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The “Barack Hussein Obama” Controversy

by @ 9:04 am on February 27, 2008. Filed under 2008 Election, Barack Obama, John McCain, Politics

Yesterday in Cincinnati a radio host named Bill Cunningham spoke at McCain rally and gave a speech where he repeatedly referred to Barack Obama by including his middle name, Hussein:

Bill Cunningham, who hosts “The Big Show” with Bill Cunningham, a local program here that is also syndicated nationally, was part of a line of people lauding Mr. McCain and revving up the crowd before his appearance here before several hundred people at a theater here.

He lambasted the national media, drawing cheers from the audience, for being soft in their coverage of Mr. Obama compared to the Republican candidates, declaring they should “peel the bark off Barack Hussein Obama.”

He went on to rail, “at one point, the media will quit taking sides in this thing and start covering Barack Hussein Obama.”

Here’s the video of Cunningham’s speech:

After the rally, McCain addressed reporters and repudiated the remarks:

Which caused Cunningham to repudiate McCain:

“He just threw me under the bus for the national media. I have had it,” Cunningham blasted. “With McCain and — I’m going to endorse Hillary Clinton. I want Hillary Clinton to become the next president of the United States. I am going to throw my support behind Hillary Clinton.”

Aside from confirming that Cunningham is as much of a blowhard as Ann Coulter, there is the question of whether it’s acceptable to refer to Barack Obama using his middle name.

As with most things in politics, it depends. In Cunningham’s case, as well as others that have done the same during the primary season, it’s clear that he was using Hussein for reasons other than getting Obama’s name right. He was using it to feed into racial and religious prejudices and to perpetuate the false idea that Obama is a “secret Muslim.” The fact that Obama’s middle name happens to be the same as the former leader of Iraq is irrelevent — it also happens to be the name of the former King of one of America’s closest Arab allies in the Middle East — and it’s fairly clear that Cunningham was being a blowhard.

McCain was right to repudiate his remarks.

Update: Marc Ambinder notes that even Karl Rove has said it’s a bad idea to refer to Senator Obama using his middle name:

No less an authority figure than Karl Rove has warned Republican operatives from demagoguing Barack Obama’s middle name.

At a closed door meeting of GOP state executive directors in late January, Rove said the safest way to refer to Obama would be to use his honorific, “Sen. Obama.”

“The context was, you’re not going to stimatize this guy. You shouldn’t underestimate him,” one of the executive directors said. Rove said that the use of “Barack Hussein Obama” would perpetuate the notion that Republicans were bigoted and would hurt the party.

Will that stop the Rush Limbaugh’s and Ann Coulter’s ? Of course not.

5 Responses to “The “Barack Hussein Obama” Controversy”

  1. anon says:

    Bill Cunningham has been referring to Obama by his full name for many months. And he does it every single time he uses the man’s name. It is incredibly annoying to listen to. That said, only an idiot wouldn’t know that he would say what he did at the rally. McCain’s people must have their heads up their rears to be unaware of this guy’s schtick.

    However, it is Barack Obama’s name. And I don’t find it any more nefarious than the jabs that used to come at Hillary RODHAM Clinton. Or the ones lobbed by dems at George FELIX Allen, implying that he was “light in the loafers.”

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    Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama is saddled with an unfortunate middle name, “Hussein.” Not only is it the name of one of the most brutal and belligerent dictators in the last century, it also has connotations that might sugge…

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  4. Pug says:

    It’s not the use of Obama’s middle name. After all, that is the man’s middle name. It’s what morons like this blowhard gas bag and other like him hope the use of his middle name implies.

    The same crowd now uses Spanish names to defame anyone who questions border fences or absolute hard line stances on immigration. These strains of ignorant yahooism have always existed in America and, unfortunately, they still do. That’s just the way it is.

  5. Thomas C. says:

    There was a time when Americans believed in and practiced a form of racial and religious tolerance. There was a time when we, in spite of our problems, possessed the moral authority to serve as a beacon of fair play, decency, and integrity in the midst of a dark and desperate world. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something has changed, something terrible has happened to my America.

    Somewhere in the murky waters
    of postmodernism and moral relativism we seem to have lost our way. Bereft of moral compass blinded to true north by the salty waves of racism and bigotry we wander aimlessly in the darkness, hellbent on dashing the hopes and dreams of our mighty nation onto the jagged rocks of self destruction.

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