A ‘Presidential Library’ for Donald Trump offers grim and funny possibilities
Under the ‘Grift’ shop, it could list ‘presidential pardons’ for sale and sell MAGA playing cards with tweets by the outgoing President. And at the café, visitors could buy ‘Corona Beer’
Presidential museums-cum-libraries in the United States are set up with private funding after their terms end. And if they conform to the rules, they are later taken over by National Archives. They are not parting gifts and set up with tax payers’ money, a model that countries like India could study and follow.
The libraries typically have gift shops, auditoriums, theatres and cafeterias besides the galleries, exhibits and Presidential records and books of the period. Some of them are also ornate. Ronald Reagan's library features a lifesize Air Force One suspended from the ceiling and is a popular destination for presidential debates during Republican primaries. In President Lyndon B. Johnson’s library, original illustrations of Dr. Seuss, author, illustrator and political cartoonist, is on display.
In President Dwight Eisenhower’s library, the teleprompter script from his last address to the nation in 1961 is on display. The JFK museum and library displays his rocking chair, the doodles he made at a meeting during the Cuban crisis and videos of his presidential debates.
Barack Obama is the only former President who has a digital library. The Obama Foundation however is building, with private money, a massive Obama Centre in Chicago. While it will include a new branch of the Chicago Public Library and may borrow artefacts from the National Archives, it will not be an official presidential library.
Donald Trump has not yet announced plans for a library, possibly because he may still be entertaining the idea of contesting again in 2024. But that has not stopped speculation over what it might be like as and when it comes up. There is also curiosity over how the library will deal with his first and second impeachment, the attack on the Capitol and his running battle with the media, which never ceased counting his lies. Or will it mention the pandemic and how he dealt with it or the people he pardoned and the tax cuts he gave the rich?
The Nixon Center, set up by the foundation of former President Richard Nixon, had tried to whitewash the Watergate scandal, which had forced him to step down. Instead, the library had described it as a conspiracy hatched by Democrats to malign his Presidency. The library was eventually taken over by National Archives, which ensured a more nuanced interpretation and display of the Watergate scandal.
It is known that Trump is planning to settle in Florida, though by convention presidential libraries are set up in their places of birth, which would in his case be New York. Historians and several administrators of presidential libraries have suggested that the US Congress should consider passing a law to segregate papers from Trump’s administration and treat them differently than other former Presidents.
"What I'm worried about is that they would go to a facility that will have as its mission the continuation of the disinformation campaign that characterized much of the Trump years," one of them told CNN, adding, "I think it would be harmful to the country for a National Archives-administered library to be seen even tacitly as participating in the divisive, and as we saw on January 6th, deadly, misinformation of the Trump world."
Fundraising could be a huge issue for Trump, who has been ostracized by corporate America. The Washington Post reported that he hopes to raise $2 billion from small-dollar donors to build a library, but that is a 'lot' of small-dollar donations. The Trump World is expected to reflect his social media presence on Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.
Meanwhile, a website, djtrumplibrary.com, has been taking potshots at the former President. The parody website suggests that the Trump World could have a ‘COVID Memorial’ and a ‘Tax Evasion’ Centre besides a ‘Wall of Criminality’.
Under the ‘Grift’ (not Gift and sounding like Graft) shop, it lists a number of items including presidential pardons for sale. There are also MAGA (Make America Great Again) playing cards with tweets by the outgoing President.
And at the café, it suggests, visitors could buy ‘Corona Beer’, ‘Covefefe’ and even the ‘Press Secretary’ –which is the “special of the day because none of them last very long”.