Yankee Pyramids

Roman Mars:
This is 99% Invisible. I’m Roman Mars.

[Music]

Delaney Hall:
Hey, Roman.

Roman Mars:
Hey, Delaney Hall. You’re the executive producer of this here show.

Delaney Hall:
Yes, I am. And I’m going to be telling our story this week. I wanna start back in November 2016. It was election night.

Roman Mars:
Who could forget??

Delaney Hall:
And, somewhere in New York City, there was a group of friends watching the results come in. A few of them had been low-level volunteers for the Hillary Clinton campaign.

[MONTAGE OF ARCHIVAL NEWS]
DONALD TRUMP HAS WON THE STATE OF FLORIDA….
DONALD TRUMP WILL WIN OHIO…
DONALD TRUMP WILL CARRY THE STATE OF WISCONSIN…

Delaney Hall:
And the results were not what they were expecting…

AND THE WALL COMES TUMBLING DOWN. THIS WAS THE BLUE WALL THAT HILLARY CLINTON TALKED ABOUT…

Delaney Hall:
And as they watched, they were getting more and more upset.

Architect:
The mood was very bad at that point. We couldn’t believe it was real — we wondered if there’s a counting error or if it was all a big cosmic joke. So, yeah, shock bordering on depression, basically.

Roman Mars:
Okay, who is that and what is up with his voice?

Delaney Hall:
So that is a member of the group that was there that night. And we have agreed to keep him anonymous, which is why his voice sounds like that. I will explain more later.

Roman Mars:
Okay! It’s very mysterious. Keep going.

Delaney Hall:
So this group is freaking out, everybody’s spiraling, there’s a lot of existential dread going on —

Architect:
— like what is this going to mean? One of my first thoughts, oddly enough, I don’t even know why I thought this, is this guy is going to get a library. Like, how do you get Donald Trump a presidential library???

Roman Mars:
At this moment he was thinking about Trump’s future presidential library?? I have to say, that was not where my head was at on election night.

Delaney Hall:
Nor mine! But this guy is actually an architect — I won’t say much more than that — but he does live in New York where Trump made his career as a developer. And so that’s where this guy’s head went.

Roman Mars:
Yeah, I mean “bookish” isn’t the first adjective when I think about Donald Trump. When he talks about his favorite book, he usually mentions his own ghostwritten autobiography.

Delaney Hall:
Yeah, he is by many accounts not a big reader… so it seems a little contradictory at first, the idea of a Trump library. But I will admit that, like this architect, I’ve become a little bit fascinated by the question of this hypothetical library — where will it be, what will it look like??

Roman Mars:
Will it be gold?

Delaney Hall:
Will there be a gold-plated roller coaster? That’s what I want to know. But as I started learning about the history of presidential libraries more generally — I’ve come to think that there’s actually something quite Trumpian about them. Like all of them, regardless of the president involved.

Roman Mars:
Oh interesting, yeah I can kind of see that. Like they’ve always felt more like a museum to one person’s greatness than anything else and that seems quite Trumpian in some ways.

Delaney Hall:
Yeah, exactly

Architect:
They’re this weird mix of a historical repository of records and things that have a lot of meaning. And they’re also then this edifice, this self-congratulatory, almost fictional account of someone’s achievements, where all the blemishes are hidden.

[MUSIC]

Delaney Hall:
So we’ll get back to this architect in a little bit, but first I want to tell you about how presidential libraries came to be because they have ALWAYS been a weird contradiction.

Roman Mars:
Oh, I’m excited, let’s do it.

Delaney Hall:
So before the invention of presidential libraries, there was just chaos when it came to presidential records.

Jill Lepore:
A lot of George Washington’s papers were eaten by rats, a lot of other people’s papers burned in fires.

Delaney Hall:
This is Jill Lepore, she’s a historian at Harvard and a writer at “The New Yorker” and she’s the host of a great podcast called “The Last Archive.” And she says that in the early years of the country, people were just burning presidential papers in trash cans. Or pulling out all the unflattering documents — and destroying them.

Jill Lepore:
The papers that remain give you a very distorted portrait of the person, right? So any evidence of scandal or corruption will have been very carefully excised by your children or your grandchildren or your wife or your widow.

Delaney Hall:
And for a long time that was the state of things. Presidential papers were considered the private property of the president, and what happened to them was very haphazard.

Roman Mars:
It sounds like what got saved was shaped by a mix of chaos and self-interest.

Jill Lepore:
So on the one hand, what’s left behind is kind of accidental. And on the other hand, what’s left behind is the stuff that makes the person look good.

Delaney Hall:
And it wasn’t until the progressive era, like the late 1800s, early 1900s, that that started to change in any kind of systematic way. And that was the era when people were starting to talk about good government — and the ideas of openness and transparency.

Jill Lepore:
And increasingly by the 1930s that’s understood in opposition to the secrecy of authoritarian regimes that are toppling democracies the world over, right, especially thinking of, you know, Mussolini and Hitler.

Delaney Hall:
So this is the era when the National Archives were established, you know, to care for and preserve the records of the U.S. government. And those documents, like presidential papers, had just been kept in basements and attics and various abandoned buildings scattered across Washington D.C. And again, the disarray is just shocking to me. Like this is what I would do with MY important documents – but the documents of the nation??

Roman Mars:
[Laughs]

Delaney Hall:
Anyway, then Franklin Delano Roosevelt came along, and by the end of his second term, he’d come up with a plan for his own papers. He decided that he was going to put all his papers in one place and that it would be open to the public.

Benjamin Hufbauer:
Roosevelt was the one that came up with this idea that I could have a museum that would celebrate my life —

Delaney Hall:
This is Benjamin Hufbauer, he’s an art historian and an expert on presidential libraries.

Benjamin Hufbauer:
— and I’d have this archive and it would be a building. And he was an amateur architect. He designed his own little building for that.

Delaney Hall:
It was designed in the Dutch colonial style and it wasn’t that little. It was about 40,000 square feet. And Roosevelt decided it would be built in Hyde Park, New York, the place where he was born. And to raise the funds for it, he turned to his supporters.

Benjamin Hufbauer:
So supporters of President Roosevelt could mail in a check for 10, 20, 50, 100 dollars. And that went into the funding of the library. And then once the building was completed, then it was handed over to the federal government, to the National Archives, to be run forever, basically, by the US government.

[ARCHIVAL TAPE]
President Roosevelt: This latest addition to the archives of America is dedicated at a moment when government of the people by themselves is being attacked everywhere.”

Delaney Hall:
And so that was it — the first presidential library. It opened in 1941.

Roman Mars:
Wow, that seems so recent in American history. So when this thing opened in ’41, how did people react to it? How was it received?

Delaney Hall:
Oh, a lot of people thought it was ridiculous.

Benjamin Hufbauer:
People thought he was a megalomaniac! Someone said he wanted to build a ‘Yankee pyramid.’ There was a comic that portrayed FDR as Santa Claus, presenting a giant present in his own stocking and saying of the presidential library, saying, “Oh, won’t he be surprised? Bless his heart. Ho, ho, ho.”

Roman Mars:
Huh, it seems like the public had a pretty good take on what the library actually was which was like a monument that FDR built to himself.

Delaney Hall:
Yeah, and while he was alive, no less! That was really not done at the time! The tradition was that monuments to presidents were built long after they had died. The Washington Monument, for example, was finished in the mid-1880s, about 85 years after George Washington died. And the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated in 1922, nearly 60 years after Abraham Lincoln’s death.

Benjamin Hufbauer:
Yeah, normally there’s this big gap and only the most exceptional presidents get a monument. And here we’ve got monuments right away to each president as they’re still living, sometimes as they’re still in office.

Delaney Hall:
But the FDR library ended up setting the template for presidential libraries going forward. In 1955, Congress passed the Presidential Libraries Act, which formalized this idea of privately built and publicly administered institutions. The next one that went up was the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. And it was structured like FDR’s — so it was a branch of the National Archives, it was full of actual important documents — it really did improve access for researchers. But its museum was also basically a shrine to Truman.

Bruce Schulman:
And it raised for me the question of, you know, how do we as Americans tell our stories?

Delaney Hall:
This is Bruce Schulman, he’s a historian at Boston University. He has visited most of the existing presidential libraries.

Bruce Schulman:
How do we teach history? How do we speak about it? So I think I just accidentally became interested in those questions.

Delaney Hall:
And you can probably guess the way the presidential story gets told — in the Truman library but also others… It’s fundamentally this heroic story about how an extraordinary person comes along at a pivotal moment in American history, changing the country’s destiny.

Bruce Schulman:
And that kind of gets at the essential tension between the work that’s being done in the archive and what it is those shrines are trying to do, which is to create a largely feel-good celebration of the American past and this particular president’s role in it.

Jill Lepore:
I think they’re monuments to the vanity of ex-presidents, which is…. um…. immeasurable?

Roman Mars: [laughing]
Ah, Jill Lepore always calls it like she sees it.

Delaney Hall:
And she’s not wrong! There are so many interesting examples of how these huge presidential egos end up manifesting in their buildings. But I think my favorite is the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library in Austin, Texas. It’s a stunning building. It’s just massive.

Benjamin Hufbauer:
Beautiful travertine marble imported from Italy covers the entire thing, which has almost no windows except right before the top floor, which is cantilevered out and has glass beneath it. So it looks almost like it’s kind of floating. It looks kind of like a cross between a space-age bureaucracy and an Egyptian pylon temple. You really have to see pictures of it to kind of believe it.

Delaney Hall:
And this building was starting to go up in 1967 / 1968 towards the end of LBJ’s time in office…. And, you know, that was a very consequential time. There was a lot going on.

Benjamin Hufbauer:
You’ve got, of course, more than 500,000 American troops in Vietnam. Martin Luther King Jr., of course, is tragically assassinated. Robert Kennedy is tragically assassinated.

Delaney Hall:
— but literally in the middle of all that chaos and tragedy, on the 10th of October, 1968 LBJ placed a call from the Oval Office to Gordon Bunshaft, who was the architect he’d chosen to design his library

[ARCHIVAL TAPE]
LBJ: Gordon. It’s Lyndon Johnson.
Gordon: Oh, yes, Mr. President. How are you?
LBJ: I hope I’m not interrupting your dinner.

Roman Mars:
Oh, he was definitely interrupting his dinner.

Delaney Hall:
I feel like without a doubt, knowing LBJ, he probably was interrupting his dinner on purpose.

Roman Mars:
— just to show his dominance.

Delaney Hall:
Yeah exactly. And what LBJ is calling about is that he really wants the architect to find a place in his library for a replica of the oval office. LBJ had noticed that the Truman library had one and he is now wanting one too. But remember, the construction of this building is already underway.

[ARCHIVAL TAPE]
​​LBJ: Is there no way in the world that we could reconstitute as nearly as possible, the president’s office here?
Gordon: Well, we haven’t thought of it, but it’s possible.

Delaney Hall:
Listening to this call, the architect clearly wasn’t a huge fan of this idea. But the call goes on for 7 minutes and 46 seconds — it’s a classic LBJ monologue —

Roman Mars: [laughs]

[ARCHIVAL TAPE]
LBJ: I’d rather have that than anything else about the building.
Gordon: I gather that. All right. And we’ll see.
LBJ: I’m in there now — I’m in that office tonight. I come in at sometimes at 6:30 in the morning and I’m here til late. And I would like for them to see just where we work. And I’d like to have the exact replica as near as possible.

Roman Mars:
This is fascinating to me. Psychologically, I can’t quite parse this. Does he imagine not being president someday and just sitting his little playset of the presidency in his library?? It’s so odd.

Delaney Hall:
I know, I know. And there’s so much president stuff he should be doing–

Roman Mars: [laughs]

Delaney Hall:
And I’m sure he is doing, I’m sure he IS doing. But he has the space to also be micromanaging the designs of his presidential library. It’s fascinating.

[MUSIC]

Delaney Hall:
So by the late 1960s, early 1970s, every president since FDR had built himself one of these sweet new libraries — and actually, Herbert Hoover had built one too, retroactively. The libraries were becoming increasingly monumental and grandiose. But interestingly, at this time, the papers of the president were still considered his personal property.

Roman Mars:
Woah, okay, that is really strange. So there was a new custom, where presidents would voluntarily put their papers in a library and then some of that management would be passed to the National Archives. But it was basically like the honor system? They didn’t have to give everything up, they could choose.

Delaney Hall:
Yeah yeah, it was the honor system. And can you guess which president really tested that honor system?? Any guesses?

Roman Mars:
Oh, I think I can get it in one. We’re talking about Richard Millhouse Nixon here.

Jill Lepore:
Yeah, the Nixon era was kind of a battle royale over who gets to control the papers of the president. You know, Nixon had proceeded as everyone before him had done, as if all the records created by his office during his presidency were his private property. And he could do with them as he wished. He could cull them. He could destroy them.

Delaney Hall:
And Nixon did not foresee that his records would be requested and then demanded by Congress during the investigation into his administration.

Jill Lepore:
And when that request and demand was made, you know, he resisted it.

Benjamin Hufbauer:
And so Congress seized President Nixon’s records, and subsequently made future presidential records the property of the country rather than the property of the individual president.

Delaney Hall:
And they did that with the Presidential Records Act, which passed in 1978. And the PRA says that presidential records are in the public domain and the public can see them five years — five years after the president leaves office — with the exception of classified material.

Roman Mars:
Huh. Well we’re finally getting to the way I would expect things to be. So the law affirmed the importance of keeping presidential records safe and available to the public.

Delaney Hall:
Yeah, so the law did do that. But the records continued to be stored in presidential libraries. And, you know, nothing really changed about the basically self-congratulatory vibe of most presidential libraries. The Nixon Library is a fascinating example. For many years, the Nixon library was actually privately run by the Richard Nixon Foundation. It was not affiliated with the National Archives. And it portrayed Watergate very much from Nixon’s perspective. The event was characterized as a “coup” by Nixon’s enemies. And the exhibit suggested that the press had behaved unethically in pursuing the story of his crimes.

Roman Mars:
Woah, that’s bold.

Delaney Hall:
I know! And it wasn’t until the mid-2000s, the National Archives took over the museum — and when they did, they insisted that a very well-respected historian come in to create a more factually accurate Watergate exhibit. And, you can probably imagine, members of the Richard Nixon Foundation didn’t like it. There was one guy who called the new exhibit a “hit” piece. And the historian involved with it was harassed, he eventually resigned.

Roman Mars:
Woah, okay, that’s intense.

Delaney Hall:
It’s just an example of how, structurally, it’s very hard to tell a nuanced and complex story in these libraries.

Benjamin Hufbauer:
The president gets to select the architect that they want. They have a role often in selecting who’s going to be the director of that presidential library. And the president takes an active role in designing — they’re basically the head curator of their museum to themselves. I should say that I talked to various employees of the presidential library system and I’ve asked them, why don’t you insist on more historical objectivity? And some of these people looked at me and said, what planet are you living on? These people have run the country. Do you think we can tell them what to do? How do you think that’s going to happen?

Delaney Hall:
And one of the most compelling examples described to me was from The Decision Points Theater, at the George W. Bush Library in Dallas.

AUDIO:
Welcome to the Decision Points Theater George W. Bush made many tough decisions as president. Now you’ll get a flavor of what that’s like. Take a look at the list of scenarios in front of you.

Delaney Hall:
And the whole decision points experience is interactive – you get to choose from a menu of scenarios. You can decide what to do in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. You can decide what to do following the 2008 financial crisis. You can decide if you want to invade Iraq.

AUDIO:
You get a briefing, your expert policy advice, and vote on what you want to do.

Roman Mars:
That’s amazing. I am very eager to hear how the counterfactuals are written to justify each of the decisions that George W. Bush actually made.

Delaney Hall:
Yes. Yeah, it’s really interesting because it’s genuinely interactive. The audience in this theater gets to vote. And you know, not surprisingly, in the case of the Iraq war, a fair number of people select no, I do not want to invade Iraq. We’re living in the present moment. We know how that went.

Benjamin Hufbauer:
But if you choose, no, President George Bush comes up on the video and says, no, that’s the incorrect choice, you must, we had no choice …. Saddam Hussein represented too big a threat and you must invade Iraq.

Roman Mars:
So the president comes on to scold you about your poor decision-making skills that didn’t conform to his own? Oh, that’s amazing.

Delaney Hall:
Yeah, and I guess it shouldn’t be THAT surprising to anyone at this point that we don’t get a more nuanced take in a museum designed in close collaboration with Bush himself. But it’s still problematic.

Benjamin Hufbauer:
So this is what’s troubling about this, is that this is a museum run by the Federal Government. So you think this is the National Archives. They’re not going to feed me something that’s a lie or wrong. And yet, you know, from former President Bush’s point of view, this is the truth, but it’s a very particular and propagandistic truth.

Roman Mars:
That’s really interesting. It’s almost less problematic the less official we make these things. You know, like, I’d almost have no problem if the Bush family kept a shrine to Bush, but it’s the fact it’s a government facility that makes it an issue.

Delaney Hall:
Yeah, it’s the mixing of the purposes that makes these institutions so troublesome. You know, it’s the way there’s an archive that gives legitimacy to the museum, which tells the story in the way that an actual historian never would, sort of lacking all the nuance and complexity that’s required.

[MUSIC]

Delaney Hall:
So there’s another element to this story, which I talked with Jill Lepore about, and it has to do with some of the unintended consequences of the Presidential Records Act which passed right after the Watergate scandal. And of course, it was intended to create a fuller record of each presidency. But she says that in some ways, the opposite has happened.

Jill Lepore:
Where people say, yeah, well, I would have put it down in a note, but then that would have been subject to the Presidential Records Act. So, you know, I just called the guy. So in that sense, it’s easy to evade. From a historian’s vantage, these people all used to keep diaries. They’re all so self-important, keep endless diaries. And now they don’t keep diaries. So you don’t even know who they’re meeting with on a given day because they didn’t want to have that written down. People have ways of avoiding creating a record.

Roman Mars:
Yeah because once you have a record, then some independent counsel can impeach you using those records or lawyers could dig through them. I mean I could totally see a president just deciding, “well, nope, I don’t want to deal with that.”

[MUSIC]

Roman Mars:
So did these historians you talked to have a take about the future of presidential records would be like and how they would affect presidential libraries?

Delaney Hall:
We did talk about that. And you know, as the power of the presidency has grown over the course of the twentieth century, the size of these institutions has grown as well. So that first library, designed by Roosevelt, cost about 7 million dollars in today’s money. The latest figures for the construction of the Obama Presidential Center are about 700 million.

Roman Mars:
Oh my god!

Delaney Hall:
It’s a huge amount of money. And then at the same time presidential power has grown — public trust in the presidency has been falling.

Jill Lepore:
I think there’s some public discontent with the idea with the monumentality of these places. I don’t think the presidency has the public trust that it had when FDR proposed presidential libraries. I think the presidency has betrayed the public trust.

Delaney Hall:
And so, Jill Lepore, and I think a lot of other professional historians, just kind of wished the presidential libraries would go away. It’s not that their archives aren’t important. They truly are.

Jill Lepore:
There’s no particular reason those collections couldn’t be housed in one central place in Washington, D.C.

Roman Mars:
Yeah, that certainly makes more sense to me than having them sort of spread out around the country in different shrines to different men.

Delaney Hall:
Yeah, it makes sense to me too. And interestingly, things might actually be starting to move in that direction. So the Obama Presidential Center, for example, which we were just talking about. It is not going to hold Obama’s actual presidential records — those will be held by the National Archives, in various facilities. The Center in Chicago will be the site of the museum — and it’ll also serve other purposes, as a community center, as a place for the Obamas’ philanthropic and diplomatic work. And part of that is because it’s just become really expensive for libraries to be affiliated with the National Archives. Over the years, Congress has passed legislation requiring ex-presidents to raise massive endowments that will cover the cost of repairing and maintaining these buildings. So, with Trump, there are people who think that, if he does manage to build a presidential library, that it might be along the lines of the Obama Center. So he might build a shrine to himself, but people speculate he won’t bother with the actual papers. Those will stay with the National Archives.

Roman Mars:
Huh, interesting. So the two purposes that have mixed in such uncomfortable ways through the history of presidential libraries — maybe they’re starting to separate now, which seems like a good idea. But that brings us back to the question of the Trump library. And after hearing all this history, I kind of can’t imagine any part of it not being filled with Trumpian nonsense.

Delaney Hall:
I know, and that’s what I meant at the beginning when I said these libraries are all very Trumpian, in a way. They all contain evasions and half-truths and bluster. And that’s what our anonymous architect was thinking about too when, on election night 2016, he was contemplating the idea of a future trump library. And what he did is he ended up buying a domain – djtrumplibrary.com – and he just sat on that domain for a couple years but then he eventually decided, I am going to design a library that does exactly what none of these real presidential libraries do — which is to really dwell on the bad stuff.

Architect:
Every president has faults. It’s a tough job. I don’t know why anyone wants the job. The job sounds lousy to me. Everybody’s yelling at you no matter how well you do and 50% of the county of the country hates you — so you’re kind of screwed from go.

Delaney Hall:
But you know, with Trump, there was just so much bad and so much scandal. And so this guy designed a parody museum. If you visit the site, it looks very much like a real presidential library. It’s a modern glass box, there’s a reflecting pool and various exhibits. But all of the exhibits are fake parody exhibits. There’s a twitter wall, for instance —

Architect:
We had a room about the tax evasion. How he was only paying $750 a year. So that was a room. We had the oligarch’s lounge, where it shows him kissing up to all the different despots and generally bad people that he likes, the Putins of the world, the Kim Jong Ils of the world, all these guys he’s BFFs with.

Roman Mars:
Yeah, I’m starting to understand why this guy wanted to remain anonymous.

Delaney Hall:
Yeah, he just didn’t feel entirely safe being public about who designed the site, which actually ended up getting a ton of attention. For a long time, it was the first thing that came up when you googled “Donald Trump Library”.

Roman Mars:
Hmm, I haven’t even heard of an official one. Like this is what I’ve heard of, this fake one.

Delaney Hall:
Yeah, there’s a lot of speculation about what a real one might look like, where it might be if it will even exist. But the bigger point that this architect wanted to make isn’t even necessarily about Trump. It’s more about the way that we think about presidents.

Architect:
It’s a job. Like the sooner we get the treating politicians as employees and not as heroes or people that we have to venerate for no good reason. I mean, look, it’s an important job and they deserve our respect if they do their jobs well. But they’re public employees, they’re replaceable.

[MUSIC]

Delaney Hall:
So I guess, in the end, this story is pretty much an episode of “What Trump Can Teach Us About Presidential Libraries.”

Roman Mars:
Yeah, it’s interesting that it took Trump — and before him, Nixon — to challenge the whole idea of presidential libraries. It’s like he’s helped to expose some of the problems and contradictions that exist in ALL of them, even for the presidents that I tend to venerate.

Delaney Hall:
Right, yeah. It’s like there was all this talk during the Trump era about how he exposed so many different institutions or traditions or conventions as inadequate or flawed. And presidential libraries just feel like one more thing we can see in a new light now.

Roman Mars:
Well, what a weird collection of buildings. Thanks so much for bringing us this story.

Delaney Hall:
Sure, thanks, Roman!

Roman Mars:
Coming up after the break, we’re going to share a recent episode of “What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law,” the other podcast I host with law professor Elizabeth Joh. It covers the way the Supreme Court’s “shadow docket.” Stay tuned.

[BREAK]

Roman Mars:
And now an episode of “What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law”, released on September 9th.

Roman Mars:
Okay. So we’re recording this on Monday at 11:45 AM. We’re meeting as a special session, so what do you want to talk about today?

Elizabeth Joh:
We’re going to talk about legal procedure. I know that sounds really boring, but–

Roman Mars:
But I’ve learned, not from you, it won’t be boring from you.

Elizabeth Joh:
But I promise I’m going to show you why it’s actually pretty interesting and maybe sometimes just as important or even more important than the right stuff that we talk about. Okay?

Roman Mars:
Cool.

Elizabeth Joh:
So when we think about the US Supreme Court and when it decides important or particularly controversial issues, what we’re talking about is what’s called its merits docket, docket just means its list of legal proceedings. So every year, literally thousands of people who have lost their legal case, ask the Supreme Court to hear their case. What’s happened here is that somebody has lost a case, could be civil or criminal, and the case started at State Court or Federal Court, and then went up to an Appeals Court and then sometimes even to a State Supreme Court. And so by the time a losing party says, “Hey, Supreme Court, please hear my case,” a lot of courts have already weighed in, they’ve already said, we’ve decided against you or maybe at some level, they said, they’ve decided for you. But at any point, by the time you get to the Supreme Court, you’re usually a loser, you want someone to hear your case one last time.

Elizabeth Joh:
Of those thousands of cases, the Supreme Court decides to hear about 60 to 70 a year, so not that many. And when it comes to those kinds of cases, whether we’re talking about individual rights or the power of the federal government to make laws, the Supreme Court has the two sides, submit usually two rounds of legal briefs. These are written arguments about why they should win and then there’s an oral argument that’s scheduled months in advance. When it comes to really high profile cases, the ones that we all read about in the newspapers, you might also get several Amicus or “friend of the court” briefs. These are legal briefs that are written by the parties who aren’t part of the case, but they’re telling the Supreme Court, “Hey, this is such an important issue, please let us weigh in too.” Now, before the pandemic, if you were lucky, you could actually wait in line and get a seat and watch what the Justices were going to be asking of the lawyers for both sides.

Elizabeth Joh:
Now, during the pandemic, we’re actually kind of lucky in this regard, they went online or sort of online, they went telephonically online. And so we could hear what the Justices were asking the different parties during this last term. Eventually, the Supreme Court decides how the case is supposed to come out and there’s usually a lengthy written opinion signed by the Justice who actually authored the opinion. And we can tell which Justices agreed with the majority opinion. And if there are those who didn’t agree, well, then you have these dissents, dissenting Justice say, “Well, this is why I think the majority is wrong and we should’ve done something different.” So that’s the Supreme Court we all know and love, the one that I’ve just called the merits docket, that’s the one where we hear about the big blockbuster cases. So this whole process, like waiting – usually waiting until the end of the summer – to see what the Supreme Court is going to say in a particularly important case.

Elizabeth Joh:
Well, the reason why we have all of this incredible procedure and people weighing in, and there’s all this pomp and circumstance, that’s the court’s legitimacy. They don’t just decide, they don’t flip a coin. They don’t say, “Hey, we were voted in by this president, so that’s how we’re going to decide.” They’re supposed to say, “Here’s the lengthy legal reasoning behind why we’re going to go ahead and say the case should come out in a particular way.” And the idea here is that because we’ve handed over to the Supreme Court so much power to decide, sometimes really life-altering decisions in the lives of ordinary people, they owe it to us as the public to explain why they’re doing what they’re doing, but that’s not everything the Supreme Court does. It also has, what’s referred to as a non-merits or “emotions docket.” So Roman, have you ever heard of that term?

Roman Mars:
No. Not at all.

Elizabeth Joh:
Never, right? And really nobody ever has, unless you practice regularly before the Supreme Court, you’ve never heard of this term. And the reason why is it’s usually pretty boring. Now, the reason why there’s a non-merits or emotions docket is that the Supreme Court like any other court has to issue a lot of orders. Sometimes the parties in a case want to do something boring like, “Hey, can we have more time to file a brief?” Or sometimes the Supreme Court says, “Hey, you folks, you wanted an emergency order, there’s no emergency here. Or you want us to hear your case, it’s just not that important.” So for all these kinds of reasons, this non-motions or orders docket, never gets any attention. I shouldn’t say never, very occasionally you might hear of a death penalty case where there’s been a death row inmate facing execution and the Supreme Court, in that case, might be asked to issue a stay, or that’s really like a pause of the execution because that person argues that there’s some constitutional problem in their case.

Elizabeth Joh:
But again, most of the time, the non-merits docket of the Supreme Court is pretty unexciting and really no one’s ever heard of it. But in recent years, that boring part of the Supreme Court’s work has gotten a lot more interesting and in ways that a lot of people find alarming. So let’s talk about the shadow docket, abortion in Texas, and maybe the state of abortion rights everywhere.

Roman Mars:
Let’s do it.

[THEME INTRO]

Roman Mars:
This is “What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law,” an ongoing series of indefinite length, where we take the horrible current events and the ripple effects of the Trump presidency and use them to examine our constitution like we never have before. Our music is from Doomtree records, our professor and neighbor is Elizabeth Joh, and I’m your fellow perpetual student and host Roman Mars.

[THEME MUSIC ENDS]

Roman Mars:
So I’ve heard this term on Twitter a little bit and I’m here to ask, what is a shadow docket?

Elizabeth Joh:
Okay. So the actual term is something coined by a law professor named Will Baude in 2015, to describe what we’ve just talked about, this idea of an orders docket of the Supreme Court. Even though the term’s coined pretty recently, the Supreme Court always had this thing where they just have to issue orders that are related to cases before them, again, historically pretty boring, no one usually cares about it. But if you’re a watcher of the Supreme Court, you’ve probably noticed that in recent years, the Supreme Court seems to be relying more on the so-called shadow docket to make decisions in high-profile cases. So you ask why is it a shadow docket? What is it? So these are not the ordinary way that the Supreme Court decides cases, there’s no extensive rounds of legal briefing, there’s no oral arguments by the lawyers, there’s no oral argument decided in advance months ahead of time for all of us to try and figure out if we can attend in person or maybe listen to online, the Supreme Court might just issue an order.

Elizabeth Joh:
Sometimes there’s no legal opinion or there’s just a very brief opinion, might be one paragraph long, and the court’s usually on a really rushed timeline. And sometimes we don’t really know which Justice wrote the opinion and sometimes we don’t really know which Justices totally agreed with that unsigned opinion. And they can decide these orders at any time they wish, could be in the middle of the night. So you can see that this is really different than the way that the court normally decides its cases and that’s the problem — it’s less transparent, it’s less predictable, the parties themselves aren’t that much involved in these cases. So the whole idea is that they’re just less open overall when it comes to the shadow docket.

Elizabeth Joh:
And when you have something as important as a Supreme Court, remember practically speaking, they have the final say on what the constitution means, that raises issues about their trustworthiness and their legitimacy if they’re issuing really big decisions in the middle of the night, and we’re not even sure who wrote the thing that makes such a big impression. So you and I just talked about a shadow docket case pretty recently, and that was one of the COVID cases. Remember there was a challenge to the COVID restrictions in New York State and just as a recap, remember, some religious groups said that the State of New York was treating them more harshly than if you were a non-religious entity when it came to allowing people for indoor gatherings. So the Supreme Court decided in that case, remember that on the midnight before Thanksgiving of last year, that, yep, this was an unconstitutional restriction on their religious freedom. That COVID restriction, even though, of course, there was a public health reason behind it, violated their First Amendment, religious freedom rights.

Elizabeth Joh:
This is an example of a shadow docket decision, this wasn’t an ordinary case with the oral arguments and the briefing. In fact, it was an emergency request by the religious groups and the Supreme Court intervened and said, no, you can’t do this New York. That was a five-four opinion, it was unsigned. We know the vote in this particular case because there were four Justices who dissented, including the Chief Justice John Roberts. There are plenty of other examples too. So do you remember the eviction moratorium that Congress imposed at the early part of the pandemic?

Roman Mars:
Yeah.

Elizabeth Joh:
Sure. So you have this idea where Congress stopped evictions as part of the second COVID Relief Act and the idea here is of course, if you have mass unemployment because of COVID that leads to people being homeless, and maybe that would make the pandemic even worse. When Congress decides to impose this moratorium, it was supposed to last just 120 days and Congress decides not to renew it, but the Centers for Disease Control, CDC, was concerned that, well, maybe there still should be an eviction moratorium, so they decide on their own to extend the moratorium a couple of times. So that CDC moratorium was challenged in federal court, a federal judge agreed that, well, maybe the CDC doesn’t have the authority to do this, but we’ll put a pause on this decision while the party’s appeal. So eventually, this goes up as another emergency decision to the Supreme Court. So Roman, when you think about the importance of an eviction moratorium, what’s the public interest here, do you think?

Roman Mars:
I’d say the public interest is really high because it’s a matter of life and death if you have a home or not.

Elizabeth Joh:
Exactly. And it’s something that potentially affects hundreds of thousands of people, people who are just on the brink of eviction. So when you think about it, just in terms of ordinary folks, ordinary Americans being affected by this, this feels like case that normally, shouldn’t it be part of the court’s normal caseload? We have briefs, you have an oral argument, maybe you accept that doesn’t front of the court briefs, maybe there should be a really lengthy opinion about a really big question, can a federal agency that’s responsible for stopping communicable diseases, can they have an eviction moratorium as one of those measures during a global unprecedented pandemic? But instead, this is a shadow docket case. So on August 26, the court issued an opinion, a short one, eight pages, it’s unsigned. They say, “No, the CDC can’t do this and so no more eviction, moratorium.”

Elizabeth Joh:
Justice Breyer wrote a dissenting opinion, not just about the substance of the decision, but the procedure. He says, “These questions call for considered decision-making, informed by full briefing and argument, their answers impact the health of millions, we should not set aside the CDCs eviction moratorium in this summary proceeding.” So Breyer is really saying, I don’t like this and I also don’t like the way we’re doing this, we need to have this in a regular, transparent, open way that we do with our other really big cases. So this is a roundabout way of getting to the more recent news, and that is the Texas law, SB8 so let’s talk about that. In May the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, he signs SB8 into law, the law is actually pretty similar to a number of other state abortion laws that are called heartbeat laws. So basically, this new law says that women in Texas can obtain a legal abortion when you can detect a fetal heartbeat, which is around six weeks of pregnancy. But six weeks just means that almost all abortions are banned because at six weeks, many women have no idea that they’re pregnant.

Elizabeth Joh:
So if I say, “Look, other States have done this before,” well, it also means that other States, when they’ve had such laws, they’ve been challenged in court and they’ve generally been struck down because these laws violate a woman’s constitutional rights. You and I’ve talked a couple of times about Roe vs. Wade and how the Supreme Court has interpreted what the States can do. But just as a refresher, remember States are not allowed to completely ban abortion before what’s called fetal viability, that means the stage when a fetus can live outside of the womb. That’s why previous six-week bans are easily struck down, six weeks is way before the point of viability. Okay. So SB8, the Texas law though, is different in a devious and dastardly way.

Elizabeth Joh:
We’ve talked about Roe v. Wade before, and the story behind Jane Roe, who was later identified as Norma McCorvey. Now, let’s look at it in a different way, like cases called Roe v. Wade, we spent a lot of time talking about Jane Roe, well, who’s Wade? Part of thinking about this is thinking about how the law challenged Jane Roe, what it was and how it was challenged. So in Roe itself, one of the laws that was challenged made it a crime to procure an abortion. So Roman, if something’s a crime who enforces the law?

Roman Mars:
The district attorney.

Elizabeth Joh:
That’s right. So at the time of the law of the challenge, Jane Roe was living in Dallas County, Texas, and Wade is Henry Wade, he was the district attorney of Dallas County. So in other words, the person who in theory would be responsible for prosecuting violations of a criminal abortion statute. So that’s the Wade, that’s the other party in the case who normally doesn’t get any attention at all. But this way, this procedure, the way the law is challenged is pretty typical of a lot of lawsuits when it comes to constitutional rights, someone sues because they argue that a law violates their rights under the constitution and in order to do that, they often sue the person who’s responsible for enforcing the law.

Elizabeth Joh:
So if a court agrees that the law’s unconstitutional, they’re also deciding that that government official, so Henry Wade in Roe v. Wade, who’s standing in for all the other government officials can’t enforce an unconstitutional law. Okay. So Texas, but Texas law is different, the Texas law actually forbids the State’s government officials from enforcing the law and instead the law gives everybody else, any private person, the ability to sue.

Roman Mars:
But what can they sue for in this case?

Elizabeth Joh:
Okay. So the first part maybe makes sense, they can sue anybody who performs an abortion, but there’s more. You can also sue as a private individual, anyone who aids or abets an abortion, aids or abets is just a legal term for meaning helping, so anybody who helps — but there’s also more. You can also sue anybody who intends to aid or abet an abortion or intends to perform an abortion. So that really means that because of SB8, which is structured in this really different way, you can sue an abortion provider, but you can also sue a friend or a family member, maybe who helped pay for your abortion. Maybe the Uber driver who drove you to the abortion services provider, maybe your friend or family member who decided to drive you there on their own, provided some source of support. So this is how this particular law, SB8 makes it really different in terms of raising a constitutional challenge.

Roman Mars:
So my question is, who would be the hypothetical person suing here and why would they have standing to sue in this case, in any case?

Elizabeth Joh:
So standing in terms of what the federal courts do comes from restrictions in the constitution, but this is a State law and States can define standing in different and sometimes wider ways. So it’s a little bit unclear right now, but it looks like Texas can allow citizens to have this kind of broad standing in ways that federal courts can’t. But to get to your more specific question, who can sue? Pretty much anybody, you don’t have to be a person in Texas, you can be presumably anybody on the planet, you just have to sue in a Texas court.

Roman Mars:
Yeah. And then sue for what? For the existence of abortion services or sue whom? I get that it can be anybody, you mentioned anybody in the process, so I could just randomly pick out a person who got an abortion and then sue all the people that were involved in it, just me as a person?

Elizabeth Joh:
That seems to be the way it works. So basically the State of Texas has shifted enforcement from normally the way a crime works, you’d have, again, the district attorney’s involved in prosecution. This isn’t a crime, this is basically handing over enforcement civilly to everybody else, except people who normally enforce criminal laws. And it does so by incentivizing these civil suits. If you sue, and win — let’s say you sue an abortion services provider, you sue someone who helped a woman obtain an abortion — you get to collect a minimum of $10,000 and attorney’s fees for each abortion.

Roman Mars:
Wow.

Elizabeth Joh:
And bizarrely under the law, if you bring that lawsuit and lose, nothing happens to you, there’s not really a penalty or anything.

Roman Mars:
Oh my God. So presumably the result of this is every anti-abortion organization in the world could just begin suing as long as they have the facts of an abortion that has happened. They could just begin suing every part of the chain of provider, including the Lyft driver, out of existence?

Elizabeth Joh:
That’s what it sounds like. I mean, the law has just gone into effect as of September 1st, so we don’t really know how it’s going to work out, but the financial incentive does feel like bounty hunting. The whole scheme feels like legal trolling, you can just harass nearly anybody who is somehow connected with an abortion. If you’re an abortion services provider, you either close down or you face a flood of civil lawsuits and if you’re an ordinary person who might formerly in Texas have been happy to help a friend or a family member, I think you’re certainly deterred from doing so. I mean, $10,000 is a lot of money, $10,000 is a lot to be liable for. So after the law is enacted a group of abortion services providers in Texas then filed the lawsuit, but that’s not surprising. They filed a lawsuit in federal court in July to try and stop the law from taking effect, which was designed to go into effect on September 1st.

Elizabeth Joh:
So Roman, we did talk about how SB8 is different than say the law that was challenged in Roe v. Wade, so can you see the problem here with the lawsuit?

Roman Mars:
Well, there’s no Wade.

Elizabeth Joh:
There’s no Wade, who do you sue? So that’s a bit of a problem. So in this particular lawsuit, they sue State judge, a clerk on behalf of a whole class of state judges and clerks and a private individual who is presumably anti-abortion. Now, remember, you just said, there’s no Wade because they can’t sue a Wade, they can’t sue a district attorney or any other State executive official in Texas because the law actually says these government officials aren’t responsible for enforcing this law, everybody else is. So usually when you have a State law where the State’s officials are responsible for enforcing it, it’s normal to have a lawsuit filed against them, even before it takes effect. But this was really strange and intentionally so. So in any event, because of this weird aspect of SB8, there’s a lot of procedural back and forth in this case, which gets pretty complicated. But what’s important here is that eventually the abortion services providers end up at the Supreme Court, they ask for an emergency order to stop the law from taking effect.

Elizabeth Joh:
So in other words, it’s not a normal so-called merits case, the Supreme Court has not granted full review of this case. Of course, that means there’s no oral argument, there aren’t any multiple rounds of briefing, there’s no dozens of front of the court briefs. There’s just no regular procedure for reviewing what happens to be a pretty complicated law, raising complicated issues. So what happens next is exactly what people are increasingly worried about with the so-called shadow docket. On September 1st, just before midnight, the Supreme Court in a five:four ruling refuses to step in, in the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson. There’s basically one unsigned paragraph. They say, “We’re not saying whether the law is constitutional or not, but there’s just too many procedural issues right now for us to want to step in and do anything.” But remember how I told you that procedure sometimes can be pretty exciting? Well, this is an example.

Elizabeth Joh:
So this procedural decision actually has a practical effect. The Supreme Court isn’t saying here that we’re overturning Roe v. Wade throughout the country or in Texas, if that were a thing, but the effect of their decision means that in Texas, abortion is pretty much defacto illegal. You can’t get an abortion because now SB8 is the law, at least in Texas. So until, and unless there’s a challenge that successfully makes its way up to the Supreme Court, that’s what the law is in Texas itself. Chief Justice Roberts, along with the three liberal justices dissent in this case, and I’ll just focus on one of the dissents Justice Sotomayor’s because the opening of her dissent is worth quoting. She says, “The court’s order is stunning, presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of Justices have opted to bury their heads in the sands.” And Justice Sotomayor calls the law out for what it is. She says, “The Texas legislature has deputized the State’s citizens as bounty hunters.”

Elizabeth Joh:
She’s mad, she answered dissent by saying, “I dissent,” I note that because normally the Justices say, “I respectfully dissent,” no such thing from Justice Sotomayor this time. So just like that with the so-called shadow docket case, SB8 is allowed to stay in effect.

Roman Mars:
And so why is it a shadow docket case? Can the Justices require it become a merit case?

Elizabeth Joh:
Well, in this particular case, because of the procedural issues, it hadn’t actually been litigated all the way through, is at a preliminary stage, the fifth circuit just stepped in to stop the district court from putting a pause on things. So this is a short way of saying, it actually didn’t fully mature into the kind of case that the Supreme Court usually votes on to decide whether or not they’re going to take it or not. So you could say, well, this is all they could do anyway. But maybe one way of thinking about the shadow docket issue is, well, what is the Supreme Court supposed to do in a situation like this? Well, maybe they should stop things from going South when there are rights involved and there are potential infringements of rights, or they don’t get involved ever because they just should keep the status quo in all kinds of cases when they appear on the shadow docket.

Elizabeth Joh:
But the problem is the courts completely inconsistent, so you could say that, well, in this case they didn’t do anything, and maybe that’s a good thing, they’re not supposed to do anything in these shadow docket cases. But it turns out that it depends on the subject matter because when it comes to religious freedom rights and COVID restrictions, they were all too happy to step in. And when it came to the scope of federal power and whether or not you can have an eviction moratorium in a pandemic, they were all too happy to step in. So this starts to strike people as being more motivated by the topic and what five Justices feel about it, than any consistency and well, we don’t step in when we have these kinds of emergency procedures.

Roman Mars:
Oh, it’s grim.

Elizabeth Joh:
It is grim. And in fact, one of the things that people are worried about now is that the Supreme Court has already agreed to hear a case in the fall, on its normal merits docket, that actually is a challenge to a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Of course, that’s later than the Texas law, the case is called Dobbs and it’s a law that’s pretty clearly intended to be a challenge to Roe v. Wade. Now, you might say that well, in the Texas case, the Supreme Court refused to step in, but they did technically say, we’re not ruling on the constitutionality of the Texas law. That’s technically true, but it’s hard not to interpret what they did as bad news for further cutting back on the rights of women when it comes to abortion in the constitution.

Roman Mars:
I mean this tactic of creating a law in which there is no Wade and passing it through with some knuckleheads in State legislature who are not thoughtful about law at all, is this now a thing? Did they just pioneer something horrible that’s going to happen in all kinds of States?

Elizabeth Joh:
It seems to be right. I mean, it does seem to be a novel way of trying to attack or constitutionally established right in a way that’s really hard to challenge, as you can see from this particular case, the one that we just talked about. These abortion services providers had an argument about the constitutionality of SB8, but it wasn’t really clear who they could sue because no one had actually sued them yet. And it does create an incentive for other States to craft the same kind of version of SB8 for their own State –, leave it to ordinary, private citizens to try and enforce a really restrictive right on abortions. And it also creates incentives, I think for States to pass basically vigilante bounty laws for any kind of subject, so it doesn’t have to be just abortion.

Elizabeth Joh:
You could imagine a State thinking, offering $10,000 cash prize to allow people to sue others when there’s some perceived violation of religious rights, free speech rights, you name it. So if we let this go on, there’s potentially a snowball effect of really encouraging this structure to pop up elsewhere throughout the United States.

Roman Mars:
Yeah. And this seems like it’s perfectly the purview of the Supreme Court to recognize these as being unconstitutional or constitutional, whatever their decision should be. So what is the process for it to, would it take this case to make its way up to the Supreme Court for them to be able to make that type of decision or to voice that type of opinion?

Elizabeth Joh:
Yeah. I mean, that’s a good question. I think that’s less clear. I mean, I think if there’s a case that presents squarely whether or not Texas’s abortion law violates the constitution, and it pretty clearly does just on the substance of it, the court’s ready to address that. I think whether or not the mechanism poses a separate constitutional problem would be something else that a court would have to review as an argument distinct from Roe v. Wade and whether or not that’s a good one is something you have to see. I mean, we didn’t see this in the original case that the court reviewed in that shadow docket, but it’s a good question and it’s a troubling one because if we let it go unchecked, if we encourage other State legislatures to do the same thing, we are incentivizing State legislatures to encourage people, to harass others with respect to their constitutional rights.

Roman Mars:
So in the shadow docket opinion, they mentioned that it isn’t a ruling on the constitutionality of the law itself. When will they rule on the constitutionality of the law itself?

Elizabeth Joh:
They’re going to have to wait for that right case, the right opportunity to come up. So right now, because of what the court did on September 1st at midnight, the case just goes back to its process, at the federal district court. That particular case may go up to the Supreme Court, it may take a different case in Texas that comes up to the Supreme Court. And then there’s the issue of in the meantime, the Supreme Courts already decided that they’re going to consider an abortion case for its term, that’s the Mississippi law. So a lot of people are just worried anyway, that maybe there are already five votes on the court to either radically restrict abortion rights or maybe even do something go as far as overturn Roe v. Wade.

Roman Mars:
Yeah. And in the meantime, it’s illegal to get an abortion in Texas effectively?

Elizabeth Joh:
That’s right. And don’t forget that just as with Norma McCorvey herself, it’s really uneven, that when it comes to abortion rights. If you’re a person – a wealthy person – in Texas, you’re going to have access to abortion services providers. But just like Norma McCorvey, herself who was unemployed at the time, her case went up to the court, she was a low-income person who wanted an abortion, but really had no easy way to get one. Abortion rights frankly, are always about the rights of poor women, who really do not have the means to travel to another State, to access an abortion services provider.

Roman Mars:
And presumably the person that gave them a ride outside of the State could be sued?

Elizabeth Joh:
Exactly. That’s exactly right. I told you procedure was interesting.

Roman Mars:
Procedure is definitely interesting. Well, thank you so much for this emergency session. Appreciate it.

Elizabeth Joh:
Thanks, Roman.

———
Roman Mars:
The episode of 99pi this week was produced by Delaney Hall and edited by Chris Berube. Mix and tech production by Dara Hirsch. Music by director of sound Sean Real.

Special thanks this week to Jill Lepore. If you haven’t heard her podcast “The Last Archive,” make sure you check it out. It is fantastic. It’s produced in the style of a classic 1930s radio drama, and it’s about how we know what we know and why it seems, lately, as if we don’t know anything at all. Find it wherever you listen to podcasts.

The episode of “What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law” was produced by Elizabeth Joh and Chris Berube. Music courtesy of Doomtree records.

Kurt Kohlstedt is the digital director of 99% Invisible. The rest of the team includes Vivian Le, Joe Rosenberg, Lasha Madan, Christopher Johnson, Emmett FitzGerald, Sofia Klatzker, and me, Roman Mars.

We are part of the Stitcher and SiriusXM podcast family, now headquartered six blocks north in the Pandora Building — in beautiful uptown Oakland, California.

You can find the show and join discussions about the show on Facebook. You can tweet me @romanmars and the show @99piorg. We’re on Instagram and Reddit, too. You can find links to other Stitcher shows I love as well as every past episode of 99pi at 99pi.org.

 

 

Credits

Production

Producer Delaney Hall spoke with the anonymous architect who created a parody Donald J Trump library website; journalist and historian Jill Lepore; Benjamin Hufbauer, an art historian and an expert on presidential libraries; and Bruce Schulman, a historian at Boston University.

  1. Mike

    Just a nit to pick. Former presidents vs. ex-presidents. There’s not really a consensus on which should be used. Not many insist that “ex” is correct, they mostly say it doesn’t matter.
    Personally, I’m on the side of “former”. Pretty much no one would refer to a deceased spouse as their “ex”. There’s also the Former Presidents Act as an example.

  2. The FDR Library in Hyde Park, NY is a wonderful immersion into a pivotal time in the history of the United States. The physical library is engaging and the park grounds are beautiful, especially in the autumn. Well worth the visit.

  3. Jeff G

    I’m surprised nobody mentioned the fake Oval Office scene from The West Wing when talking about LBJ.

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