Modern Day Ex-Presidential
How presidential libraries turned from archives to shrines
Just another quick hit alerting you to a piece of mine published in a non-substack outlet. This time, it’s my review in the Washington Post of what the history of presidential libraries means for the Trump post-presidency—and how Trump could use his post-presidency to pursue enrichment and maybe even a second term.
To be sure, other libraries have since showed similar glimmers of what such a system could look like, such as the FDR library's recent exhibit on Roosevelt's internment of Japanese Americans. But the Nixon library was supposed to be the test case: If the National Archives couldn't tell the ugly story of a dirty president from whom Congress had seized the records of his "abuses of governmental power" (as the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act terms his wrongdoing), then critics who claimed that libraries were just propaganda fronts would be vindicated.
The arc of presidential libraries bends toward loyalty, not truth. After Naftali left, the Nixon foundation blocked his replacement, because it disagreed with the nominee's critical views about the Vietnam War. After a years-long impasse, a new director was named — a fine officeholder but one with no historical expertise who has described Nixon as "a good man who accomplished many things." Even a fully federal institution cannot be relied upon to give a nonpartisan account of history to the public — a precedent Trump's acolytes are surely watching.
Read the whole thing.