Jeff Jacoby

Renaming a branch of the Boston Public Library for William Bulger, one of the more sordid Massachusetts politicians in recent decades, may not be the worst idea City Council President Bill Linehan has ever floated, though offhand I can't think of one that tops it.

Linehan proposed the tribute to the former president of the Massachusetts Senate and the University of Massachusetts this week, hailing Bulger's "commitment to service, to the people of South Boston, Boston, and the commonwealth."

That's not quite the way I would describe the vindictive pol who put loyalty to his serial-murdering brother above any commitment to the people or the law. Still, I realize that Bulger has some sincere admirers, Linehan perhaps among them. So I'd like to tender a proposal of my own. If they're serious about wanting Bulger's name to adorn the brick-and-glass facade of the South Boston branch library, let them offer the library board of trustees a generous naming gift, and raise the money themselves.

On the same day the Globe reported Linehan's call to name the library after Bulger, the mail brought an invitation to the dedication next month of the new Sumner M. Redstone Building at the Boston University School of Law. Redstone, a billionaire media mogul, last year donated $18 million to support the construction of the five-story addition to BU's law school (where he taught entertainment law for several years in the 1980s). Redstone and Boston University, like countless other private benefactors and institutions, take it for granted that naming rights should be paid for by those receiving the honor.

Only politicians are vain enough to think that naming rights and other tributes are an entitlement, to be underwritten not with their money but with everyone else's.

Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby is an Op-Ed writer for the Boston Globe, a radio political commentator, and a contributing columnist for