The Route 66 town of Tucumcari, N.M., has gained publicity from various media outlets in recent days because a resident has erected a sign next to an outhouse that says “Obama’s Presidential Library.”
KOAT-TV in Albuquerque was one of the news outlets trying to find why someone is ribbing the 44th U.S. president:
As for the man who put it up, he refused to give Target 7 his name or reveal what prompted him to construct the controversial commode, but he said he has no intention of taking it down.
“It’s like watching TV. If you don’t like what the hell you’re watching, turn the channel,” said the man who put up the sign. “I’m not even certain he even deserves that level of respect, but that’s my opinion.”
Target 7 contacted city manager Doug Powers to see if the city was doing anything about the sign. He said he hasn’t seen it yet, but will go to the site soon to see if it’s breaking any city codes. However, when it comes to the message, Powers thinks the city doesn’t have control over what people say.
Here’s the station’s video:
There’s no mention of this in the Quay County Sun newspaper, based in Tucumcari.
The primary concern from Tucumcari residents seems that the sign might give a bad impression of their town, including from Route 66 travelers.
But the sign and outhouse stand near Tucumcari Tractor Repair at 623 S. Lake St., about a block and a half north of Route 66. Mother Road travelers wouldn’t see it unless they specifically looked for it or stumbled onto it.
And if they did, so what? As presidential criticism goes, this one is mild and has a sense of humor. I’ve seen signs on Route 66 criticizing the previous two presidents. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill. (which is on Route 66) contains a fascinating section that shows how vicious criticism of Lincoln was during the Civil War. So this sort of thing isn’t new.
As long as you don’t erect a sign that advocates harming the president (which is illegal), it’s protected by the First Amendment. The free marketplace of ideas allows this fellow (whoever he is) to express his opinion. That same free marketplace of ideas allows others to counter that opinion as well.
(Hat tip: Nancy Mueller)