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Dave Hurtt of Florence

Dave Hurtt of Florence has stirred up plenty of controversy after bringing his bullet-riddled outhouse to the Montana GOP convention in Missoula and the Corvallis Memorial Day Parade.

I shouldn’t beat a dead outhouse, but I can’t resist.

There are much bigger issues out there — the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare, the contempt finding against the attorney general, the dangers of fireworks — but let’s allow the experts to have at those.

I’d rather weigh in on the case of the infamous “bullet-riddled outhouse” created by Dave Hurtt, the Ravalli County comedian.

News outlets across the country made much of it, and the Washington Post editorialized about it, saying the outhouse was an emblem of the vileness and vulgarity into which political debate now so often descends.

To refresh your memory, Hurtt hauled the homemade outhouse to the parking lot outside the Montana Republican Party convention in Missoula a couple of weeks ago. The outhouse was labeled “Obama Presidential Library” and was riddled not only with bullets, but with juvenile graffiti of a type that would embarrass most juveniles.

You’d hope that nobody but poor old Dave Hurtt would find any of it acceptable, much less funny, but Hurtt told a Missoulian reporter that in his travels around the Bitterroot and Missoula, the outhouse has attracted “about 12-to-one thumbs-up versus the finger.”

Public opinion

Maybe. People always tend to overestimate their own popularity or their cleverness, and in Hurtt’s case the normal inflation may have been exaggerated by a sense of wounded defensiveness.

GOP representatives objected to early headlines that suggested the outhouse was sanctioned or even commissioned by the party, and they’ve got a point. Hurtt apparently was there on his own initiative, and as soon as the outhouse was brought to their attention, GOP leaders asked the hotel hosting the convention to have it removed.

On the other hand, Hurtt said he parked the outhouse outside a restaurant in Victor when local Republicans had their Lincoln-Reagan Luncheon there in February, and “Nobody seemed to object to it at that time.” He also pulled it in a few local parades.

Hurtt should have been asked to dismantle and burn that stupid outhouse the first time he trundled it out, but by the time he got to Missoula he had no reason to believe his “humor” wasn’t well-received.

As to the offensive features of the outhouse, I’m least concerned about the bullets. I agree with Hurtt that the bullet holes (actually decals made to look like them) only made the outhouse look authentic. What self-respecting Montana outhouse doesn’t have bullet holes?

Some of the humor was just dumb and crude — “For a good time call 800-” followed by the names Michelle, Hillary and Pelosi — some of it all too common — the “birther” barbs aimed at the president — and some of it was just political, though uniformly crude and witless.

Dear old Dad

What bothered me more than anything was one small feature that didn’t seem to attract much attention. This was a very old photograph of a black man labeled “Dad.”

Hurtt insists there was nothing racist about it, that it was “just a picture.”

Well, no. To understand that it wasn’t just a picture, imagine an outhouse making fun of Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich. Would anyone have tacked up a portrait of a random white man and labeled it “Dad”?

What possible significance or intention or humor would that have conveyed? The photo makes sense only if Hurtt — and the people who enjoyed his attempts at comedy — thinks there is something inherently funny about the fact that the president has a black father.

That’s the most discouraging thing about this whole mess, that people all over the country believe once again that Montanans are such throwback clods that they still make jokes about the race of the president.

This is all too reminiscent of the “funny” email forwarded by U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull. That email was also described by Cebull’s defenders as simple humor with no racist overtones. But as with the outhouse, the email hinged on the race of Obama’s father, and it threw the slut slur at Obama’s mother, just as the outhouse did at his wife.

Enough, already. Can the adults around here please grow up and stop embarrassing our children?

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