Sunday, March 2, 2008

That middle name

With all due respect to some of my fellow warriors on the right, Sen. John McCain is correct that it is out-of-line to use "Barrack Hussein Obama." Karl Rove today made a convincing case that using Sen. Obama's middle name will be more likely to hurt Republicans than help us. He did not seem amused at the prospect, and rightly so.

We agree with Sen. McCain's fundamental point, made to reporters after the event in question: part of treating one's opponents with respect is to use their proper titles and the names they themselves use. Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama are duly elected members of the U.S. Senate, and their official positions are worthy of respect, even if their policy positions are just plain wrong most of the time. While there are doubtless plenty of exceptions in the archives of Montana Headlines, we try to make a habit of using the proper titles of elected officials and to use the names that they use for themselves.

For instance, in the recent Republican nomination battle, MH never hid the opinion that Gov. Mitt Romney's record pointed towards him being a Massachusetts Republican who was at least as liberal as Mayor Giuliani and more liberal than Sen. McCain or Gov. Huckabee. Others who disliked Romney (and there are lots of them, found amongst the supporters of virtually every other GOP presidential candidate) often referred to him as "Willard Romney," presumably to make him seem like more of a patrician north-eastern establishment Republican or to make it seem like he used "Mitt" in a (spectacularly unsuccessful) attempt to seem more like a "regular guy." But as far as we were concerned, if the guy calls himself "Mitt" -- that's his name.

Second, there is a serious point to be made regarding Sen. Obama and Islam, if one has the courage to make it. But we've not seen anyone of stature who is willing to put it on the line and make a case along these lines:

If Sen. Obama's father and paternal grandparents were Muslim, will he have a tendency to have enough sympathy for Muslim interests (when they compete with ours) to make him less than objective? And given that our current war pits us against Muslim extremists, is this relevant?

And should the combination of this plus the allegedly anti-Semitic statements of his pastor and some of his supporters make backers of Israel worried? And did anyone else notice that in his recent debate with Clinton, he said that Israel was "one of our most important allies in the region" -- even though conventional foreign policy wisdom in the U.S. has long been that Israel is the most important ally we have in the region, period? Does Sen. Obama disagree with this, and if so, why?

The overall point is not a straight-forward one at all -- and we're not at all convinced that it could be made successfully. After all, it could just as easily be claimed that Sen. Obama's Muslim familial background would give him some insight into Islam that could make him more effective in combating Muslim terrorists, not less.

There is some psychology worth exploring here, especially with a candidate like Sen. Obama who responds to claims that he doesn't have enough foreign policy experience by saying that it is the judgment that he will exercise that is important, not the presence of a track record. We are told that we can trust his judgment -- but of course that is for voters to decide, and given what is at stake and how little we know about Sen. Obama, many voters are going to use every piece of information that they have at their disposal in making that decision, including deciding whether they care that he has Muslim relatives, when for the foreseeable future our military opponents will be Muslim.

But we won't have that discussion as long as Sen. Obama's opponents play silly name games. Until then, we'll assume that those who make a habit of using "Hussein" in referring to Sen. Obama are doing so precisely because it conveys an implication of dual loyalties without actually having to come right out and make the case that perhaps Sen. Obama may be predisposed to go easy on enemy combatants who happen to be Muslim. And we'll assume that they don't want to make that case because they don't believe that they can do so successfully -- and maybe because they themselves don't believe it to be true.


Anonymous said...

I like Montana Headlines' thoughts on this. But let's not get suckered into this national debate. Let’s be above it by not talking about it, and instead discuss something more Montana Real ID. Montana Headlines is quiet about the Real ID issue brewing here in Montana. Where do you guys stand on it?

Montana Headlines said...

Do a search for Real ID on this site. There have been some posts addressing it.

The Montana legislature unanimously voted not to cooperate with a national ID card. That's about as clear a message as Montana could send.