Sidney Diane Hussein

Wednesday 27 February 2008

Yesterday John McCain apologized for a warm-up speaker's disparaging mention of Barack Hussein Obama. It has been a favorite pastime of right-leaning talk show hosts to use Obama's full name.

Rush Limbaugh typifies the attitude about this practice:

This supporter ... was on the mic at a McCain rally and kept referring to Obama as Barack Hussein Obama. Now, may I ask a simple question? Is that his name? It is. So why can't it be used?

Limbaugh is being disingenuous here. He understands full well why his brethren use Obama's full name, but not Clinton's (Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton) or McCain's (John Sidney McCain III). This is a "when did you stop beating your wife" ploy. They pick at the name like a scab, hoping to stir feelings of unease among their listeners. When they are called on it, they innocently ask what's the big deal; why is it a bad thing to mention a Muslim-sounding name on the air; who's the xenophobe now; etc.

It's all despicable, but frankly I don't know why we expect anything better from talk radio rabble-rousers.

Comments

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Anonymous Wag 9:05 AM on 27 Feb 2008

Odd, wikipedia says Osama's full name is "Osama bin Muhammad bin 'Awad bin Laden'" ;-)

So tell us, was that typo intentional?

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Jim 9:30 AM on 27 Feb 2008

If you think mentioning Obama's middle name is despicable, you must get furious when you see "Bush Bin Lyin" bumper stickers. Actually, think how better that bumper sticker would work (on a phonetic level) if it were "Obama Bin Lyin". Yikes.

Can we agree that comparing any politician to a terrorist leader is wrong, period?

By the way, Rush does not normally use Obama's middle name -- he did so here because the usage was in the news.

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Carl 9:54 AM on 27 Feb 2008

More importantly, it shows that we cannot expect the McCain campaign to stray very far from the practices that have typified the Republican approach to politics under Bush/Cheney/Rove/Delay leadership. It's things like this that cause Obama's message of change to resonate so loudly with the majority of Americans.

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Ned Batchelder 10:03 AM on 27 Feb 2008

@Jim: I think bumper sticker jokes are at a different level than people supposedly carrying on serious discussion of the issues. I fully expect to see bumper stickers playing up all sorts of jokes on whatever candidate wins. As an opponent of Bush, I wish others of like mind would stick to substantive critiques of the administration.

@Carl: I don't blame the "McCain campaign" for this. I think McCain himself did the right thing by apologizing, and I fully expect him to squash this kind of kindergarten name-calling. Whatever I think of him politically, I know that McCain is an honorable man trying hard to raise the level of debate.

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Jim 10:37 AM on 27 Feb 2008

@Carl: If you had read closely, you would know that McCain had nothing to do with the mentioning of Obama's middle name. He condemned it, in fact. Oh, and when the Clinton campaigns puts out a photo of Obama in Muslim garb, does that typify the Democrat approach to politics?

Unfortunately, Obama's nebulous "message of change" appears to be more fiction than reality. Consider the rank partisanship on display by his blocking of an appointee to the FEC, a move which directly hampers McCain and helps himself.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120389958925789389.html?mod=todays_us_opinion

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Joe W. 11:22 AM on 27 Feb 2008

"Whatever I think of him politically, I know that McCain is an honorable man trying hard to raise the level of debate."

Really? He thought "How do we beat the bitch?" (referring to Senator Clinton) was an "excellent question":

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/14/us/politics/14mccain.html

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Ned Batchelder 11:41 AM on 27 Feb 2008

@Joe: I won't claim he's never made a stupid, cutting or even disrespectful remark. He has. But I don't think it makes sense to blame John McCain for some local talk radio guy brought in to warm up the crowd.

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Ned Batchelder 12:11 PM on 27 Feb 2008

@Anonymous Coward: I didn't understand your comment, until a friend pointed out the Obama/Osama typo I had originally. I've fixed it.

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DavidM 12:56 PM on 27 Feb 2008

So mentioning his name is off limits? Ned, can speakers just call you when they want to say something just to make sure its OK?

Yeah I have never heard anyone on the air say William Jefferson Clinton, George Herbert Walker Bush, or George Walker Bush...

Obama refuses to wear an American flag on his lapel but he has Che posters in his campaign office and wears Muslim garb in Kenya. Oh wait, is is OK to point this out?

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Ned Batchelder 1:09 PM on 27 Feb 2008

@DavidM: of course it is OK to use his name, but please, answer my question: why do people use Obama's full name, but not John McCain's? Or for that matter, William Jefferson Clinton's? Because they do not use full names for other candidates, only Obama. I think we all understand that they are doing it to communicate a message, but they are unwilling to state what the message is.

So: why do they use Obama's full name, but not McCain's?

And are you really trotting out the "Muslim garb" thing? So has every president that visits predominantly Muslim countries. It's a sign of respect. Can you explain what you find objectionable about wearing Muslim garb in Kenya?

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DavidM 1:15 PM on 27 Feb 2008

Obviously you ignored half my statement about the Kenyan garb and asked a question based on your emotions about it.

Read it again and tell me where I said it was objectionable to wear the garb.
I WILL state if you want to lead this country, refusing to wear our symbol while wearing other countries' symbols is troubling.

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Joe Grossberg 1:18 PM on 27 Feb 2008

As long as we can call him "the thrice-divorced Rush Limbaugh" whenever anyone mentions his name.

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Giacomo 1:41 PM on 27 Feb 2008

A thrice-divorced, drug-addicted, foul-mouthed, cheap talk-radio semi-celeb smears a well-educated individual who turned down a remunerative career in law (despite being an all-time star pupil) to serve his country and the weak. And what do the members of "the party of values" do? They attack the man with the impeccable CV.

DavidM, don't you think that, if you want to have the privilege of freely speaking to the entire nation, you should try to maintain a bit of dignity and moral values? I WILL state this is troubling.

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Ned Batchelder 1:48 PM on 27 Feb 2008

@DavidM: Thanks for clarifying, I hadn't made the connection between your two points.

Wanting to know more about why Obama doesn't wear a lapel pin, I found these two stories: Candidates Have Their Say on Obama's Decision Not to Wear Flag Pin, and Obama's Lapels.

Fun quote from first story: Republican hopeful John McCain said he doesn’t wear a flag pin on a daily basis. Brooke Buchanan, a spokeswoman for the Arizona senator, said "his record of service to his country shows his dedication."

I would distinguish between ceremonial clothes worn in a foreign country and a symbol being echewed in favor of substantive discussion, but I take your point. If I were in Obama's place, I would wear the pin and have the substantive discussion anyway.

So DavidM, at the risk of putting words in your mouth, it sounds like you believe Obama is un-American, or anti-American, or something along those lines. I would say the talk-show hosts' subtle message is precisely that, and they invoke his middle name in an attempt to spread that message. Do you agree?

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Ned Batchelder 1:55 PM on 27 Feb 2008

@Joe, @Giacomo: It doesn't help here to pile on Limbaugh for being divorced, or any other personal attributes. Once anyone lowers themselves to launching ad hominem attacks, they are open to them themselves. The only reasonable thing to do is to stop.

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Jim 2:16 PM on 27 Feb 2008

It's never ceases to amaze me when people attack Rush on a personal level and then hypocritically complain that he smears people. And the icing on the cake this time was following it up with an admonition to "maintain a bit of dignity and moral values"! Perfect!

By the way, I am unaware of any Rush smear of Obama. Yes, he has devastatingly attacked Obama's left-wing, socialist views and his almost total lack of experience for the most powerful job on the planet. It's still OK to criticize someone's views and experience, even if that person is a liberal... right?

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Ned Batchelder 2:32 PM on 27 Feb 2008

@Jim: I agree with you about the personal attacks on Rush.

Of course it is OK to criticize someone's views and experience, what did I say here that made you think it wasn't? Ideally, the criticism would be intelligent and well-researched, too.

The thing that surprises me most about talk radio hosts that I've listened to is how they can make a number of reasonable points, and then undercut themselves by resorting to stupid "funny name" or "looks strange" critiques.

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DavidM 2:33 PM on 27 Feb 2008

@Ned:
I quite agree it has no relevance to the discussion but Cunningham uses middle names quite a bit. He calls McCain John 'Wayne' McCain.

My point is not whether or not its in good taste to do it, its the reaction to it. I don't know if this is widely known but being the prez invokes quite a lot of criticism(and it should). Being upset simply for someone saying your name (or your opponent's) doesn't exactly engender feelings of a tough, self-reliant individual who can handle the challenge.

For myself, Obama's socialist views and naive foreign policy are much worse marks against his 'Americanism' than any lapel pins, middle names or his silver spoon upbringing.

@Joe, Giacomo: Too bad Rush isn't a movie star then those attributes would be plusses, huh?

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Ned Batchelder 2:56 PM on 27 Feb 2008

@DavidM: I didn't know that about Cunningham. It is clear that middle names are an important message device for him. I'm not sure if "Wayne" is a positive or a negative for Cunningham, do you know?

And to be clear, the reaction is not a reaction to someone's middle name being used. It's to the message being carried in such use. Do you agree or do you disagree that Hussein is used more than Sidney because of the message of anti-Americanism that it carries?

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Jim 3:39 PM on 27 Feb 2008

@Ned: I was responding to the tenor of all the comments on Rush, when he has not, to my knowledge, ever smeared Obama. He does regularly point out that the mainstream media refuses to criticize Obama or even educate Americans on his views and experience.

It's as though Obama is untouchable. Is it due to his race? His pure-left views? The fact that he's not one of the (now disfavored) Clintons? I don't know, but I have a feeling that, like a Rorschach ink blot, many people are seeing in him what they *want* to see, and don't want anything to ruin that perfect image. Rush, and conservatives in general, feel that if Americans really understood how far to the left he is, then vast majority would not vote for him. It's frustrating to see style triumphing over substance.

I agree wholeheartedly with your comment about people who make a number of reasonable points and then undercut themselves. It is, however, a phenomenon that is not confined to talk radio or one end of the ideological spectrum.

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