Is this racist? Unprofessional? Ignorant? -UPDATED

The New Republic’s James Gardner has taken a look at the drawings for the George W. Bush Presidential Library, and while the knee-jerk negativity is adolescent and predictable, it ends up on a rather bizarre note, for a grown-up, professional publication.

We begin with the obligatory, “the last Democrat’s library is better,” sniff:

There is a hard-edged and unapologetic modernity to the Clinton Library . . . Though some (including Clinton himself) have compared this long and rectangular structure to a double-wide trailer, with all its unsavory associations, the building still achieves a certain elegance, presence, and functionality.

But of course. And now, Gardner’s thoughts on the Bush Library:

Slightly dowdy, to judge from the drawings, it vaguely recalls, in its emphatic horizontality, the Prairie Style of Frank Lloyd Wright. At the same time, however, some parts of the building, especially the Texas Rose Garden, will be adorned with pale Doric columns that bring to mind the idiom in which James Hoban conceived The White House.

The one interior rendering I have seen promises a soberly granitic foyer, whose ceiling is pierced by a banistered oculus that looks as though it might be quite fun. As with most architectural renderings these days, this one includes a few humans, but in a way that is inadvertently humorous. Overwhelmingly male and entirely pale, they look, in their buttoned down ties and gray suits, like the living equivalent of the building itself. You could well believe that they are on their way to an editorial meeting of The Wall Street Journal. And you already know for whom they voted in the past 20 presidential elections.

Emphasis mine. Gardner, or perhaps TNR was so amused by his application of snobbish bigotry-rendered-safe-via-political-correctness, that the joke was more or less repeated in the slideshow’s second illustration. The caption reads:

So clever, my sides hurt.

I count 5, or perhaps 6 females in the picture, and of the six identifiably male figures, one, perhaps two of them, could be “men of color,” unless of course one can’t think beyond stereotypes, in which case one might not recognize such figures without thug attire and whatever the cliche de jour is for Hispanics, this week.

Hey, some of those figures may be gay or transgendered people, too! They’re not wearing signs about it, though, and no one is “obvious” in a stereotypical way, so that racist George W. Bush -and his Architect- must hate them, too; otherwise, such minorities would be highlighted to show inclusion and sensitivity. Or something.

The people in the picture just look like people. Undivided by identity markers; respectable enough, simply for being people. That should be a good thing, you’d think.

But if we can’t sort out folks by their appearances -if we can’t quickly categorize them and presume to know all about them, what they think and how they vote, simply by looking at them – how can we show how noble and umm . . . ostentatiously tolerant, colorblind and cool. . . is our racially fixated narrator.

How tiresome. They’re all so tiresome

But this childish stinkbomb does remind me of a great anecdote about President Bush.

Louise Casselman, who was at that White House Yale reunion with her husband, Kirk Casselman and a Bay Area contingent, says that although Yale was still all-male in 1968, one alum has since had a sex-change operation. “You might remember me as Peter when we left Yale,” said the woman upon coming face to face with the president. George W. didn’t pause for a moment, reports Casselman, grabbed the alumna’s hand, and said “Now you’ve come back as yourself.”

That story speaks volumes about Bush. It tells you he is so comfortable in his own skin that he doesn’t have to overpraise anyone else, in order to prove anything.

A grown-up. How refreshing.

UPDATE: Reader Karen sends another Bush anecdote:

For your George W. Bush file: My sister worked for a county Senior Program, just outside of Houston, when GWB was governor. He visited the facility and was enthusiastically received. At the end of the event, he met numerous fans, shaking hands and posing for photos. After such an extended interchange, my sis approached and thanked him for taking so much time. His response was that his father had told him that someday people might not want to have their pictures taken with him, so he should appreciate it while it was happening… and he did.

My response is “What a gracious man.” He has proven it again and again.

Linked:
Little Miss Attila
Protein Wisdom

Related:
A Tale of Two Presidents

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About Elizabeth Scalia