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The Political Name Game

The NYT has a small piece about the debate over the appropriateness of naming public buildings after a president who has only been in office a few short months.

In one corner are those who say it's too soon to tell how the Obama presidency will shape up. It is, after all, entirely possible that he will bankrupt the nation, embroil us in an ill-conceived war, and generally screw things up so badly that no one would want to name their doghouse after him.

In the other corner are those who say being elected president is a monumental achievement in and of itself--not to mention being elected the nation's first black president--and that Obama is already an inspiration and role model to children across the land.

If it's simply a question of merit, I tilt toward the latter group. The POTUS is the POTUS, a historically important figure no matter how spectacularly he fails. 

But I may sympathize even more with a subset of the former group, which opposes naming any public building after any living politician. Arkansas state legislator Dan Greenberg, who has introduced a bill to prohibit the practice, argues that such premature naming is tantamount to supplying taxpayer funded advertising for a pol come election time. This likely has more of a concrete impact at lower levels of public service than the presidency, but it's a compelling point in general. Our system already stacks the deck in favor of incumbents. Why pile on?

Then again, the Richard B. Cheney School for Advanced Interrogation Methods does have a nice ring to it. 

--Michelle Cottle