As Bush Library opens, questions about legacy emerge - KLTV.com-Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville, Texas | ETX News

As Bush Library opens, questions about legacy emerge

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A statue outside the George W. Bush Presidential Library A statue outside the George W. Bush Presidential Library
TYLER, TX (KLTV) -

The George W. Bush Presidential Center will house not only President Bush's Library and Museum, but also his offices and the George W. Bush Policy Institute.

Thursday's ceremony offered a rare sight - the five living men who know what it means to be the President of the United States paying tribute to one of their own.

"To know the man is to like the man because he is comfortable in his own skin. He knows who he is, he doesn't put on any pretenses," said President Obama. "He takes his job seriously but not himself too seriously. He is a good man."

But as the presidential center opens, Bush's legacy as president is still unknown. Tyler Junior College government professor David McClendon says to truly know a president's legacy, people need the space only history can give.

"One of the things we can say about the Bush presidency is that there were a lot of emotional decisions that were made during that period of time because the nation faced some emotional situations that it had never faced before," McClendon said. "And in the context of all of those emotional moments, there's a lot of disagreement about whether or not there are good decisions or bad decisions."

President Bush's poll numbers have seen a bump since he left office. According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, his approval rating is now at 47 percent. That's up from the 34 percent approval he had when he left office in 2009, but down from the 57 percent approval he had when he took office in 2001.

But McClendon pointed out that a president's legacy is more complicated than public opinion lets on and that a president's library may or may not be good for it.

"The people that may travel there may have their own individual perceptions reinforced or possibly changed mildly by being able to visit there, but you're really going to have to want to be an individual that's wanting to go there and be open-minded enough to change your mind about the president to be influenced in that way," said McClendon.

Instead, President Bush's legacy will be determined by the historians who use the center in the years to come.

"Whether or not historians eventually say, you know what, he did the best in a bad situation and so we can't really count that against him, or you know, he really didn't do such a good job even with all the good information that was provided to him," McClendon said.

But McClendon says that whatever that legacy turns out to be, the center will undeniably do one thing - honor the service George W. Bush gave to and the impact he had on the United States.

The Bush Presidential Center is the 13th presidential library and the third to be housed in Texas.

It opens to the public May 1.

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