In choosing busts for the state Capitol, Nixon suggests that the honorees be dead, not alive
When it comes to bronze busts in the state Capitol, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon says it’s time to “set up an orderly process’’ for honoring legitimately historic Missourians and “not these topical, instantaneous people’’ like commentator Rush Limbaugh.
Nixon also observed Wednesday that perhaps the process should lean toward honoring people who have “passed on.”
In other words, died.
The governor offered his thoughts to reporters during a question-and-answer session while he was in St. Louis to highlight his administration’s efforts to encourage small businesses and job creation.
Nixon’s observations also came as dozens of people showed up at the Capitol to protest the selection of Limbaugh for the honor. The protesters brought with them petititons signed by 35,000 like-minded people.
The question of which busts to erect in the state Capitol’s Hall of Famous Missourians is a touchy one because the governor currently has no role in the selection. That decision is up to the state’s speaker of the House, who then must solicit the private money to pay for the bronze sculptures.
The program was set up 30 years ago; currently, 39 busts are on display. State House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, has selected three more, and Limbaugh – a native of Cape Girardeau – is among them.
Tilley told the Beacon in an interview a few weeks ago that he was focused on honoring well-known Missourians, not necessarily popular ones. The speaker also asserted that critics of Limbaugh’s selection were "intolerant."
Limbaugh has been under fire for about a month, ever since he called a woman law student a “slut’’ and a “prostitute’’ because he disagreed with her about requiring insurance coverage for contraception.
Nixon said Wednesday that Limbaugh’s comments were “demeaning and wrong and show an insensitivity toward women and have no place in public discourse. That’s not the standard with which you choose whether somebody” is honored.
But most important, said Nixon, is the creation of “good order’’ in the selection procedures.
“It’s gotten a little loose in how the process goes through to choose those folks and that’s why I’ve asked the commissioner of administration to look into what that process is, and I look forward to talking to legislative leaders,” the governor said.
He then observed, “In the past, the Capitol Commission has talked about requiring the person has ‘passed on’, so it wouldn’t be as topical.’’
In any case, Nixon said the choices for the busts should reflect “very, very high standards… not these topical, instantaneous people.”
While making a point of saying he wasn’t denigrating any of the current honorees, he said the best examples were nationally known people who had made major contributions, such as cartoonist and animator Walt Disney who “did incredible things’’ and “Black Jack Pershing… who led the expeditionary forces in World War I.”
Nixon noted that both were deceased when they were chosen.
The upshot, said Nixon, was that he wanted to avoid a discussion of who gets selected and “get a process back in place that takes the momentary excitement out of any of these choices.”