Apparently, John McCain doesn’t like the asinine emphasis on Barack Obama’s middle name any more than Obama himself. After talk-radio host Bill Cunningham introduced McCain at a Cincinnati rally, the presumptive Republican nominee apologized for the disrespectful tone taken by his emcee:
McCain wasn’t on stage nor in the building when Cunningham made the comments, but he quickly distanced himself from them and the talk show host after finishing his speech. McCain spoke to a couple hundred people at Memorial Hall in downtown Cincinnati.
“I apologize for it,” McCain told reporters, addressing the issue before they had a chance to ask the Arizona senator about Cunningham’s comments.
“I did not know about these remarks but I take responsibility for them. I repudiate them,” he said. “My entire campaign I have treated Senator Obama and Senator (Hillary Rodham) Clinton with respect. I will continue to do that throughout this campaign.
McCain called both Democrats “honorable Americans” and said “I want to dissociate myself with any disparaging remarks that may have been said about them.”
Asked whether the use of Obama’s middle name—the same as former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein—is proper, McCain said: “No, it is not. Any comment that is disparaging of either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama is totally inappropriate.”
Some will ask what problem there could be with saying the candidate’s full name. After all, Cunningham and others aren’t making up names for Obama; Hussein is his real name. How can that possibly be “disrespectful”, in McCain’s own words?
The intent makes all the difference. Those emphasizing the middle name want to drive home the heritage of Obama, specifically his father. It seeks to extend the urban myth of Obama’s supposed Muslim identity. The name “Hussein” has other connotations as well, a not-so-subtle link to Saddam Hussein, one of the worst dictators in recent times.
None of this is subtle, and anyone professing innocence of these intentions are either lying to us or lying to themselves. If we need to refer to Obama, his last name will suffice, or Senator Obama, or Barack Obama. Using the full name three times in an introduction makes it quite clear that the speaker wants to invoke a less-than-intellectual response to the likely Democratic nominee.
McCain rightly disassociated himself from that kind of politicking. Given that Cunningham represented his campaign at this event, McCain made the right decision to apologize for the speech and to categorically reject the tactic. He wants to win the election by remaining on the high road, not by appealing to fear and dislike. McCain just passed his Sister Souljah test, but his staff will have to do better to avoid these tests in the future, as Allahpundit points out.
UPDATE: I’ve posted this in slightly different form at Hot Air. And yes, I know that many people have the name “Hussein” in the Arab world. So what? Is there so many Barack Obamas in America that commentators have to specify with such emphasis that they are speaking about this particular Barack Obama by using his middle name?
Of course not. They’re pandering to fear and emotion. Don’t get caught up in it.