Vice President Dick Cheney

First Lady Laura Bush is highlighted throughout the museum, in panels such as this one.  Vice President Dick Cheney, Bush’s right hand man for both terms of his presidency, is strangely absent from the museum.  (This text is linked from Laura Bush’s image because all of the available images of Cheney were too small to register with the app.)  Prior to his service in Bush’s administration, Cheney was the CEO of oil and gas multinational corporation Halliburton, represented Wyoming in the US House of Representatives, and served as George H.W. Bush’s secretary of defense.

Often described as “the man behind the curtain,” Vice President Cheney was one of the most powerful vice presidents in American history.  He was instrumental in advancing the Iraq War, insisting on ties between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.  He was one of the lead architects of many of the more controversial elements of the Bush presidency, including the establishment of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, the legal rationale for torturing prisoners, and the surveillance of suspected terrorists and other citizens.

Cheney is oddly absent not only within the public part of the museum, but also from the private side of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, which houses the administration’s records and documents.  Cheney flouted federal laws requiring all vice presidential records to be transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).  In the closing days of Bush’s presidency, a watchdog group sued Cheney in order to preserve his documents for historians, scholars, and journalists, but Cheney ignored a judge’s injunction, and only turned a portion of his papers over to NARA.

Bush’s legacy

When George W. Bush left office, he had the lowest approval rating of any president ever measured: 19%.  He had also registered the highest approval rating of any president—95% following 9/11 in October 2001.  He continues to be an immensely controversial figure, with his Wikipedia page one of the most heavily edited and hotly contested entries in the website’s history.  A 2009 C-SPAN poll of professional historians ranked Bush towards the bottom in presidential performance (36 out of 42).

The George W. Bush Presidential Library Augmented Reality Project (GWB-PLARP) hopes that you will use the resources here, as well as sources from outside the museum, to come to your own conclusions and opinions about the presidency of George W. Bush.

George W. Bush and Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans and in surrounding communities in the Gulf of Mississippi on Monday, August 29, 2005.  In the days following the hurricane, there was a bizarre and fatal lack of federal leadership as the levees were breached and desperate residents sought refuge in the Superdome and at the Convention Center.

By Thursday, leaders on the ground were making appeals on television.  Mayor Ray Nagin sent out a “desperate SOS,” pleading for resources and supplies. New Orleans Homeland Security Director Terry Ebbert reported: “This is a national emergency. This is a national disgrace. FEMA has been here three days, yet there is no command and control.”  On Friday morning, Bush staffers showed the president a compilation of TV reports on Katrina, in an attempt to help him realize the magnitude of the situation.  Later that day, he would infamously praise FEMA head Michael Brown for “doing a heck of a job.”  Brown resigned a week later over his mismanagement of the Katrina response.

In his September 15 speech in New Orleans’ Jackson Square quoted on this panel, Bush accepted responsibility for many of the failings of the government response, and said that “this government will learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina,” but for many people, the response was too little and much too late.