Bush Joining Four Predecessors in Unprecedented Event
WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush is leading the tributes at the dedication of Ronald Reagan’s new library in Simi Valley, Calif., an event that will bring together five American presidents for the first time.
Bush was joining his four immediate predecessors - Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Reagan - at the ceremonial opening of the $70 million Reagan Presidential Library and Center today.
Secretary of State James A. Baker III, just back from the Middle East peace conference in Madrid, joined Bush in flying to California to honor the man he served as White House chief of staff and treasury secretary.
En route to the event, presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater - who also served Reagan in the same capacity - said: ″It’s quite a class reunion.″
″It’s kind of a sentimental trip for almost everyone on President Bush’s staff as well as President Bush, because we’ve all had a close association with President Reagan and with many of the other presidents as well,″ Fitzwater told reporters aboard Air Force One.
Carter missed last year’s inaugural of the Nixon library in Yorba Linda, Calif., which the other presidents attended, but he returned from election- monitoring duties in Zambia to be on hand this time. Reagan helped dedicate Carter’s library in Atlanta in 1985.
″I think it’s proper that all the presidents be there and I think it’s going to be a very nice event,″ Bush said Sunday. He praised Carter’s ″extraordinary effort to be there.″
Reagan is 80. Nixon and Ford are both 78, and Carter and Bush are both 67.
The Reagan facility, built with private donations, already houses 55 million documents, a miniature White House, a replica of the Oval Office and a three-ton chunk of the Berlin Wall. It is the nation’s tenth presidential library.
The Spanish Mission-style library, much of it below ground, is nestled on a wooded hillside 50 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. It is midway between Reagan’s Bel Air home and his Santa Barbara ranch.
Bush recently chose Texas A&M University in College Station as the home for his presidential library.
After flying to California this morning, Bush and his wife, Barbara, were spending 3 1/2 hours at the library, including a luncheon for the presidents and their wives, then returning to the White House late tonight.
Of the presidents, Carter is the only Democrat, reflecting Republicans’ grip on the White House for all but four of the past 23 years.
Reagan, a former actor and two-term governor of California, gave a press preview of the library on Friday, quipping to reporters, ″I like to meet with the press every decade or so. I should crank up the helicopter just for old time’s sake.″
Reporters often had to shout questions to Reagan over the din of helicopter engines and blades as he left or returned to the White House.
The Reagan library, like all but Nixon’s, will be run by the National Archives. The others are the Herbert Hoover library in West Branch, Iowa; the Franklin D. Roosevelt library in Hyde Park, N.Y.; the Harry S. Truman library in Independence, Mo.; the Dwight D. Eisenhower library in Abilene, Kan.; the John F. Kennedy library in Boston; the Lyndon B. Johnson library in Austin, Texas; the Ford library at Ann Arbor, Mich., and the Carter library in Atlanta.
The Bushes originally planned to make the trip to California after a long weekend in their adopted hometown of Houston, but they came back East to inspect their storm-damaged summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine, on Saturday.