The George W. Bush Presidential Library

An unauthorized preview, with never-before -seen drawings of the interior

IN THE AUTUMN OF 2005, when George W. Bush had fallen victim to an avalanche of problems, and public confidence was at its lowest ebb, the president's aides were puzzled to see him take a sudden, obsessive interest in planning his presidential library. He would speak of his vision for the library at cabinet meetings, with heads of state, and even while watching NASCAR races. At first those close to him were at a loss to understand his urgency in this matter, but they soon concluded that the president was following some Divine Instruction, imparted to him in a mysterious manner that only he understood, which required him to draw up plans without delay.


Within weeks the White House announced that the official repository of the forty-third president would be erected on the campus of an evangelical university in Texas, and that the cost would run to about $200 million. One unnamed source says that a secret reception for potential donors had already been held at Halliburton's Houston headquarters, where a model of the library—designed by the head of the art department at Oral Roberts University—was unveiled. The president was careful to assure his Arab guests that despite the building's shape (a "neo-fundamentalist exploration of the cruciform vernacular," in the words of the architect), all denominations would, of course, be welcome.


Because President Bush has been such a courageous champion for people of faith, he has earned the enmity of militant atheists in the Democratic Party, some of whom (according to defectors secretly interrogated by the vice-president's office) may possess weapons of mass destruction. It will therefore be necessary to insist that all visitors undergo a thorough security check before entering the building. In addition to walking through metal detectors, adults who are not wearing an American-flag lapel pin will be required to take a loyalty oath.


Once inside, visitors will be greeted by a mural of our Founding Fathers signing the Declaration of Independence. In many ways it is an exact copy of the famous painting by John Trumbull, but with some slight improvements over the original.


Although we do not yet know how many administration officials leaked the name of Valerie Plame, or how many will be indicted for this or similar services to the nation, a Martyr's Monument to the fallen will anchor one end of the Esplanade of Honor.


This imposing greensward, visible from the observation deck of the Pavilion of Intelligent Design, will sweep down to the Operation Iraqi Freedom shrine. Although the exact design of the shrine remains to be determined, it will be set amid the "Greet Us With Flowers" wetland, a gift of the Cheney family.


As the tour nears its end, visitors will want to spend a few moments browsing in The Green Zone, the library's gift shop. As part of the president's continuing economic-recovery program, no sales tax will be levied on shoppers earning $500,000 or more a year.


Before leaving the library, visitors will have an opportunity to vote for which of the president's initiatives they would most like to see immortalized on a postage stamp. All ballots and comments will be kept secret unless subpoenaed by the Department of Homeland Security.

Edward Sorel lives in Manhattan. His Literary Lives series, which ran in The Atlantic over the past few years, will be published as a collection this spring by Bloomsbury. Cullen Murphy is the managing editor of The Atlantic.
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Cullen Murphy

Says Cullen Murphy, "At The Atlantic we try to provide a considered look at all aspects of our national life; to write, as well, about matters that are not strictly American; to emphasize the big story that lurks, untold, behind the smaller ones that do get told; and to share the conclusions of our writers with people who count."

Murphy served as The Atlantic Monthly's managing editor from 1985 until 2005, when the magazine relocated to Washington. He has written frequently for the magazine on a great variety of subjects, from religion to language to social science to such out-of-the-way matters as ventriloquism and his mother's method for pre-packaging lunches for her seven school-aged children.

Murphy's book Rubbish! (1992), which he co-authored with William Rathje, grew out of an article that was written by Rathje, edited by Murphy, and published in the December, 1989, issue of The Atlantic Monthly. In a feature about the book's success The New York Times reported that the article "was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 1990 and became a runaway hit for The Atlantic Monthly, which eventually ran off 150,000 copies of it." Murphy's second book, Just Curious, a collection of his essays that first appeared in The Atlantic Monthly and Harper's, was published in 1995. His most recent book, The Word According to Eve: Women and The Bible in Ancient Times and Our Own, was published in 1998 by Houghton Mifflin. The book grew out of Murphy's August 1993 Atlantic cover story, "Women and the Bible."

Murphy was born in New Rochelle, New York, and grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut. He was educated at Catholic schools in Greenwich and in Dublin, Ireland, and at Amherst College, from which he graduated with honors in medieval history in 1974. Murphy's first magazine job was in the paste-up department of Change, a magazine devoted to higher education. He became an editor of The Wilson Quarterly in 1977. Since the mid-1970s Murphy has written the comic strip Prince Valiant, which appears in some 350 newspapers around the world.

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