It Takes a Library

Bill Clinton held a fundraiser in Hollywood last weekend to raise money for his Presidential Library. The choice of venue shows excellent judgment as both Hollywood and Presidential libraries specialize in fantasy. Presidential libraries employ favored court historians to try to convince us that their heroes were great Presidents. This is a daunting task as no great President has a Presidential library. Washington and Jefferson are libraryless. Some pretty good Presidents like Cleveland and Harding are sans library. Even some of our faux-great Presidents such as Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln have no libraries. That puts them in the same category as President Jefferson Davis.

Presidential libraries are strictly a product of the modern era of the Imperial Presidency. Naturally, they were FDR's invention. For the record, the following presidents have Presidential libraries: Hoover, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush. From this list we can discern that to earn a Presidential library, you have to either raise taxes during a recession, turn a recession into a Great Depression with silly economic policies and lie about keeping America out of World War II, engage the Army in a full-scale war without Congressional authorization, run as Republican but govern like a Democrat, start the Viet Nam War, escalate the Viet Nam War, engage in a fourth-rate cover-up of a first-rate burglary, manufacture "WIN" (Whip Inflation Now) buttons and wear them, lower the speed limit and room temperature to 55, promise to get the government off our backs, but increase the size and power of government in every area, or lie about not raising taxes. If you were an unindicted co-conspirator, you get only a strange animal known as the "Nixon Presidential Materials Staff". But true to his nickname, Tricky Dick was able to fanagle his own unofficial library anyway. With such pedestrian competition, even a fifth-rate President like Clinton deserves a Library.

In the course of preparing this article, I was able to obtain a secret memo outlining plans for the Clinton library. The bold and daring scheme will guarantee this will be the most popular Presidential library ever. The Clinton Library will feature a virtual reality tour of the Clinton White House. Other Presidential libraries allow you to read the president's official papers; the Clinton Library will allow you to be Clinton. Through the miracle of virtual reality, you will personally experience what it's like to take calls from congressmen while being serviced by a young intern; unleash your socialist wife upon the nation's health care system; or share a good laugh with James "Junkyard Dog" Carville about how the suckers actually believed us when we promised a middle class tax cut.

The director of the Clinton library will of course be Sidney ("Son of Carville") Blumenthal. All Presidential library directors must be fawning fawners and Blumenthal is extraordinarily qualified in this department. He not only thinks Bill Clinton is a great president, but, like Al Gore (who after his loss will be assistant director), he thinks that Clinton is the greatest president ever. In fact, in neo-Randian fashion, he (like Clinton) thinks Clinton is the greatest human being ever!

A special room is being set aside for Clintonian writings of masterpiece stature, in the event that researchers undercover any such writings. Special audiovideo equipment is being readied to allow visitors to listen to Clinton's notoriously lengthy speeches in just a fraction of the original time. My sources are going to kill me for revealing the secret. Yes, the recordings will be speeded up; that's obvious. But get this: all words such as "the" and "a", and all conjunctives, disjunctives and prepositions will be automatically deleted. These techniques will allow us to listen to these speeches in little more than the time it takes to list President Clinton's accomplishments. Further, the experts assure us that removing all these words will make the text only slightly less intelligible than the original.

Finally, this will be the first Presidential library with a special wing devoted to the First Lady. Hillary will get her own separate wing, hermetically sealed from Bill's suite. The highlight of the Hillary wing will be a contest to see which visitors can come up with a plausible scenario for how the missing Whitewater billing records mysteriously appeared in the White House one day. Rumor has it that Susan Thomases will be director in charge of the Hillary wing. Thomases isn't really a herstorian, but that's okay. Hillary isn't really a First Lady; she's a co-president. Besides, if your name is Clinton, it's always good to have a tough-as-sandpaper New York lawyer nearby.

Presidential libraries are here to stay. They facilitate the worship of ex- and dead presidents. Such worship is essential to maintaining our present system of government: global empire led by a supreme executive. We can't very well have a jackass ruling the world. The job of Presidential libraries is to convince us that our ex-presidents weren't jackasses, even if they were. Clinton's Library will face the ultimate challenge.

August 25, 2000

James Ostrowski is an attorney practicing at 984 Ellicott Square, Buffalo, New York 14203; (716) 854-1440; FAX 853-1303. See his website at