Idaho really isn’t home to bigots — just billboards
An electronic billboard in Caldwell that depicts accused mass murderer James Holmes alongside an image of President Obama has stirred justifiable outrage, mostly from Democrats. The billboard, which is operated by a foundation from the estate of the late Ralph Smeed, said of Holmes: “Kills 12 in movie theater with assault rifle, everyone freaks out.” The message with Obama’s likeness said “Kills thousands with his foreign policy, wins Nobel Peace Prize.”
Caldwell Mayor Garrett Nancolas says the billboard went “over the line.” Do you think? Just when Idaho was making progress in living down a reputation as a bigoted, skinhead loving state?
Even Maurice Clements, chairman of the Ralph Smeed Memorial Foundation, acknowledges the billboard was “poorly done.” He estimates he received about 1,000 emails and phone calls by this week— even some death threats. “I didn’t realize this was going to be as emotional as it has become.” He wasn’t thinking, apparently.
Typical of the comments that The Idaho Statesman received directly after the story broke was one from online viewer Bill Galvin, of Greenwich, Conn., who said the billboard message is “the kind of mindless, hate-provoking speech which is accelerating the decline of our society.”
Mayor Nancolas rejects the contention that the billboard controversy is a free-speech issue.
“You are talking about families who had their lives shattered in an atrocious, horrific act of violence,” he said. “What about the compassion for those people? To use that as some sort of political pl oy to disparage for political purposes, it crosses over every moral value.”
The Smeed foundation people still don’t get it.
Clements says the message of the billboard was “misunderstood…We’re not saying Obama is a lunatic.” How charitable, since his likeness was paired with that of a wild-eyed accused mass murderer. Clements says the billboard was intended to draw attention to the fact that American military personnel and civilians are still losing their lives in Afghanistan because “Obama broke his promise to bring all the troops home.” Did Mr. Clements miss the president’s announcement that U.S. combat troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2014?
America’s military role in the Mideast is a legitimate issue, deserving of thoughtful discourse as elections near, but not the wild-eyed rhetoric on display in Caldwell. It is disappointing that serious Republicans have not condemned the billboard bigotry as have Democrats and the Libertarian Party. The billboard has been taken down, belatedly, but the mentality that defends it continues to exist in some quarters to the great detriment of Idaho.