Rich Galen

Let's take a look at that business in Cincinnati last week where a local radio talk show host, warming up the crowd for Sen. John McCain, used Barack Obama's - apparently forbidden - middle name: Hussein.

On CNN's Strategy Session with Wolf Blitzer, I suggested that Michelle Obama, like Shakespeare's Queen Gertrude, seemed to be protesting a bit too much about this whole middle name thing.

The Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva quoted Mrs. Obama as saying: "They threw in the obvious, ultimate fear bomb … When all else fails, be afraid of his name, and what that could stand for, because it's different."

First, it is his name . It is not a mean or playground nickname. It is not a ad hominem attack, like "fatso," or "shrimp" or … "Jew." It's his name.

Second what is that about "…and what that could stand for …"? Is there something the name "Hussein" stands for which I, for one, am not aware?

Third, the name Hussein is generally held in high regard when applied to the late leader of Jordan, King Hussein I. For instance, King Hussein spoke at the funeral for Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin and said, in part, I had never thought that the moment would come like this when I would grieve the loss of a brother, a colleague and a friend - a man, a soldier who met us on the opposite side of a divide whom we respected as he respected us.

That's pretty good, isn't it? I mean for a guy named "Hussein."

Fourth, that nonsense about being "afraid of his name … because it's different," is just silly. As noted above there have been other men named "Hussein" on the world stage. Hussein isn't that different.

"Barack" … now that's different.

Fifth, the "ultimate fear bomb" is not saying "Barack Hussein Obama." The "ultimate fear bomb" is saying President Barack Hussein Obama.

Finally, remember a couple of weeks ago when Michelle Obama said for the first time in her life she was finally really proud of her country? And people like me took her to task for that. And people like me were scolded and were told "they're just words."

Hey, Mitchy? It's just a name. To close the Shakespeare loop, as Juliet said in Act II, Scene II:

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

And, who can forget that scene in the movie "Stripes" (which Shakespeare himself might have written) in which that great American philosopher, Sergeant Hulka, says to the Army recruit who has threatened to kill anyone who calls him by his real first name:

"Lighten up, Francis."

New Topics:


Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at Mullings.com.