Obama's $1.5-billion ego project
There's a time when excesses build to reach Nero and Caligula levels, and as presidential libraries go, the Obama Library on the South Side of Chicago seems to have hit that tipping point.
The Obama Library is on track to cost $1.5 billion, three times the $500 million it was projected to cost, and quite a bit of that will be borne by taxpayers. Yet it won't contain...any library materials. It won't even be hooked up to the National Archives system – on account of it being too cheap to want to pay the six-figure costs of that purpose.
All it will have is online document access, which can be reached from any computer anywhere. There will be nothing special about coming to the Obama library to do any kind of presidential research. What's more, it's a great way to cherry-pick which documents can be seen among the Obama papers and which cannot. Is this library really about what libraries are about, which is to say scholarship of the historical record? Not in Obama's case. He'd probably rather no one remember the details of his many failures in office, which those records could show.
What the $1.5 billion boondoggle will be about is blocking community roads, putting public park space off limits, fundraising for Obama causes, community organizing, shoveling pork for South Side denizens such as basketball courts, and...satisfying President Obama's gargantuan ego.
Where did anyone get the idea that taxpayers owe ex-presidents this kind of golden parachute? This is Ozymandias-style excess. Or if you want to be much less charitable: Mobuto stuff. Much of the complex itself will be privately funded, of course, but taxpayers are certainly going to be paying for millions of it, and there doesn't seem to be a cap on how much.
Even the private-sector funding is a bit eyebrow-raising. The kind of money this project requires is the kind of money a presidential campaign to the finish requires. That takes fundraising, and small-dollar donors aren't going to cut it. Big-dollar donors might. But that kind of donors – from Goldman Sachs-style investment banks, Hollywood heavies like Harvey Weinstein, foundation fat cats like George Soros – are going to be asking something in return. And what's more, if they have already given the money, it's worth looking at what they got in return. Post presidencies are notorious for bribe cash to flow in in exchange for favors already delivered. And as the Clintons demonstrated so ably, leftist presidencies are historically for sale.