SPRINGFIELD — This month, House Speaker Mike Madigan announced legislation to offer money for the construction of a Barack Obama Presidential Library somewhere in Chicago.
Illinois, New York and Hawaii are vying to be the home of the library.
Illinois, of course, is his adoptive state, Hawaii his home state and New York City is where he did his undergraduate studies.
Every president since Herbert Hoover has been the beneficiary of one of these taxpayer-supported institutions run by the National Archives.
But as the decades have marched on, they have progressively become more grandiose.
For example, George W. Bush opened his presidential library last year in Dallas at a cost of $300 million.
Frankly, these “libraries” are becoming costly, self-aggrandizing monuments to already inflated egos.
While they purport to be about “history” and are run by the National Archives, they are really about burnishing the image of someone who has already been honored with the most powerful job in the world.
And Madigan wants Illinois to pledge $100 million toward the construction of Obama’s library.
The state can’t pay its bills on time, pensions are grossly underfunded, basic state services are being cut and he wants to spend $100 million to build a shrine to a politician?
Come on, Mike.
Years ago, I visited Lyndon Baines Johnson’s library in Austin, Texas.
The exhibits said little about the man’s flawed foreign policy decisions in Vietnam or the societal problems that have come from his expansion of the welfare state.
Richard Nixon’s library has been criticized for downplaying Watergate.
Bill Clinton’s library barely mentions Monica Lewinsky.
We shouldn’t be surprised. These facilities have increasingly become tabernacles glorifying presidencies rather than merely places of scholarship.
Originally, Dwight Eisenhower envisioned these facilities as mere repositories for the paperwork that accumulates during a presidency.