George W. Bush's presidential center will be dedicated today in Dallas, Texas. It's the biggest and most expensive presidential center yet—at 226,560 square feet and a price tag of $250 million. All five living U.S. presidents were there to honor number 43; Bill Clinton even went so far as to mention in his speech that he wanted Bush to paint his portrait.
Among the handful of interactive exhibits, Bush's presidential center will include a "choose your own adventure" video game. But no, you don't get to decide that George W. should decide to become a cowboy, or a lion wrangler, or a dog portraitist, or a baseball team tycoon. Rather, the game places you in the shoes of the President. You can decide if you would like to invade Iraq or leave Saddam Hussein in power. You can choose whether or not to deploy federal troops after Hurricane Katrina, or bail out Wall Street.
(Is there something sad about this display in a presidential library? This is his chance to tell his own story and showcase his accomplishments, but instead this kind of reads—Here, anybody! Help me out here.)
Well maybe, other than the fact if you don't go along with Bush—he'll let you know you probably should have. Bradford Pearson for Esquire tested out the game at the Decision Points Theater. Regarding a decision to invade Iraq, he writes that if you seek a new U.N. resolution, Bush comes onto the screen "to tell us how wrong we were in his trademark matter-of-fact way. 'Saddam posed too big a risk to ignore...the world was made safer by his removal.' OK then, that settles it — finally."
Pearson does compliment the museum for being one that "doesn’t completely sugarcoat the past." In order to arrive at the Decision Points Theater, you must go "past a gnarled hunk of World Trade Center steel, past the donor wall that reminds visitors that yes, the nations of Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates did help build this museum (just as the Saudi royal family helped fund Bill Clinton’s), past a stunning collection of swords and sabres from countries that could probably use all that gold and silver."
That being said, Laura Bush's ball gowns as well as the First Scotties are featured in their own full-on displays among the 43,000 artifacts and 200 million emails at the library. There is a recreation of Bush's oval office, what appear to be ostrich cowboy boots with a Texas state outline and Rangers on them, and other swag gifts to the Bushes—including jewelry, dog bowls, and a taxidermied lion from the Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete given on Bush's trip to Africa in 2008.
Stephen Colbert notes that the opening May 1, 2013 is exactly 10 years from the day that Bush landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln under the banner Mission Accomplished, so according to Colbert's calculations, this "means the library will be finished in another eight and a half years."