George HW Bush Presidential Library and Museum
College Station, Texas
One of the most entertaining (or frustrating) aspects of recent American Presidents is that they live long enough to open their own presidential museums, thereby ensuring that history presents them freshly scrubbed and in a sometimes goofy light.
Richard Nixon was the first of these septuagenarian trailblazers, followed by Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan. George Bush threw his own wrinkled Stetson into the ring in 1997.
The George Bush Presidential Museum is long on glory and short on critique, which could lead one to wonder why he was voted out of office after only one term. A World War II room chronicles Bush's stint as a fighter pilot in the Pacific. As his political career unfolds, the exhibits are housed in faux-Capitol buildings and other DC landmark replicas, with American flags in abundance.
Featured exhibits include a framed embroidery of a stalk of broccoli; President Bush's Oval Office chair, called "The Seat of Power;" a 12-foot-tall slab of the Berlin Wall; a "Gifts from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia" display of gold and silver camels, palm trees, miniature replicas of mosques, and no mention of Osama bin Laden; and the parachute with which Bush jumped out of a plane at the age of 72. The former President, known for his physical hijinks, is suspected (by us) of killing Andre the Seal in a similar moment of "I'm as spry as any 20-year-old" recklessness in 1986.
The museum is staffed by a number of retirees, many of whom appear to be as old as the elder Bush.
In the gift shop, copies of Dan Quayle's book "Worth Fighting For" were for sale. We also liked the snazzy pair of slippers crafted to look like the Commander-in-Chief and First Lady sleeping in beds with American flag comforters.
On hand to congratulate the ex-President at the grand opening was ex-Prime Minister of Japan, Miyazawa Kiichi. Bush threw up on Kiichi at a state dinner in 1992, which spawned a Japanese slang verb, bushusuru ("Bushing it"), meaning "to puke." These facts don't merit a special exhibit in Mr. Bush's museum -- yet. But Gerry Ford's Museum finally put the Squeaky Fromme gun on display, so you never know....
Update: With an $8+ million dollar face lift, the GB Museum now allows you to relive Desert Storm by sitting in a tent and hearing jets fly overhead and bombs explode. You can also sit in the Oval Office, and sit in a situation room while you "make decisions" as President.
Also, a tiny cemetery has been created that will hold the future grave sites of President George and First Lady Barbara Bush.