Calling Him ‘Hussein’ Is Fair Game

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - March 05, 2008

Local favorite and Democratic candidate for president Sen. Barack Obama’s middle name is Hussein.

At a recent campaign stump in Ohio, conservative talk show host Bill Cunningham was invited to speak at a Sen. John McCain (Republican candidate for president) appearance in Cincinnati. Cunningham used the opportunity to editorialize on Sen. Obama’s candidacy. He said, “Now we have a hack, a Chicago-style Daley politician who is picturing himself as change. When he gets done with you, that’s all you’re going to have in your pocket is change.” Hilarity among the crowd ensued.

Cunningham went on to say, “The time will come when the liberal-leaning media will peel the bark off Barack Hussein Obama and tell the truth about his relationship with (indicted fundraiser Antonin) ‘Tony’Rezko and his sweetheart deals in Chicago!” Cunningham would invoke Obama’s middle name three times in his speech.

Is it unfair to use the middle name of Barack Obama?


The use of middle names is not racist or inappropriate. Simply because Cunningham invoked Obama’s middle name does not constitute an attack on the virtue of the senator. Those who react to the use of “Hussein” remind me of the Shakespearean “Methinks thou doth protest too much” and “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Cunningham, as a popular talk show host, is valuable to the McCain campaign. That’s why he was chosen to, in his words, “Get ‘em happy. Get ‘em applauding. Throw them some red meat.” That’s exactly what he did in his presentation. The problem is McCain’s handlers didn’t give Cunningham any other direction. If the prep team did their job, they would have been specific enough that Cunningham would have steered his comments to still deliver without peeving off the host.

I am an opinionated talk show host and I have emceed countless political and charitable events. I adhere to the wishes of those who hired or invited me to appear. The prep team knows my position on issues because they listen to my program, and I have been asked not to opine on certain issues when hosting an event.

Clearly, the McCain prep team blew it with Cunningham. But to make matters worse, McCain threw gas on a match with his response.

First of all, McCain did not even hear Cunningham’s comments. He was not onstage with Cunningham and he reportedly wasn’t even in the building. Yet, upon learning what was said, he gave a pre-emptive statement to the press: “I apologize for it.” He went on to say, “I did not know about these comments, but I take responsibility for them. I repudiate them.” He then referred to Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton, calling them both “honorable Americans.”

He continued: “I want to dis-associate myself with any disparaging remarks that may have been said about them.” When asked if invoking Hussein as Obama’s middle name was appropriate, he said, “No. It is not. Any comment that is disparaging of Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama is totally inappropriate.”

So much for Bill Cunningham. “Here’s a guy the McCain campaign wanted to fire up a crowd with provocative statements that reflect his radio program and persona while capitalizing on his popularity and influence. He does exactly what is asked and then, when the P.C. police show up at McCain HQ, Cunningham gets thrown under the Straight Talk Express.

This situation could have been handled so much better without cutting Cunningham off at the knees.

How? I guess you’ll have to ask Sen. John Sidney McCain.

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