At first glance, you might think that the "Bush Legacy Tour" is an endorsement of the soon-to-be-departing president. The traveling exhibit is housed in what could easily be taken for a campaign bus -- complete with red-white-and-blue paint job and a photo of George W. Bush.
But that confusion is quickly cleared up as you near the bus -- which the progressive group Americans United for Change is driving across the country to "remind American voters why they have lost faith in President [George W.] Bush and his conservative agenda," according to a statement.
"When you call something 'The Bush Legacy Tour,' within five seconds I make sure I say it's the Bush failures," says press secretary Julie Blust.
Americans United's "museum on wheels" made a stop in Downtown Pittsburgh on June 30, before heading north to Erie later that day. Blust says the reception in Pittsburgh was sparse, but reactions have been stronger in other cities.
"We get so many people that walk in and their jaws drop," she says.
Americans United had placed timelines of Bush "failures" (e.g. his response to Katrina, his invasion of Iraq) next to interactive displays that let visitors contribute their own thoughts on Bush's two terms in office. In the "environment" exhibit, small flaps along an illustrated "road to global meltdown" reveal text snippets that accuse the president of blocking eco-friendly reforms, while supporting potentially harmful activities, such as arctic drilling.
The economy exhibit juxtaposes a photo of Bush holding golf clubs with a picture of a 1930s breadline and a quote from Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz: "The economic effects of Bush's presidency are more insidious than those of [President Herbert] Hoover, harder to reverse, and likely to be longer-lasting."
The Hurricane Katrina exhibit features a looping video on the disaster, with footage of flood victims leading into Bush's infamous "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" quote. Other exhibits deal with workers' rights, health care and education.
"Some people have been so moved that they had to leave the bus, especially the [Hurricane] Katrina exhibit," Blust says. "We want to make sure that we cement his legacy before it's too late."
Americans United is not endorsing any political candidates during its tour -- although it doesn't require a grand deductive leap to figure out whom they would favor in a November showdown between senators John McCain and Barack Obama.
"The idea behind the tour is that we don't think these are unconnected events," Blust says of the fiascos documented on board. "These are the direct result of a conservative idea of government."
For those who missed the Pittsburgh visit, the bus' exhibits can be browsed online at www.bushlegacytour.com.