Friday, February 29, 2008

What's in a name ? Michael Patrick Leahy on Barack Hussein Obama

When conservative radio talk show host Bill Cunningham referred to Democractic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama as "Barack HUSSEIN Obama ..... Barack HUSSEIN Obama ....... Barack HUSSEIN Obama" at a recent John McCain rally the political correctness police went crazy.

Candidate McCain felt compelled to disavow Cunningham's implied criticism of Obama's Muslim heritage, and talking heads across the land felt compelled to condemn Cunningham.

What exactly was Cunningham's sin ?

He loudly emphasized Obama's given middle name, "Hussein", which, of course conjures up images of the deposed and deceased Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and innumerable Muslims--peace lovers and terrorists alike-- who share the same name.

Cunningham himself acknowledged that his entire speech was designed to give the gathered McCain supporters "red meat", but the question is this:

Was it out of bounds to use Obama's middle name in this way ?

My response is probably not.

It is, after all, Senator Obama's given middle name, and it does tell us something about him.

Indeed, there is a long tradition in American politics of Presidential candidates using their middle names.

John Quincy Adams, our sixth president, started it all off in 1824, inserting Quincy to distinguish himself from his father, John Adams, our second president.

He was followed by the barely memorable President William Henry Harrison, whose only notable contribution to the American Presidential tradition was the memorable political slogan from the 1840 campaign of "Tippecanoe and Tyler too !".

Fast forward to the Presidential election of 1932, which ushered in the era of 3 initial Presidents --

Franklin Delano Roosevelt ("FDR"), who was followed in 1960 by John Fitzgerald Kennedy ("JFK"), and in 1964 by Lyndon Baines Johnson ("LBJ")

Each of these candidates used their middle names as part of their political image.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for instance, inserted his middle name, Delano, to tell the voters of New York that he came from a long established New York family (his mother was a Delano).

John Fitzgerald Kennedy inserted his middle name Fitzgerald to tell the voters of Boston that he was the grandson of the famous mayor of Boston "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald.

Lyndon Baines Johnson insisted on both the use of his middle name and the "LBJ" three letter label to tell the voters of Texas that he was the young adherent of the policies of FDR. "A vote for LBJ is a vote for FDR".

In my own small way, I can attest to the political value of the three name approach to politics. Why, for instance, out of nine statewide Romney delegates here in Tennessee in the February 2008 primary, did I receive the most votes ?

Much as I would like to think it was my large network of friends throughout the state, the most likely explanation is simply this:

The name Michael Patrick Leahy has a full, three name political resonance to it.

Which brings us to Barack Hussein Obama.

His case is different from John Quincy Adams, William Henry Harrison, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and Lyndon Baines Johnson. Unlike those five American Presidents, Senator Obama prefers to be referred to by his two name moniker.

And for good reason.

The name "Barack Hussein Obama" does in fact, tell us something about the Senator's heritage, and it is not something that he wishes to highlight to the American voters. It tells us that his white American mother, and his Muslim Kenyan father chose to give him a complete name that reflected only his Muslim heritage.

"Barack" is not a name found in his mother's native Kansas. Nor is "Hussein" or "Obama".

"Barack Hussein Obama" also reminds voters that Senator Obama's left wing, "abandon Iraq Now" policies are consistent with the interests of Muslim terrorists, and in conflict with the national security interests of the United States.

And that is a completely legitimate way to highlight the political differences between Senator Obama and virtually every Republican voter in the country.

Senator Obama can certainly call himself "Barack Obama", and not follow the John Fitzgerald Kennedy/"JFK" tradition and refer to himself as Barack Hussein Obama/"BHO".

But Bill Cunningham, Michael Patrick Leahy, and anyone else in the United States who wishes should feel free to refer to Senator Obama as "Barack Hussein Obama" any time and any place they want.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

They want my vote, but not my opinion

Senator McCain's campaign staff keep calling.

They are eager to secure the signed pledges of support for Senator McCain from all eight of us who were elected as Romney delegates here in Tennessee.

They are less eager to arrange the meeting we've asked for with the Senator to express, in person, some of the comments we've received from Tennesseans who voted for us to represent them at the convention. We also wanted to give Senator McCain some suggestions on steps he could take to bridge that oft mentioned "enthusiasm gap" that exists at the moment among some conservative Republicans.

I suppose it's a bit much for us to ask.

"Face time" with the candidate is highly prized.

We really don't want "face time." We just want to have a conversation, one in which we say something meaningful, something that Senator McCain might find helpful in the securing victory in the fall.

Here's one important thing we might say:

Pick Mitt Romney as your Vice President.

Do it now, and start campaigning as a team against Senator Obama.

Now that's something that might bridge the "enthusiasm gap", don't you think !

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Phil Valentine Show, and Why I Won't Vote for Ron Paul at the Convention

This business of being a delegate to the Republican National Convention, free to vote for whomever I choose, is going to be fun for another couple weeks, at least until Senator McCain wins a few more primaries and mathematically locks down the nomination without the aid of the eight of us who are Romney delegates from Tennessee.

Not wanting to squander my 15 minutes, I called one of the producers of the Phil Valentine Show, a very good, very conservative Nashville based syndicated radio talk show host and told him I wanted to get advice from Phil and his listeners on how to vote.

The next day, the producer called me (it was "the Round Mound", Phil's regular sidekick Johnny B. apparently being on vacation), and in about two minutes I was on the air with "Uncle Phil" himself. Phil advised me to hold Senator McCain's feet to the fire, and secure three pledges from him:

1. Opposition to amnesty for illegal aliens
2. Support in making the Bush tax cuts permanent
3. Abandonment of his support for legislation that supposedly addresses global warming

I also gave Phil my email address, and asked his listeners to email me with their advice.

30 of them did just that.

10 listeneers emailed me and echoed Phil's advice, with most of them advising me not to vote for McCain if he didn't make those three promises. (Note to these folks -- He's on the record that he supports permanent tax cuts, but the other two issues are a little less clear).

20 listeners emailed to advise me to vote for Ron Paul instead.

All 20 of these emails were lengthy and filled with passion.

And all 20 were unpersuasive.

Here's why:

Straight from Ron Paul's official website comes the following position on Iraq:

On my first day as commander-in-chief, I will direct the Joint Chiefs of Staff and our commanders on the ground to devise and execute a plan to immediately withdraw our troops in the safest manner possible.

Those who caution that leaving Iraq would be a disaster are the same ones who promised the conflict would be a “cake-walk.” It is impossible to tell how long we will have to stay and how many lives we will have to lose if we wait for political factions that have been at war for centuries to come together.

As long as we occupy Iraq, the violence against our troops will continue, and the Iraqi government will become more dependent on us. It is in the best interests of the Iraqi people that we return their country to them immediately. Indeed, violence has already gone down in the areas that are not as heavily occupied.

An immediate withdrawal from Iraq would be an unnecessary concession to an enemy whom we are finally beating, and beating fairly soundly at the moment. It would embolden the chastened and retreating Islamic jihadists to attack other countries, leading inevitably to further attacks on American soil.

Such an action would significantly increase the likelihood that we would experience an American Hiroshima in our lifetime at the hands of this enemy.

As Abraham Lincoln demonstrated by his strong and wise actions a century and a half ago, the single most important responsibility of the President is to preserve and protect the Union. And Ron Paul's policy on Iraq would do exactly the opposite.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Guess What ? You're Going to the Republican National Convention !

Regular readers of this blog who read my article in last month's Christian Faith and Reason Magazine critical of Mike Huckabee may have noticed the note at the bottom of the article where I disclaimed that I was a candidate for delegate to the Republican National Convention supporting Mitt Romney.

Fast forward to February 5.

I wait with anticipation the results of the primary here in Tennessee, hoping Mitt would win the state, and I would go to the convention.

It was not to be.

Mike Huckabee won the state, with 34%, followed by John McCain at 32%, and in third my friend Mitt, with only 24%. A few days later, Mitt withdrew from the race.

As a statewide candidate, I assumed that Huckabee's delegates were headed to the convention, and I would be at home, watching the action on the television, eating popcorn, and singing a sad song of what might have been.

I still may be singing the sad song of what might have been, but it will be in the Convention Center at St. Paul, Minnesota on September 1, not here in Tennesse.

I received a voice message from an earnest young McCain staffer this past Friday.

"Mr. Leahy, I'm sure you know we're calling from the McCain campaign. We would like your vote at the convention."

They must be mistaken I thought.

I called back and told them so.

"No, Mr. Leahy, we have it right here in black and white. You're going to the convention. In fact, the unoffical results show that you got the most votes in the state of Tennessee of all the Romney delegates on the ballot. You and one other Romney delegate are headed to Minnesota."

A letter from the State Republican Party the next day confirmed the fact.

So now, I need your advice.

How should I vote ?

Should I vote for McCain, as Mitt Romney has asked me to, and the McCain folks want me to, or should I hold out for that conservative alternative who apparently does not exist in 2008 ?

See you in St. Paul !

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The spirt of Abrahamic Small Groups in the unlikeliest of places

Those of you who follow the news regularly may have noticed a disturbing item that originated from nearby Columbia, Tennessee a week ago Saturday.

A small local Muslim mosque was burned down completely in an apparent arson.

The suspects, three local "white power" proponents, obvious candidates for the Darwin Awards, were arrested shortly after the event and can anticipate a slew of Federal and State charges coming their way soon.

The interesting note is the positive, supportive reaction of the community.

Local law enforcement and FBI officials worked quickly and efficiently to round up the suspects.

A local Presbyterian church has offered the use of their facility for use by the Muslim congregation, and the offer has been accepted.

Today, a community wide vigil drew 200 Muslims and Christians for observances. And a fund has been established at a local bank to help rebuild the mosque.

From tragedy comes hope.

You can read more in today's edition of the Columbia Herald.

A missing month of blog posts

The first rule of blogging is to post regularly.

Once a week or twice a week seems to be a rule that works well for the casual or not so casual blogger.

Which, of course, explains why this is my first post in about a month.

I have an excuse.

It's pretty lame.

I've been busy.

Stay tuned for a flurry of new posts to catch you up.