- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2014


If they build it, will they come? Where will they go, to Hawaii or Illinois? Those are the first of many questions the new Barack H. Obama Foundation will have to answer about the presidential library of the 44th president.

Perhaps this library will help the public understand the man who is the least known president since, well, Chester Alan Arthur.

With nearly three years to go, President Obama last week appointed three longtime supporters to oversee planning the library. A library might do what two autobiographies and a dozen other books have not done, find answers to simple questions about who he is and whence he came.

Learning very much is an exercise in frustration. The Los Angeles Times couldn’t even find a photograph or record of Mr. Obama playing basketball at Occidental College, as he said he did.

“The president’s future library will one day serve as an important part of our nation’s historical record,” says Martin Nesbitt, the foundation director and Obama’s onetime campaign treasurer.

If the monument is anything like the man, it will have more glitz and glamour than substance and history. The Nixon Library has a permanent exhibit on Watergate, but it’s too much to expect Mr. Obama’s library to tell anything about the disaster at Benghazi, National Security Agency snooping, the bungled Obamacare rollout or IRS harassment of conservatives.

The administration dismisses these topics as unimportant and irrelevant.

The foundation says it would manage an “open and accessible” planning process in keeping with Mr. Obama’s “long-standing commitment to transparency and fairness.” (This was presumably not intended as a laugh line.) The library’s defining architectural feature should be a stone wall with frosted windows.

The University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago and Chicago State University all want to host the library, but the University of Hawaii could have the edge. Mr. Obama’s half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, lives and works in Hawaii, and insider dealing is a hallmark of his administration.

Wherever the library and museum are built, wings should exhibit artifacts of early influences on the president’s life and political philosophy — photographs and letters of Frank Marshall Davis, William Ayres and Bernadine Dohrn, Saul Alinsky and, of course, the sermons of the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., which so inspired the president.

The library is estimated to cost upward of $500 million, and we can expect it to run up enormous operating budget deficits before seeking a federal bailout from Washington. But by then there won’t be any money left in Washington.



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