It’s not entirely obvious when we crossed the line into an imperial presidency. But we’re a long way from the day of Harry and Bess Truman packing up their car at the White House and driving back home to Independence, Missouri. We’re now moving in the direction of the Egyptian pharaohs. We just build monstrosities to memorialize them while they are still alive and call the edifices libraries rather than pyramids.
And when a president travels, especially overseas, the magnitude and costs of the event are staggering. Planes, security, armored cars, medical staff, advisers – that Queen Victoria could have traveled with such pomp and splendor. And when a presidency ends, we get the inevitable presidential library – a term that hardly describes the size of these projects.
So, Mr. Obama now enthuses over the plans to construct his “library” in Chicago. That’s probably a good place for it. This story has an amusing side to it, however. He wants it built where parks will have to be destroyed as well as official historical sites. That’s against the law. And President Trump is not about to let him get away with this!
“The Obama Center is currently planned to spread out over sections of three sites with history stretching back to 1869, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.”
At least it is called a “center” rather than a “library.” Given the size of this thing, that’s a more accurate term. But what are these sites that are doomed to get flattened so Mr. Obama can leave his mark on Chicago?
“The portion of Jackson Park that Obama intends to disrupt with his massive new project includes the area where the World’s Columbian Exposition was staged in Jackson Park and the Midway in 1893. The Midway, created by famed architect Daniel Burnham, was placed on the historic site registry in 1972.
“Obama’s center is also expected to disrupt a portion of Frederick Law Olmsted’s Washington Park, a site that was added to the registry in 2004. Olmsted is also famed for planning New York’s Central Park.
“Finally, the Obama plan will also require the closure of Cornell Drive, a roadway that is an integral part of the park system.
“According to Curbed Chicago:
“‘As proposed, the Obama Center’s multi-building campus will replace roughly 20 acres of park space, including a number of historic trees. Developed in tandem with a merger between Jackson Park’s golf course with the course at the South Shore Cultural Center, the plan looks to close stretches of Cornell, and Marquette drives as well as construct a new parking structure in the center of the historic Midway Plaisance.’”
So we see the priorities here. Mr. Obama, good liberal that he is, championed environmental causes while president. But if some parks have to get turned into buildings and concrete parking lots to properly memorialize his presidency, so be it.
And there are groups pointing out that constructing the Obama Center as planned would violate some laws.
“But a historic preservation group called the Cultural Landscape Foundation says that the proposal for Obama’s new center would violate the rules of the historic registry. The group wants the review of Obama’s construction project to be expanded to review the impact it will have on the whole series of protected parklands.
“‘The need to fully recognize the unity of the South parks is now brought into greater relief by the current proposal to impose a parking garage at the eastern terminus and hinge point of the Midway Plaisance, effectively placing a further barrier to the connection that Olmsted and Vaux first envisioned,’ the group’s president, Charles Birnbaum, wrote in a recent letter to the federal government.”
But that’s not all. There is the proposed Obama Tower.
“‘The imposition of a massive high-rise tower, hundreds of feet tall … is directly contrary to the overall concept of the park,’ Birnbaum concluded.”
An Obama Tower “hundreds of feet tall?”
Perhaps we were mistaken when we agreed that Chicago was a good place for the Obama Center. It could be that it belongs in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt after all.
But never fear. Trump will stop him LONG before he can even attempt to break ground!