after Obama. So much is named after Washington, our first white president, and so little is named after Obama, our first black president. Hawaii was his birthplace, and it's difficult to spell. Change The name from Hawaii to Obama. It honors Hawaii's greatest contribution to civilization, and it's easier to spell. Win win for everybody.....I think the placement is more important than the contents. There are several mountains in Hawaii as Obama State is now called. I think one of those mountains could be built up so that it's the highest place on earth. That's where the Obama library should be located. And please, no elevators or ski lifts to get there. Only the pure and the hardy should be allowed in its precincts. The Obama Library should attract pilgrims not wheezy historians.

Rusty said...

Therer isn't enough marble in the world.