Odessa Steps Into History?

INTRODUCTION TO THE ROTUNDA

      When you walk into the Presidential Museum and Leadership Library, the first thing you should see is the rotunda and what is exhibited there.

Odessa Texas’s Presidential Museum threatens to close July 1, despite being on track to attract some 3,650 visitors this year. They have somehow managed to survive for 45 years, given a boost when the semi-local Bushs stumbled to the top.

The museum is an exciting confection of early Bush    home replication, the vaguely presidentialy related, and misinformation.

       “We have some very rare, interesting items for our visitors to see. An example is the registration desk used by President Eisenhower when he was commander of the European forces during WWII. The museum acquired this piece in the 1960’s and it serves to illustrate the unique collection we have, it is not all about buttons and posters.

The museum’s web page is a melange of odd choices and factual errors.  Their timeline for the 1860s and 1870s finds no space to mention either Lincoln’s election or assassination, but the Chicago Fire gets a mention.

Prize oddity comes when they sound the alarm in the 20th Century:
AREA 7:
DEPRESSION AND WORLD WAR II

AMERICAN SOCIALISM: WHAT HAPPENED?

  “Not satisfied with President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and its initial work/relief programs, left-wing politicians Louisiana’s Huey Long and California’s Father Coughlin advocated radical changes to the American system-tax the rich to provide welfare for the poor.”

What ever are they saying here?

  Long is usually viewed as a populist and/or fascist, rarely as a man of the left.

Hugo Gellert - Lithograph - Pieces of Silver

 Father Coughlin was a Detroit based fascist, although the Townsend Movement for old people’s pensions started in California.

Townsend stamp

When Reagans Collide!

Terrible Two  http://www.sptimes.com/2007/03/13/images/money-insurance-1.jpg

From Florida, where infectious optimism rises from the fever swamps, comes word of a disturbance in the force.

What happens when two New Reagans® lock in deadly embrace?

Identifying New Reagans® is a perilous course, disappointment a constant danger. The Sunshine State already boasted one New Reagan® in Governor “Orange” Charlie Crist, but now a younger, cuter, New Reagan® threatens his rise to greatness.

Pretty boy former Florida House speaker Marco Rubio is a New Reagan® too! And happily, it’s a life sentence, possibly beyond.

Rubio, like Reagan, will do wonders for the nation for years to come

Others aren’t so sure. Florida Senate President Ken Pruitt has worked with both men, and his Crist man-crush is strong.

He is Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan all wrapped up in one. I really love this man. His can-do, it’s-always-morning-in-America attitude is an inspiration to every citizen in our great state … Speaker Rubio, I love him, too. He’s a little tougher to love.

FDR’s Suite Life

Destiny In Trunks           Franklin D. Roosevelt posed for a picture with the class of 1904 at Nantasket Beach.

Harvard is restoring the swank apartment occupied by Franklin Roosevelt during his undistinguished Harvard years, as a tribute to our last beloved depression fighter. The university has his sink and pull toilet, but everything else will have to be guesswork guided by FDR’s letters home and contemporary material.  In the spirit of the Roosevelt Era, a fabulous dinner will be served in hopes the downtrodden benefit eventually, by example, or something.

What role if any his Harvard years played in Roosevelt’s political evolution is unclear, but at some point he developed enough self-awareness that he could laugh at his own class, and “welcome their hatred.”   The university seems to want to grab what it can of our exciting new era of the common man.

FDR, Fellow Scribes

This President’s Day, Stay Home!

As You Were  presidential_address.gif

A hardy perennial as President’s Day approaches is the nation’s great editorial voices lamenting the sad spectacle of Americans swarming the malls rather than making pilgrimage to stately presidential homes and memorials.

The economy should knock out retail worries this year, and pilgrimages have their own troubles.

presidents-cheeze.jpg

President’s Day’s origin, such as it is, lies in Seventies legislation to standardize Federal holidays and shove as many as possible into three day weekends.

In days of yore February was the setting for George Washington’s Birthday Day sales, as well as Congress’s annual reading of his Farewell Address.  That part of the country which won the Civil War [you know who you are] observed Lincoln’s Birthday. Congress sort of fudged on what they were doing, apostrophes have wandered, and for elementary school civics and retail purposes the thing has become a catchall day for all presidents.

Let’s go to the shrines!  presidential-libraries-us-map.jpg

The pan-presidential holiday has opened the field to our unique American marketing genius.  Every crossing of the road once graced by a former Great spruces up for the expected masses.

Many of them are house museums, where  generations of captured audience school children learn the furniture preferences of former Americans, insofar as we can reconstruct them.

Woodrow Wilson’s Augusta Georgia childhood home is typical of the genre’s limitations.  This President’s Day it will feature free admission and actors playing Wilson and spouses.  Americans may never know how Wilson led us in war, launched massive repression of war opponents, or cemented segregation in Washington DC, but thanks to re-enactors we will know he married twice!

wilson-steering-clear.jpg

What ever is the point of these places?

Their guardians seem to miss it. The William McKinley complex in Canton Ohio is typical.

mckinley-administration-promises.jpg   The McKinley era had real consequence, launching us into an exciting new century of imperial adventure, defeating populism at home, and not least boosting the career of McKinley’s successor Teddy Roosevelt, role model for generations of reactionaries who wished to be seen as both forceful and thoughtful.

You’d never know it in Canton, but for the size of his tomb.

 mckinley-monument-historic-place-in-history.jpg

The McKinley museum has run out or never had anything to say about our martyred president, now featuring a science museum,  model trains, and fire-poles for the kids.

Franklin Roosevelt launched our glorious tradition of pharaoh-fication, famously parking the first presidential library in his yard and having himself buried there for the full experience.

The special local-ness of these little bits o’ greatness scattered over the landscape are celebrated by America’s leading purveyor of thoughtful presidential historian mush, mccullough-with-presicc960.jpg David  McCullough:

it is valuable for anyone trying to understand the life of a particular president should come to the place that produced that human being, where his memory is part of the story of that place.

 

Stirring words, except Reagan’s location is an accident of real estate after Stanford, where he had no ties, turned him down. Nixon crawled back to Yorba Linda after numerous rejections elsewhere, and Bush Sr is in College Station for ideological congruity, not any local ties.

The great tradition is coming to its logical end at the FDR Library, where the seventy-five year old structure’s roof leaks, the wiring is shot, and damp threatens the Roosevelt papers. A $17 million fix is requested.

Just why this national collection of randomly sited mini-archives must be maintained and expanded into perpetuity even as they are pilfered from within is unclear.

The Roosevelt Legacy: Greatness For All!

Laying It On With A Trowel  roosevelt-library-dedication.JPG

Our glorious tradition of Presidential Libraries was of course launched by Franklin Roosevelt, who famously parked the first  one in his yard, and had himself buried there to complete the pharaoh-fication.

 roosevelt-library-mosiac.jpg

The special localness of these little bits o’ greatness scattered over the landscape are celebrated by America’s leading purveyor of thoughtful presidential historian mush, David  McCullough:

it is valuable for anyone trying to understand the life of a particular president should come to the place that produced that human being, where his memory is part of the story of that place.

Stirring words, except Reagan’s location is an accident of real estate after Stanford, where he had no ties, turned him down. Nixon crawled back to Yorba Linda after numerous rejections elsewhere, and Bush Sr is in College Station for ideological congruity, not any local ties.

presidential-library-map.jpg

The great tradition is coming to its logical end at the FDR Library, where the seventy-five year old structure’s roof leaks, the wiring is shot, and damp threatens the Roosevelt papers. A $17 million fix is requested.

Just why this collection of randomly sited mini-archives must be maintained and expanded into perpetuity even as they are pilfered from within is unclear.