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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Obama's middle name and the stuff of comedy 


Tom Maguire is amused by the kerfuffle over the unsubstantiated mentioning of Barack Obama's middle name ("Hussein," in case you have not been paying attention): "He Who Must Not Be Middle-Named". There is no evidence that any of Obama's actual political opponents have mocked him (any more than they refer to him as "Osama"). That invites the question, though, whether those of us who view politics as a spectator sport and politicians as fodder for snark and mockery ought not entertain ourselves by "mentioning" Obama's middle name. For my part, it is absolutely fair game, and it seems to me that both history and comedic practice are on my side.

First, run with this little thought experiment: Does anybody doubt that if a Republican politician's middle name were "Hitler," "Franco," "Mussolini," or even just "Benito" it would come up constantly on Bill Maher's program or "The Daily Show"? Of course it would. Well, what's the difference? Barack Obama is unfortunate insofar as his middle name evokes one of the most revolting, brutal, disgusting sub-human creatures to walk the earth in the late 20th century. Chalk it up to yet another imperfection -- however tiny and trivial -- in the Imperfect Vessel.

Second, the mocking of middle names is a well-established device in American politics. If you are a political reporter you are surely steeped in the writing of H.L. Mencken, the founding pundit of American journalism. Well, he made a living for years taunting Warren Harding, referring to him almost exclusively by his middle name, "Gamaliel." Notwithstanding the original Gamaliel's revered status as a teacher of Paul, the name somehow added to Harding's goofiness (he being, in his confused rhetoric, the oratorical antecedent of George W. Bush).

Of course, there is always the possibility that the widespread use of Obama's middle name will remind people that the Senator from Illinois opposed the removal of the other Hussein, but he seems to be doing a good job of that all by himself.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.


31 Comments:

By Anonymous Boludo Tejano, at Sat Mar 01, 12:53:00 PM:

If memory serves right, back in 1988 when Bush the Elder was running for the Republican Party's nomination for President, he made a number of references to Pierre Du Pont's first name, stressing PIERRE, sometimes referring to him by PIERRE only. It definitely worked to Bush's advantage. If Bush was born with a 3 oz silver foot/spoon in his mouth, Pierre was born with a 3 lb platinum inheritance around his neck, and references to PIERRE helped emphasize that.  

By Blogger Elijah, at Sat Mar 01, 01:10:00 PM:

Hussein?

The candidate's christianity is more interesting; Trinity United Church of Christ

Disavowal of the Pursuit of “Middleclassness”-
Classic methodology on control of captives teaches that-captors- must keep the-captive-ignorant educationally, but trained sufficiently well to serve the system. Also, the-captors-must be able to identify the “talented tenth” of those-subjugated,- especially those who
show promise of providing the kind of leadership that might threaten the captor’s control.


Who are the captors, captive, and subjugated

Is this similar to the oppressed and oppressors

is it any wonder che posters are displayed at campaign headquarters  

By Blogger Elijah, at Sat Mar 01, 01:16:00 PM:

again..

How can a black value system be inclusive if one is not black  

By Blogger Christopher Chambers, at Sat Mar 01, 01:29:00 PM:

Oh the talking points are strong in your fellow Sith lords, young Darth. Too bad they will not prevail.

I've been a fly on the wall at rightwing evangelical churches and heard so truly bone-freezing stuff, so come off it.

As for the middle name--jeez, what other inapt and self-serving mental jizz is forthcoming. Even little kids know and understand the gimmick and evil motives here. See, that's why is hold your snarkiness and that of pseudo-intellectuals like Jonah Goldberg (I'll offer his pedigree later as an illustration of how such beasties are manufactured on the right). Many conservatives are either misguided or just don't know any better. But you do. Does this occur on the left, hell yes, but there seems to be this corrupting "us versus them" stuff going on. Insipid at times, virulent at worse, or the rightist end of the scale. That helps no one, and trust me, if H.L. Mencken was coming up in these times, yeah it he'd lampoon the Hussein thing, and the Obama's church thing--but not in the way you'd like. Indeed, even his arguable closest ancestor (and I'm being kind here) Lush-Loon Hitchens, isn't exactly on-board with these attacks.

Indespensible--I know you're weary of some of these blogposts but help me out here.

In the meantime, I have to go lament the end of the decent movie and book season (they moved the pub date of my graphic anthology, The Darker Mask, back to August for "beach reading"). However, "Speed Racer" looks amusing.  

By Blogger Elijah, at Sat Mar 01, 01:41:00 PM:

Again, it is a simlple question;
how can a black value system be inclusive if one is not black?

If we replace white with black, how does the value system read?

Teach me professor, i have far to go and much to learn...but then again i am not an evangelical with talking points; or an easily influenced student waiting for indoctrination  

By Anonymous jms, at Sat Mar 01, 01:47:00 PM:

Barack Obama is about as much like Saddam Hussein as Bill Clinton is like Thomas Jefferson.  

By Blogger DEC, at Sat Mar 01, 01:54:00 PM:

Knock off all the red type, Elijah. Nobody wants to look at third-grade graphics.  

By Blogger Elijah, at Sat Mar 01, 02:09:00 PM:

Again, it is a simlple question -

How can a black value system be inclusive if one is not black?

Who are the captors, captive, and subjugated of the value sytem?

Educate me DEC, or is this site not a conduit for information exchange?  

By Blogger DEC, at Sat Mar 01, 02:17:00 PM:

"Educate me DEC"

I already did. If you are having problems, read the comment again. If you want to talk to yourself, you don't need the Internet.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Mar 01, 02:28:00 PM:

elijah, the professor is saying, drink the Kool Aid, it's free! SEW  

By Blogger DEC, at Sat Mar 01, 03:02:00 PM:

The political right needs to trash the thinly disguised racial and religious attacks right now. The backlash against the attacks would be substantial in the general election. For one thing, the attacks would turn off a lot of the libertarian Republican vote (people like me), which the Republicans must have to win.

The Republican Presidential candidate can succeed with traditional liberal vs. conservative arguments. Don't screw it up.  

By Blogger Elijah, at Sat Mar 01, 03:10:00 PM:

"The political right needs to trash the thinly disguised racial and religious attacks right now."

1
How can a candidate's black value system be inclusive if one is not black?

2
Who are the captors, captive, and subjugated discussed in the value sytem?  

By Blogger Elijah, at Sat Mar 01, 03:23:00 PM:

3
How precisely does asking for an explanation of a candidate's religious beliefs (its foundation) equate to racism or attacks?  

By Blogger DEC, at Sat Mar 01, 03:29:00 PM:

Sorry, Elijah. I'm a businessman. I don't do free consulting work for individuals.  

By Anonymous Tory, at Sat Mar 01, 04:08:00 PM:

@ Elijah:

In much the same way you can use the general concept of an array in any computer language (though with different syntax,) I'd wager that a "black value system" you mentioned can generalize nicely to other groups. In particular, by focusing on fundamentals that aren't tweaked to apply to just one group, and adjusting as necessary.

Personalization of a message can make it more effective and appealing, and I'll draw a parallel with clothing; we can all wear shirts, though we wear them in different sizes, and I buy a cut of shirt different from yours. This doesn't prevent me from being able to find your cut of shirt also, because I am not so naive as to think that my size is the size for everyone; if it were, it wouldn't be "my size" it would be "the size."

Your line of argument would seem to imply that any candidate anywhere with any degree of personal life would be unfit for public office; after all, they have an X thing, which isn't universal, and therefore can't be inclusive. I think that is silly.  

By Blogger Elijah, at Sat Mar 01, 04:37:00 PM:

thank you for the discussion Tory

1
"I'd wager that a "black value system" you mentioned can generalize nicely to other groups"...

Mr. Obama's race-based foundation for religious belief - with your perspective then, it should be easy to provide another analogous example of a race-based religious belief system.

could you kindly provide this example? It will be very interesting to read

2
How exactly does a SPECIFIC race-based religious belief system morph into the UNIVERSAL "any degree of personal life"?

3
One again, who are the captors, captive, and subjugated discussed in Obama's race-based religious value sytem?  

By Blogger Daryl, at Sun Mar 02, 12:23:00 AM:

Hussein is an extremely common Arab/Muslim name.

It's more like making fun of a Korean with the middle name "Kim" because of Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung. You're really just making fun of him because he's Korean, even if you say otherwise.

Pointing out "Hussein" is the same thing.  

By Blogger Peter, at Sun Mar 02, 12:26:00 AM:

The odd thing about this is that every attack on Obama, so far, has started from Democrats. Then the right gets blamed.
This is much like that evil Republican, Al Gore and the Willie Horton ads.
Damn those evil Republicans, infiltrating the Democrat campaigns like that!  

By Blogger Jacob, at Sun Mar 02, 02:06:00 AM:

"Does anybody doubt that if a Republican politician's middle name were "Hitler," "Franco," "Mussolini," or even just "Benito" it would come up constantly on Bill Maher's program or "The Daily Show"?"
Yes. Because the fact that Obama's middle name is "Hussein" comes up constantly on "The Daily Show" (e.g.: 'His first name rhymes with Iraq, his last name rhymes with Osama and his middle name is Hussein!')  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Mar 02, 02:41:00 AM:

This latest flap foreshadows the means by which Liberals are going to sabotage BO.

Do you really think that Americans are going to be willing to elect someone who's full name can't be spoken publicaly? - should we leave the room walking backwards when he's on television as a sign of deference and respect?

How could you ever hold President Obama accountable if you can't criticize him? - you can't question his views or actions without being rebuked for going 'beyond the pale'.

Rain is wet and Liberals enjoy accusing Americans of racism. So much so that they're going to sacrifice Barack Obama in the attempt to sustain their belief that America is wicked.  

By Blogger Chuck Pelto, at Sun Mar 02, 06:27:00 AM:

TO: All
RE: DEC's Blatant Racism

"The political right needs to trash the thinly disguised racial and religious attacks right now." -- DEC

It has been my experience, these past 57 years, that whenever someone throws the race card, THEY are the 'racists'.

Case in point, last Spring there was a Latino rally in the park four blocks from my house.

In my office, I could plainly hear the "Viva la Raza!" over the too loud for city ordinances loud speakers.

And these same people complain about 'racism' directed against them?

DEC is, as Dr. [InstaWife] Helen would likely say, 'Projecting'.

It's a clever political ploy, in light of the candidate he/she/it obviously supports, but for the well trained, it is 'thinly disguised'.

Barack Hussein Obama is his name, his name.

If he doesn't like it, let him change it. It's a free country.

Personally? I think he's your typical two-faced, lie-to-them-with-a-smile politician. Another version of Slick Willie from the 90s. Only his skin color IS 'black'.

The evidence of this has been pouring in over the last week; witness his statements and those of his staffers vis-a-vis NAFTA.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[He knows nothing; he thinks he knows everything-that clearly points to a political career. -- George Bernard Shaw]  

By Anonymous Dave G, at Sun Mar 02, 08:03:00 AM:

Someone mentioned Bush The Elder. Well, I remember well the MSM replaying soundbites from Tom Harkin's 1992 speech announcing his presidential candidicy. He referred to Bush repeatedly as "George Herbert Walker Bush" in an obvious attempt to portray Bush as some patrician Poindexter. And no one batted an eyelash about it.  

By Anonymous Dr. Mercury, at Sun Mar 02, 09:22:00 AM:

If anyone's interested, I have two related stories regarding this line of TH's:

"he being, in his confused rhetoric, the oratorical antecedent of George W. Bush."

Much of Bush's criticism has hinged around his pronoucing the word "nuclear" as "nu-ku-lar":

1. About a year ago, Michael Medved, Neal Boortz, and a bunch of other bloggers visited with Pres Bush in the White House. In Medved's column about it, he noted that Bush pronounced the word "nuclear" correctly a number of times. He wondered aloud if the whole "nu-ku-lar" thing wasn't a ploy to throw off the reporters by portraying himself as more of a hick than he was.

2. I'm kicking myself now that I didn't start saving the clips, but I bet I've heard six actors in movies pronounce it "nu-ku-lar" in the past year. I heard it just a few weeks ago in either "The Hunt For Red October" or "Crimson Tide", don't recall which. The point being that it's hardly unique or unacceptable.  

By Blogger DEC, at Sun Mar 02, 10:21:00 AM:

"DEC is, as Dr. [InstaWife] Helen would likely say, 'Projecting'."

Bullshit.

My ancestors were Vikings. They robbed and killed everybody without regard to race, religion, sex, national orgin, age or disability.  

By Blogger Xrlq, at Sun Mar 02, 10:55:00 AM:

"Of course, there is always the possibility that the widespread use of Obama's middle name will remind people that the Senator from Illinois opposed the removal of the other Hussein, but he seems to be doing a good job of that all by himself."

From where I sit, that's the only semi-legitimate reason for using his full name today. The fact that the Bill Maher party would (or, in the case of "George Felix Allen," did) do the same in return is not an argument for the adult party to resort to the same.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Mar 02, 12:05:00 PM:

It's not a dog whistle for racists! I find it completely surprising that people think it's a dog whistle for racists! As a matter of fact, it's so shocking that anyone might consider the use of his middle name as a dog whistle that I am going to completely forget this comment and, next time people ask "what's the big deal, anyway?", I'm going to post this exact same frigging comment as if it never occurred to me that his middle name might be used as a dog whistle.  

By Anonymous Dawnfire82, at Sun Mar 02, 12:35:00 PM:

"Hussein is an extremely common Arab/Muslim name.

It's more like making fun of a Korean with the middle name "Kim" because of Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung. You're really just making fun of him because he's Korean, even if you say otherwise.

Pointing out "Hussein" is the same thing."

So, saying 'Hussein' is making fun of his Arab/Muslim origins?

Funny, since he's neither.

People say Hillary *Rodham* Clinton all the time; people used to say George *Herbert Walker* Bush all the time... manufacturing a scandal out of this is stupid.

People can call him whatever the hell they want. Then other people can call those people racists, and the first people can then call those people idiots.

Behold the glory of free speech.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Mar 02, 01:50:00 PM:

Barack Hussein Obama.
Piyush "Bobby" Jindal.

Yeah, it's all just fun and games.  

By Blogger Elijah, at Sun Mar 02, 07:06:00 PM:

Who are the captors, captive, and subjugated discussed in Obama's race-based religious value sytem?

Are the captors, captive, and subjugated from Obama's race-based religious value system the same groups as Obama's "weak and strong," the "powerful and powerless"

all simple variations of the oppressed and the oppressor are they not?

can someone kindly provide an example of another analogous example of Obama's race-based religious belief system?

Tory, Christopher, DEC,...anyone  

By OpenID b1g, at Fri Mar 14, 01:00:00 PM:

"...it should be easy to provide another analogous example of a race-based religious belief system."

Yep. How 'bout them Jews?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Mar 29, 06:04:00 AM:

I am dumber for having attempted to decipher some of the inane drivel spouted forth in the comments above. Please righties, stay away from the internet lest you infect others with your banal ramblings.  

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