Choose Your Own Adventure at the George Bush Library


The George W. Bush Presidential Library, located somewhat awkwardly on the campus of Southern Methodist University, will officially open this Thursday.

It’s set to be super-fun for #43 enthusiasts. Among other exhibits, the GW Extravaganza features some exhibits that might best be characterized as presidential theme park material.

In a new brick-and-limestone museum, visitors to an interactive theater will be presented with the stark choices that confronted the nation’s 43rd president: invade Iraq or leave Saddam Hussein in power? Deploy federal troops after Hurricane Katrina or rely on local forces? Bail out Wall Street or let the banks fail?

The hypothetical exercise, which includes touch screens that let users watch videos of “advisers” before voting on whether they would make the same choices that Mr. Bush did, revisits the most consequential moments of his administration.

What Would W. Do, right? As an interactive game it appears this exhibit allows visitors to have (some) access to the information presented to the president at the time.

As many as 24 visitors at a time are presented with one of four situations — the invasion of Iraq, the troop buildup in 2007, Hurricane Katrina or the financial crisis. Visitors have four minutes to pull up videos of actors playing White House aides, generals, lawmakers and others giving advice, then they pick one of three options.

When the room has voted, either Mr. [Andrew] Card or Mr. [Josh] Bolten appears on the main screen to announce the result. Then Mr. Bush appears to describe what he did.

Sadly, visitors are not presented with perhaps the most interesting Choose Your Own Adventure question of the whole Bush presidency: What if you could make Bush vs. Gore go the other way and the man never got to take office at all in 2001? [Image via]

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer