In the waning days of the Bush Presidency, it's tempting to simply let bygones be bygones and count the days to a better future. This is a mistake.
George W. Bush and his conservative allies are calling this his legacy year because they understand that the importance of a presidential legacy stretches far beyond a few pages in a high school history book. They know that legacies are not left behind but handed forward; that legacies do not record the past so much as they shape the future. If they can make the American people forget the failures of the last eight years, they have a chance of making the next eight look the same.
The Bush Legacy Project was created to keep that from happening. The centerpiece of the project is the Bush Legacy Bus Tour, an interactive, high-tech museum on wheels that is going coast-to-coast reminding Americans of what has happened to this country as a result of conservative policies and the people who made them the law of the land.
They key word here is people. When the Bush Legacy Tour comes to Portland, Salem, and Medford on July 23 and 24, the President's face won't be the only one you'll see. In videos and exhibits you'll see pictured the others who marched us into an endless and ill-conceived war with Iraq then voted mindlessly to keep us there month after bloody month. You'll note that President Bush couldn't have decimated the economy without the help of leaders like Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), and rank-and-file politicians who rubber stamped his agenda like Sen. John McCain and our own Senator Smith and Senator Wyden.
The bus includes exhibits on the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, made possible in large part by the conservative anti-government dictate that led to gutting of institutions like the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Visitors will be treated to a virtual class on trickle-down economics 101 and what that has meant for the majority of Americans – wages that don't keep up with skyrocketing prices and a growing chasm between the wealthiest and everyone else.
You'll see combat boots from a 34-year-old father who joined the National Guard the day after Sept. 11 only to be killed in Iraq by soldiers he was supposed to be training and you'll be able to see for yourself exactly what the war in Iraq is costing Oregonians.
You'll get to hear – via the latest museum technology - from Americans like yourselves who are suffering under a health care system that Bush, McCain, and Senator Smith and Senator Wyden have turned over to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.
And - as if you need a reminder – you'll get to see exactly how much more the Bush Presidency is costing you in gas than you were paying before he took office.
Perhaps the most important reminder you'll see, however, is that our country doesn't have to be this way. Civil rights. Medicare. Social Security. Labor protections. Great leaders have done great things before and it can happen again. All it takes is citizens like you standing up for your values and holding your elected leaders accountable. With apologies to William Shakespeare, past can indeed be prologue. But it doesn't have to be.
JoAnn Bowman is the Executive Director of Oregon Action.