I must admit that I never really knew what a Presidential library was. I thought it was a place to warehouse the books that the President wrote and/or favorite books that the President read. That’s why I thought Presidential libraries were such a huge waste of tiem and money. It’s also why I couldn’t figure out why George W. Bush needed one.
I have since found out that these libraries contain, or are set up to contain, Presidential papers, records, collections, artifacts, gifts of state, museum-quality exhibits, and other historical materials. Isn’t that why we have the Smithsonian Institute? Are you telling me that every President has so much “stuff” that they need their own huge building to contain it all. And if it pertains to the President during his Presidency, doesn’t is belong to the American people? Again, isn’t that why we have the Smithsonian and the National Archives?
Why does President Clinton need $165 million dollars to establish his Presidential Library? Is he going to go sit there and read on a Saturday afternoon? If it is for the American People, are we going to drive to Arkansas to see some Faberge egg that was given as a gift to President Clinton? Just take a picture of it and put it on the Internet. It’s not like we would be able to touch it when we got there anyway.
I realize that these libraries are built using private, often nonprofit-based donations. But once the library is built and filled, it is turned over to the National Archive system for maintenance. So the library, in essence, becomes property of the U.S. Government, and so also its citizens.
I didn’t think it mattered where the donations came from, but if the U.S. Government is involved at all, and if in the end the library is funded and belongs to the American people, then we do have a right to know where the money comes from.
Hillary Clinton said her husband would entertain the thought of disclosing his contributors. Bill Clinton later said he would not. He claims that some contributors donated funds with the understanding that their names would not be disclosed. So basically, the Saudi royal family doesn’t want you to know that they donated money to the Clinton library, or the Bush library for that matter, but it slipped out.
It is entirely possibly that Bill and/or Hillary Clinton made secret promises to someone based on a contribution to the Clinton library. And if Hillary Clinton owes a few favors based on these contributions, we need to know about it. That is the only reason why I think that the Clinton’s should reveal the name of the library contributors. I believe that George W. Bush should disclose a list of his contributors. (Although I don’t really need a list of 5 year olds who donated money for of Dr. Suess books; how big of a favor could Bush really owe these kids.)
I don’t think we need Presidential libraries. But if we are going to have them, I want full disclosure so that not even the hint of impropriety or conflict of interest could ever come into question.