On Flipping Him the <em>Middle Name</em>

Posted: Feb 27, 2008 8:20 AM

As I noted yesterday, a talk radio host who introduced John McCain in Cincinnati, touched off a minor firestorm when he referred to Barack Obama as Barack Hussein Obama.  

While some will try to accuse Republicans of dirty politics, it should be noted that it was a Democrat -- former Senator Bob Kerrey -- who first referenced Obama's middle name publicly:

I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim,” Mr Kerrey said. “There's a billion people on the planet that are Muslims, and I think that experience is a big deal.”
It seemed tawdry.  Kerrey, a Hillary Clinton supporter, was probably trying to hurt Obama by reminding voters he was Muslim.  But he did it in such as a way as to look like he was complimenting Obama (this is sort of like how John Edwards complimented Dick Cheney in a debate for having a gay daughter).

John Kerry did the same thing in a debate with President Bush, saying, 
"And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian," Kerry continued, "she would tell you that she's being who she was. She's being who she was born as. I think if you talk to anybody, it's not a choice."
Of course, you probably haven't heard the MSM make any reference to the fact that Bob Kerrey was the first to pull this.  Part of the reason is that, frankly, pundits are so focused on the news today that they can't really remember what happened as recently as last December...

But I think talk show host Bill Cunningham at least deserves credit for overtly mentioning Obama's middle name.  This is probably less tawdry -- and definitely less "cheap" -- than the subtle ways Hillary Clinton's campaign has sought to inject it into the campaign.

Flipping someone the middle name, of course, is nothing new.  And it works both ways.  In 2004, John Kerry, all of a sudden, transformed into, John "F." Kerry.  Perhaps he believed this would somehow sort of subliminaly link him to "JFK"?  In 2006, the Democrats loved referring to Sen. George Allen as "George Felix Allen."  I'm guessing they thought the name Felix sounded effete?  Who knows?  In an even more bizarre use of the middle name, some conspiracy theorists even noted that there were six digits in each of the names, Ronald Wilson Reagan, giving them "666".  Yeah.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  In the meantime, check out this quiz that lets you guess the middle names of the 2008 contenders ...