Maureen Dowd plays the false indignation card in her pay-per-view column of today, What’s in a Name, Barry?
The gist: those mean Republicans are trying to tar the rising star of the Democratic party [legally-mandated descriptor] by making malign associations with his moniker. The GOP's latest mischief - letting people know that the middle name of the junior senator from Illinois is "Hussein."
Bunk. Any possible shock value in the Barack Hussein Obama handle has already largely faded. And this being a nation that likes to see itself as open and accepting, I'd say that, should he stay in the race, by election time his name will be an absolute advantage. Predicted opening line at the 2008 DNC Convention - if it comes to that - "I am an American. And my name is Barack Hussein Obama." Cue the wild cheering on the floor as Katie Couric gets all misty up in the booth.
Trying to make her case against the GOP, Dowd takes things a campaign too far: "The Republicans are expert at tying Democrats to villains. . . Lee Atwater, yoked Willie Horton to Michael Dukakis." Sorry, Maureen. It was Dukakis who yoked Horton to himself by giving a weekend pass to the convicted murderer who took the occasion to rape a woman twice and brutally assault her boyfriend.
Even the Dukakis campaign had to acknowledge, in its own way, that the infamous "Willie Horton ad" was fair. Note this from a 2004 Roger Simon column:
"What was [Dukakis] going to say about Willie Horton that the public would buy? This was best demonstrated at the time by a senior Dukakis aide who disgustedly pushed a piece of paper across a table at me and said: 'OK, you write our response to Willie Horton. You write the catchy phrase. You come up with the 30-second spot. You come up with the jingle. What are we supposed to say? That Horton wasn't let out of prison and that he didn't rape that woman? What the hell are we supposed to say?'"
Precisely. What made the Horton ad so effective was that it was true.
But back to Barack. His problem with the voters will not be his name. It will be his down-the-line liberal views that are at odds with the American electorate. Democrats might point to their mid-term success as proof that the country has moved left. But throwing the Republican bums out is one thing. Electing a Commander-in-Chief with a 100% rating from the uber-liberal ADA is another. Call him Barry Hunter O'Brien, and Americans still won't buy it.
Finkelstein recently returned from Iraq. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org