In the Bush Legacy Museum on Wheels, a visitor can push buttons on a touch panel and learn how much money his state has paid for the war in Iraq, and what that money could have been used for otherwise. The Observer pushed the Arkansas button, of course, and found that the Natural State has ponied up $4.9 billion for the war to date. That amount could have provided health care for 3.2 million people for one year — roughly the population of Arkansas. The costs of Bush's War are not all payable in currency, of course. Some are paid in blood. The exhibit shows Arkansas's casualties in the war as 60 killed and 455 wounded.
Voters need to know such things. Arkansans got a chance to learn them Friday, Sept. 12, when the 45-foot, 28-ton bus that is the Bush Legacy Museum on Wheels stopped at the River Market for a couple of hours. The bus is sponsored by a Democratic group, Americans United for Change.
There weren't a lot of visitors while we were there, just after the museum opened at 11 a.m., and the only recognizable politician was Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, who'd been invited to participate in a press conference that apparently never came off, through some slip-up. Coincidentally, McDaniel was standing near an exhibit on Bush's failures during the Hurricane Katrina disaster as he told how the approach of Hurricane Ike was causing lines at gas stations all over Arkansas, and prompting numerous phone calls to his office, some of the callers claiming to know where gasoline was being sold for $6 a gallon. He'd been unable to verify these claims, he said.
Employing videos, recordings, still photographs and extensive research, the museum depicts President Bush's legacy in several areas. On health care, the museum shows that 47 million Americans lack health insurance today. That's 9 million more than when Bush took office. Only 60 percent of American firms provide health insurance for their employees today, compared with 69 percent in 2000, the year before Bush was sworn in. And the Bush legacy for workers? “Productivity over the past 5 years rose almost 20 percent, but inflation-adjusted wages for workers have been flat.”
The floor of the bus is a timeline of the Bush administration — “April 29, 2004. Iraq prison-abuse scandal revealed.”
The exhibits are intelligent, earnest and tasteful, and for that reason, will probably be criticized by some Democrats, who believe their party has been too timid in the political arena, allowing the opposition to score uncontested points. Where are the “Smirking Chimp” posters, they will ask, where the “Worst President Ever” T-shirts? They note that the Republicans practice reckless, aggressive, hit-and-run politics, and they believe Democrats should reply in kind. Moderates counter that the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, won elections by staying above gutter politics. In November, we'll find out who was right.
In lieu of Lu: The Observer had to chuckle as the announcement was made a couple of weeks ago that Tom Courtway, UCA's general counsel and director of government relations, would replace Lu Hardin as the university's interim president.
As soon as the decision was announced, we looked up from our twiddling thumbs to see former Times writer, and now associate vice president for communications at UCA, Warwick Sabin turn away from the crowd, scuttle to the corner and call Courtway on his cell phone to give him the news.
“You've just been named the president,” Sabin said before a brief pause. “No, I'm right here in the meeting, and you've just been named the president!”
Courtway acknowledges being a bit taken aback, although he knew his appointment was a possibility. “I've served in this capacity before,” he says. “I had either the good fortune or misfortune, depending on how you look at it, to be the interim director of the state department of education at one time.”
The interim prez said he looks forward to continuing the university's success and mission of education. After the board finds a new president, he hopes to return to his former position with the university.
Here's wishing him a seamless and scandal-free tenure.