Facing the prospect of a lame-duck last two years in office, President Bush has decided to focus on what he hopes will form the cornerstone of his legacy: the George W Bush Presidential Library.
The cost of this memorial to a leader not renowned for his love of literature has been estimated at $500m (Â£257m) – three times the sum spent on his predecessor Bill Clinton’s presidential library.
Although specific plans remain secret, some details are known. The library is likely to be built at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, which is alma mater to the first lady Laura Bush, who is a trustee. The institution, next door to the couple’s church, recently gave the president an honorary doctorate.
The centrepiece of the library is expected to be a public policy centre, possibly called the Institute for Democracy, to espouse what Mr Bush hopes will be seen as the defining themes of his presidency: “compassionate conservatism, the spread of freedom and democracy throughout the world, and defeating terrorism”.
Two key questions remain: who will pay for it and what will it contain? Advisers on the project are reported to be seeking “mega-donations” of $10m to $20m. Arab leaders contributed to the cost of George Bush Sr’s library.
Regarding the content, the current president is not known for reading, but he has talked publicly about a few volumes, including a history of the civil war, The Case for Democracy by the Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky, and The Stranger, by Albert Camus. That leaves a lot of space for records of the presidency. The Clinton library has 75m documents but such voluminous paperwork is unlikely to emerge from the secretive Bush administration.