by Lynn Ashby
THE LOBBY – Welcome to the presidential library of former President Rick Perry. First, you may have noticed as you drove up that this building has a steeple with a cross on the top. It is well-known President Perry – former chief executives are always referred to as “President” even if, like Jimmy Carter and George Bush the Elder, they were unceremoniously thrown out of office – felt his library should reflect his religiosity. This also explains the stained glass windows and the Gregorian chants in the background. Yes, this place gives a whole new meaning to “the bully pulpit,” which is in the next room. But he doesn’t like to make too much of this, as he said in his last sermon.
You ask, “Did my tax dollars go to build this religious shrine? I thought there was a separation between church and state.” Actually, this is one of 14 presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. All of them have to be built at private expense, although public funds are used to maintain them. The new George W. Bush Library at SMU will cost a half billion dollars, including a $210 million endowment, about a three times the cost of any other presidential library. The taxpayers’ cost to operate our various presidential libraries is about $64 million each year. It’s a mere pittance compared to the price of a nuclear aircraft carrier.
There’s a question? No, Congress doesn’t scrimp on the upkeep because in the backs of their minds, every single one of them, is the thought that someday they, too, may have one of these monuments to themselves. Now come along to the library’s right wing. There is no left wing. This glass case contains the uniform Perry wore as a Texas A&M yell leader. Notice it is all white, with no school name across the chest. This makes it easy for the yell leaders to buy their uniforms at any hospital supply store. Incidentally, the term is “yell leader,” not “cheerleader.” Speaking of colleges, President Perry wanted professors to stick to teaching. I believe tenure was outlawed in 2016 and research was banned the following year.
The President likes Aggie traditions, which is why, during his State of the Union speeches, the entire Congress had to remain standing, and let out an occasional “Whoop!” although some of the opposition would yell, “Maroon is also a verb!” But his background has nothing to do with tripling federal grant money to the Brazos County Ballet or the new College Station submarine base. OK, so it’s a wide beach. And the Trans-Texas Corridor was never really dead.
Next we see the Presidential Hair Stylist & Boot Shop. This glass case contains the late Wile E. Coyote, who savagely attacked then-Governor Perry’s dog while Perry was on the jogging trail. To the left are several late donkeys and elephants who savagely attacked Perry while he was on the campaign trail. Here are the floor plans of the $9,000-a-month rented mansion the governor lived in after the other Governor’s Mansion burned. Note the swimming pool and guest house. Next we have the Texas State Schoolbook. After the budget cuts, it got a lot of use. No, we don’t show the names of the thousands of poor sick children cut off from health care while he was governor. Why should we?
Another question? Yes, when running for his last term as governor, Perry swore he wouldn’t run for president during that term. But so did Clinton and Obama. If you are going to believe every promise a politician makes, I’ve got some peace dividends and middle class tax cuts for sale.
Seeking a presidential library can be dicey. When Bush the Elder was first elected, a bidding war began among various Texas schools. Rice and UH wanted the library separately, then joined to make a duel bid, placing the institution in the middle of a Houston park. That idea was DOA. A&M got Bush’s approval, and the Aggies thought they had eight years of documents to show and eight years to drum up the money, because all Bush had opposing him for a second term was some pink-cheeked hillbilly named Clinton. Need I go on?
Why is this library located here in Paint Creek? Texas already had three presidential libraries, and this one gave us more than any other state. As Perry was the governor of Texas, the UT campus was considered as a site for his papers — along with the future burial place for the president and his wife, just like LBJ, Reagan and George H.W. Bush. However, Perry said, “T-sips? Over my dead body.” We thought that was the whole point, but it ended the discussion.
The obvious place for the library was College Station, but Bush the Elder got there first. So that left us with Perry’s home town of Paint Creek, population 273, “Gateway to Hog Creek.” True, we are a bit out of the way for tourists, but presidential scholars keep coming, looking for compassionate conservatism.
While Perry was running for the presidency, Washington pundits brought up “Texas fatigue” because Texans had occupied the White House 17 of the previous 48 years (more if you count Ike). Speaking of which, this tablet is a quote from noted political scientist Larry Sabato, of the University of Virginia, on then-Governor Perry’s chances at the Oval Office: “I love Texans, but I think with the Bush presidency being such a fresh memory, it’s probably not a wise idea for Republicans to nominate a Texan for president.” Professor Sabato now teaches remedial hieroglyphics at Western Montana Community College and Sasquatch Shelter.
One last question. Yes, that talk by Perry about Texas seceding from the U.S. caused a bit of a ruckus at the time, and kept growing, which is why Rick Perry was president of Texas. Thanks to both of you for visiting the Perry Presidential Library. I’ve been your guide, Mitt.
Ashby shushes at firstname.lastname@example.org