Many on the Right, particularly Christian fundamentalist types, make it a point to use Barack Obama's full name, Barack Hussein Obama, when they discuss the Democratic presidential hopeful in the hopes that they will reinforce the idea among their fundamentalist brethren and other ignorant types that Obama is really a subversive Muslim bent on destroying America from within, or some such garbage.
"Barack Hussein Obama: Once a Muslim, Always A Muslim," read a headline be conservative commentator Debbie Schlussel. A writer at FreeRepublic.com recently posted an article in which a simple "B" was substituted for "Barack," yielding many references to "B. Hussein Obama." Recently, MSNBC reported that at a John McCain speaking engagement in Cincinnati, local radio host and McCain supporter Bill Cunningham, who spoke from the stage before McCain, made repeated references to "Barack Hussein Obama." So, clearly, many conservatives want to drive home the point that Obama is a Muslim.
As one might expect, there has been some backlash among Obama's supporters and Democrats in general. Perhaps surprisingly, though, some conservatives have not jumped on the "Hussein" bandwagon. In some instances, their hesitation to do so is for strictly strategic reasons. Marc Ambinder's recent piece at the Atlantic.com reported that the mastermind of Bush's political success, Karl Rove, warned his fellow Republicans that, "...demagoguing Barack Obama's middle name... would perpetuate the notion that Republicans were bigoted and would hurt the party." The conservative website Blue Crab Boulevard suggested that, "...using the name like this is a bad move on many levels. It is playing directly into the hands of those who routinely use identity politics as a weapon." Conservative commentator Rick Moran recently wrote that, "...it embarrasses me to no end to see fellow conservatives who actually believe that Barack Obama is some kind of 'Manchurian Candidate' sent by Muslims to undermine American society." A quick survey of Moran's readers' comments, many of which deliberately employ "Hussein," clearly shows that his reasoned assessment is not exactly popular in conservative circles.
Comforting as it is to read that a (real) conservative such as Moran has a grip on reality and understands that there are real policy issues of Obama's that fellow conservatives would better spend their time engaging, it raises the question: Does the knee-jerk assumption that Obama is a Muslim indicate a willful suspension of reality that has become not only too common on the Right, but a virtual litmus test to determine one's true adherence to conservative values, whatever those are this week? If so, then does this mean that the conservative movement, and by extension the Republican Party, have moved so far to the right that they have collectively suspended reality on all manner of issues, and so have alienated the movement's true thinkers? It seems that the Republican Party has become the party of belief, as opposed to one of reason and critical thought. The Bush Administration told us that they simply "believed" that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, despite a lack of hard evidence. Most of these same people deny that global warming exists, despite the tons of evidence. Today, Bush told us all that the American economy is in a "slowdown," but an impending recession is out of the question, contrary to the opinions of many economists and other people who live in the real world.
While I certainly don't think the Democratic Party has all of the answers to America's problems, at least they offer ideas to solve real problems. By contrast, if the Republicans either flatly deny that real problems exist or create false crises, for example, by convincing themselves that Obama is an enemy of the state, then how capably can they handle America's increasingly complex and real issues?
I think McCain is in a very difficult position. He must toe the Republican Party line, but after seven years of Bush's presidency, the Republican happy talk has proven to be little more than that. If McCain follows the Republicans too far to the Right, he will lose the Center, and if he courts the Center, he will be derided as insufficiently conservative and he will lose the Right. Meanwhile, the rest of America will vote for (presumably, at this point) Barack Hussein Obama.
I'm just sayin'.