Trump claims to have the “best words.” “Library” probably isn’t one of them.
Donald Trump’s hometown newspaper, the Palm Beach Post, ran a front-page story today headlined, “Talk of a Donald Trump presidential library has some open records watchdogs wary.”
As you can tell by that headline, the thrust of the story concerned whether Trump should actually be “entrusted with a presidential library? And if so, who should be in charge of telling the story of the Trump presidency?
In the article, Anne Weismann, who litigated Freedom of Information Act and presidential records laws for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said, “I think the risk that he would use that kind of institution to perpetuate lies and untruths is so harmful to our democracy. It is too great of a risk.”
As expected, Trump supporters in Palm Beach County “bristled” at the suggestion.
“To say he should be disqualified because you think he doesn’t spread accurate information? Who are you to judge?” said Peter Feaman, the national committeeman for GOP in Florida. “Guess what, this is America and this is his absolute right and historical imperative to put together a presidential library.”
While Trump antagonists and supporters debate whether the former president is deserving of a presidential library, it seemed to me that there is a more fundamental issue here.
As I wrote to the editor of the Palm Beach Post:
I couldn’t help but chuckle after reading your April 5 article concerning Donald Trump’s proposed presidential library. Recognizing Trump’s well-known distaste for books (or for reading in general), I thought the story’s opening sentence, which asked “who, what, where and when” questions about the library, missed the most important “W” question: WHY?
Just to be sure I understood what the word “library” means, I went to a website called “Your Dictionary,” which not only defines words, but provides an opportunity for readers to vote on their favorite definitions. For the word “library,” the overwhelming favorite — 18 thumbs up; 4 thumbs down — is “…a collection of books, or a room or a building where collections of books are stored.”
WHY then, I wondered, would anyone think a building called a library should be built for an individual who probably never read a book or ever set foot in one?” If Trump’s supporters insist on going forward with this fool’s errand, I have a suggestion: Give it a name more in keeping with the former president’s persona, intellectual curiosity and facility with words (of which he has the best).
Call it the DONALD J. TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL LIBERY!
Now of course, we all know that a presidential library is not just about books. As Robert Watson, a history professor at Lynn University in Boca Raton says, previous former presidents have built their libraries in partnership with the National Records and Archives Administration (NARA). But Watson fears the relationship between Trump and the federal records administration “would be testy at best, if non-existent” as have been the president’s dealings with government agencies.
Watson said he has visited almost all the presidential libraries. While each facility has “a degree of celebratory” feel to their exhibits, he said the museums are generally “dedicated” to a fair telling of history and preserving “access to records.”
“The thing that has always been remarkable to me is how honest and forthright they are,” he said of the presidential museums. “These libraries show the president’s legacy with all of its warts and pimples.”
OK Dr. Watson. Why do I think Trump’s will be the exception to the rule, as this preliminary floor plan suggests?
In any event, “library” or “libery,” as you can imagine anything that Trump is involved in will probably not be completely above board.
The Washington Post reported in January that the former president has told supporters he wants to raise $2 billion for the library — a far greater sum than has been raised for past presidential libraries — and thinks he can collect it in small-dollar donations from his grassroots supporters.
Anthony Clark, a writer and former House Oversight Committee staffer, said building a presidential library can cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Let’s see, $2 billion vs. “hundreds of millions.” Wonder who’ll pocket the difference? At least for this one you won’t have to tune into NPR’s “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me” show for the answer.