Our Next Presidential 'Library'
By Thomas Neuburger
Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall. —William Shakespeare
In a piece titled “Biden's Documents Dilemma” I offered an image from one of the design finalists for the Obama Presidential Library, which is now sited in Chicago’s Jackson Park on the South Side.
That site is not without controversy, by the way. Not only will it be much more than a presidential library housing his papers:
The presidential center will include a museum, forum building, public plaza, athletic center, play area and a branch of the Chicago Public Library.”
It won’t have papers, and it will displace and gentrify a low-income neighborhood:
This will be the first presidential library since the start of the national system that does not include a physical research room with archival materials. Everything will be digitized. There have also been concerns about it being built in a historic park and that low-income Chicagoans living nearby will be displaced by development around the construction of the center in Jackson Park.
There are also concerns about the public-private deal that sited the memorial:
[T]he development, expected to break ground this fall, has not arrived without controversy. Over the last six years, the Obama Foundation, which will fund the OPC, and the city of Chicago have courted scrutiny from two groups: park preservationists upset at a private development being built on public land, and community organizers who fear that low-income Black neighbors will be displaced by rising rents and land speculation [emphasis added].
In addition, the memorial won’t be controlled by the National Archives:
The Presidential Center is unlike most other presidential libraries. Firstly, the Presidential Center is run by the Obama Foundation, a private nonprofit. All other presidential libraries and museums going back to Herbert Hoover are run by the National Archives and Records Administration, a federal agency. Some skeptics fear this privatization opens the door for partisan interests to curate what is meant to be a public archive.
Grand or Grandiose?
But it will be grand, as befits the presumed self-image of the man it memorializes.
How grand, you ask? This grand:
And this grand:
It even looks grand in winter, watching you:
Why this anger and disappointment? Because, for all his well-sought hagiography, Barack Obama is this guy:
The nation arrived at its [current] pre-revolutionary state by a number of paths. Obama sold Change in 2008, received massive voter support, then reneged, most notably but not solely, by bailing out banks before people. That's why, for example, so many abandoned him in 2012, and in 2016 why so many ex-Obama voters turned to Trump or stayed home.
Matt Bruenig called him this guy:
The Obama presidency was a disaster for middle-class wealth in the United States. Between 2007 and 2016, the average wealth of the bottom 99 percent dropped by $4,500. Over the same period, the average wealth of the top 1 percent rose by $4.9 million.
This drop hit the housing wealth of African Americans particularly hard. Outside of home equity, black wealth recovered its 2007 level by 2016. But average black home equity was still $16,700 lower.
Much of this decline, we will argue, can be laid at the feet of President Obama. His housing policies led directly to millions of families losing their homes. What’s more, Obama had the power — money, legislative tools, and legal leverage — to sharply ameliorate the foreclosure crisis.
He chose not to use it.
And lest we forget, he's this guy:
And this deaf-to-irony fellow:
US criticised for taking Malaysia off trafficking blacklist Rights groups react angrily as the US takes Malaysia off a human trafficking blacklist, saying it was done to help pass the TPP major trade deal.
A novelist would call this a little too on-the-nose.
Some Rise By Sin
Which bring us back to the Memorial he’s building to himself. Was his frantic bid to pass TPP before his days wore down, even though it risked the future of candidate Clinton, part of a bid for donor class support as he entered his pricey future? Hard not to think it wasn’t.
These are just some of his sins, for which, I feel certain, he will never account. Ozymandias indeed, till the wreck he leaves behind him blots his name.