Who's Sane About Obama's Middle Name?

October 25, 2008
Aditi Nadkarni

I got out of Ohio a couple of weeks ago, for good; I left the city, not too far from where unlicensed "Joe the Plumber" apparently makes more than $250,000 fixing pipes since he claimed that his dreams of owning a business would dwindle under Obama's tax plans. I got out of Toledo where in five years of academic science I was asked several questions that I could not answer, questions that had nothing to do with academic science itself.

I was asked what Aditi meant in Arabic. I was asked in all seriousness why I was so sold on going to hell. Even as I tried to comprehend the question I was then shrilly reprimanded in the middle of a busy mall for not accepting Lord Jesus Christ as my savior. "I was just here to buy jeans" I said stupidly, not as angry then as I am now when it comes to people claiming religious high-ground. I was also told on several occasions to go back to where I came from by angry drivers on the freeway. Thankfully I did not respond as certain migrants had all those years ago when Native Americans may have said something similar. Sadly, my only consolation through all this was that I was not alone, that the brown skin tones of some my American born colleagues too inspired similar backlashes. Their citizenship status did not save them from such harsh judgment either just like Senator Obama's American birth and heritage does not save him from being called a terrorist.

In his presidential race, Senator Obama and I may actually have something in common. He too might wonder why people of a country where he was given the blessed opportunities of education would house ignorance of this kind. The people of a country where he steadily climbed the ladder of success and even made it to the Senate now suddenly see him as a terrorist. If it weren't for his middle name or the color of his skin would the escalating polls in his favor be more uplifting than they are now when he watches Republican supporters scream racial epithets and comment on his terrorist status? On the outside he does not seem afflicted at all as he sits through a debate being referred to as "that one" by Senator McCain. He seems calm and even smiles congenially in the face of unfair jabs that would've made the best among us righteously indignant to say the least. I should probably borrow from his strength and learn from his dignified composure, the ability to deflect such shallow distractions. And I probably would, if I didn't know that Senator Obama needs to, for his own good, in order to win this election, hold his peace and count to ten before he reacts to any insult or racially fringed remarks from the opposition.

I cannot help, however, being angry on his behalf. I rant at my television screen with abandon when I hear an ignorant Republican supporter claim that Senator Obama is an Arab. McCain is slowly palin' in the face (pun intended), I notice, as he tries hard to prevent further damage. I feel sorry for him. As an American war hero, he shouldn't have to constantly defend his campaign from racist undertones. He looks weary as he chides his own supporters and draws boos.

I grind my teeth in frustration at the toxic insinuations not so well-hidden in sudden and repeated mentions of Senator Obama's middle name at Republicans rallies. "Hussein", they emphasize, the crowd boos enthusiastically. "Terrorist!" they scream in unison, chanting the one word that has unified some Americans, "Arab" coming in a close second. I watch in horror, footage on Youtube from Strongsville, Ohio where at a Republican rally, a woman claims that Obama has the "bloodlines" to be a terrorist.

Last week, in an interview, Governor Palin invoked the "Ayers" mention yet again. She alluded to the curious reason why a man like William Ayers would want to "associate" himself with Obama. She brings up an excellent point that leads to several questions. Why would the racist men and women in the Youtube video above, the tax-dodging, unlicensed plumber Joe associate with the McCain-Palin ticket? Then there's the McCain volunteer from Pittsburgh who carved a B on her face and made up a story about a black Obama supporter beating her up after he saw her McCain bumper sticker on her car. Is she a reflection of the kind of support the McCain-Palin ticket has in this race? Or is it possible that people just cannot be held responsible for the kind of people their supporters are? And I am not even going near the Keating 5 story here to establish the "guilty by association" angle.

One would think that between a self-proclaimed hockey mom and the father of an adopted Bangladeshi daughter, at least one would've thought of Obama's daughters and the effect a careless "terrorist" epithet would have on them. And what about the law abiding Muslim citizens of America who raise children, pay taxes and suffer economic woes just like everybody else? Do they deserve to have their name equated with the "terrorist" label?

The "Hussein" paranoia has led some very Christian people to forget how many times the word "Barack" appears in the bible. The military "terrorist fighting" Americans in their patriotic zeal, have also forgotten that an Arabic first name did not stop the likes of Omar Nelson Bradley from being one of the main U.S. Army field commanders during World War II all those years ago. Now, while it is very disturbing that people would suddenly grab at a middle name to establish Arab ancestry and "terrorist inclinations", what bothers me even more is that nobody, not the media, not the candidates, not even the usually outspoken members of the blogosphere have the gumption to at least try and dissociate the mere "Arab" epithet from "terrorist". This issue does in fact need urgent address if only to prevent hate crimes, violence and discrimination against people based on their names, appearance and ancestry in a nation that calls itself pluralistic. Unfortunately, the "Arab=terrorist" association may have been sitting in cold cement for too long. Not even Obama, if he tried, could truly denounce the subconscious link some Americans have forged. If he tried, he would hurt himself in this election by seeming like an Arab-supporting activist to the culturally-challenged section of the populace. All he can do is state his Christian status. I don't blame him; he has a lot to do anyways considering the tricky tap-dance his campaign performs around the issue of race simply to prevent him from being auto-cast as anti-white by virtue of being black.

My only sense of relief is that when McCain's campaign incites "terrorism" chants they only excite those where already on the offensive about a black man with "Hussein" as his middle name. These people were furious from the get go at how far Senator Obama had come in this race. For these people it was bad enough that he got a better education than them and that he was senator of a state. So thankfully, when his middle name is repeated and his "terrorist" contacts underscored, none of the independent voters are scared into voting Republican anymore. If polls are a true reflection of voting trends then they might actually be scared away from doing so.

Aditi Nadkarni is a cancer researcher, a film reviewer and a poet; her many occupations are an odd yet fun miscellany of creative pursuits. Visit her blog for more of her articles and artistic as well as photographic exploits.
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Who's Sane About Obama's Middle Name?


Author: Aditi Nadkarni


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October 25, 2008
04:52 PM

I know Obama, he is a foriegn born socialist/ communist. Google 'New Party" Obama 1996

October 25, 2008
05:29 PM

well at least I know that "virginian" doesn't represent my state since virginia is now solidly blue.

and hey, way to go proving aditi's point here. DEERRRRRR!

aditi.. great piece. I could not agree more.
(of course this reminds me of mccain's recent gaffe in western pa where he called them all racists... lol)

October 25, 2008
07:00 PM

A certain section of America is, and has always been racist, (as an aside, it'd be interesting to find out how many of them are regular Church-going evangelical Christians, the same ones "helping" the Indian tribals) it's just that with Obama running for President, all those racist thoughts and attitudes have bubbled up to the surface and become more visible. Given that the Civil Rights Act was passed only 40+ years ago, it's not that surprising - it takes a few generations for such attitudes to weaken. It wasn't that long ago that Trent Lott mentioned how proud he was of Strom Thurmond.

October 25, 2008
07:32 PM

these evangelical types and their supporters have literally pawned their brains.

the issue of course is: although he is not, so what if indeed Obama were a Muslim?

October 25, 2008
08:02 PM

All this nonsense will end after the elections when McCain will get whacked by the biggest lead in US history....

October 25, 2008
10:40 PM

SS: glad you liked the post :) i hope ohio learns from virginia...ohio has a lot to prove.

kaffir: agree with most of what you said

cs: its not just or only the evangelical types. I have met some very religious people who did not make the muslim=terrorist forge and were obama supporters as well. so i don't like to club all those who forsake reasoning under the evangelical label. that may be similar to calling all arabs, terrorists.

chandra: depends on what nonsense you are refering to. if its the racism you mean, then Obama's victory won't change it. it will only change the circumstances in which it exists. I think the presidential race has just brought to the forefront, an issue that has always been brewing.

October 25, 2008
11:18 PM


I meant the evangelical base of george, the 27% who support him, come hell or high water. Overall i agree with you.

October 26, 2008
12:00 AM


Yes, the racism will not end. Hopefully the overt comments will.

I attended a Biden event in New Hampshire (I actually met him) and I am afraid the average democrat is equally idiotic. God bless America!

Vinod Joseph
October 26, 2008
12:20 AM

Here's a thought for you all. If your middle name is Husein and you want to rent a flat in a posh Mumbai suburb, you will have more than a little trouble. The point I'm making is that prejudice, bias and racism are not restricted to the US of A.

October 26, 2008
12:32 AM


Not if you are on a company lease and your company is a major brand

October 26, 2008
08:12 AM

racism is a problem just about everywhere, period. It is not confined to the US or India or...

parts of countries are better than others. here in DC there are pockets where things are better for some and worse for others. immigrants from europe and asia are treated well here. hispanics sadly have massive issues in the suburbs, and DC is affectionately known as "chocolate city" so if you are white in the DC public school system, you are a minority.

chandra... biden is a special guy. you cannot judge everyone by him. he is brilliant when it comes to foreign policy, but on a daily basis he is prone to saying some pretty, errrrrrrm, unusual things. even we wish he would learn how to self edit. but at the end of the day his gaffes are much less serious than caribou barbie's

October 26, 2008
10:31 AM

I know of friends who wouldnt get accomodation in delhi's Birla Mandir becuase they were not hindus

October 26, 2008
10:38 AM


October 26, 2008
10:47 AM

chandra: I will have to respectfully disagree about your comment regarding the average democrat. my experience has been quite the opposite. there are always a few whackos on either side but republican whackos significantly outnumber those on the demo side.

October 26, 2008
11:02 AM


""The point I'm making is that prejudice, bias and racism are not restricted to the US of A.""

a good point you raise and a point that is not often raised enough. we are (some of us are) sometimes so smug about racism is in "the west".

it was not just the US where the japanese were interned during the second world war. when china and india went to war in 1962, the poor chinese (all indian citizens, living there for generations) were interned in horrible camps too. and ""desegregation"" in practice, between castes is still waiting to happen in many parts of our country.

sorry AN, and the editors, we are drifting from the main topic, but not too dramatically!

October 26, 2008
11:04 AM


Nice title!!!

October 26, 2008
03:59 PM

Sorry about your not-so-pleasant American experiences. As noted, racism is everywhere and always will be.

There is no defense for racism and nor should there be. But let's be fair. The polls show that the percent of blacks voting for Obama is in the nineties. If voting skin color isn't racism, tell me what is. In fact, there is a good argument that attributes his success partly to color. But of course you cannot make that argument without being ostracized. Just ask Geraldine Ferraro, who said this:

"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman of any color, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."

She was attacked by her own party and had to resign from the Clinton campaign. Ridiculous to say the least.

The Obama camp loves nothing more than to hear racist remarks; perceived or otherwise. And when they don't hear any, they manufacture their own by twisting unintended remarks. It only serves their purpose to stereotype McCain and the Republicans as racist hicks. Your essay does the same.

No one with half a brain accuses Obama of being a terrorist. The issue is his judgment to associate with one. Only the ignorant or those appealing to ignorance will try to spin it one way or the other.

Both parties are guilty of Macavelian campaign tactics. As voters, we can pick our camps without perpetuating the BS. Or not.

Ciao, Guido

October 26, 2008
04:26 PM

Guido: One sees white people voting for a white guy, that is not racial preference but blacks voting for a perfectly capable black guy is? Maybe its all about perception, no?

Offensive or not, I found Ferraro's comment quite amusing coz its only in the 21st century that one could claim that a black man was actually "lucky" to be black and that this alone was his ticket to political success in a predominantly white, sometimes prejudiced nation. :)

Thats kinda like saying Martin Luther King was lucky he was black otherwise he'd never be a leader during the civil rights' movement.

October 26, 2008
05:15 PM


The presidential frontrunner racially represents 12% of the population. About 95% of that slice is voting their skin color. If whites were guilty of racism as you suggest, Obama would still be living in Hawaii. That's not perception, its math.

Farrero's comments taken in context suggest that Obama's minority status is PART of the reason for his success. Spinning her comments otherwise IS perception.

The King reference is irrelevant; apples and oranges.

Ciao, Guido

October 26, 2008
05:59 PM

He's back!!!! guido...

October 26, 2008
06:17 PM

Guido, just becoz people are black and the candidate they choose happens to be black does not mean "they are voting their skin color". Very Limbaugh of you. You are assuming that they are voting for him solely for his skin color.

And the King reference is only as relevant as your mention of Ferraro's comment. If Obama's mionority status contributes to his success then why didn't Hillary's?

October 26, 2008
06:25 PM


""The presidential frontrunner racially represents 12% of the population. About 95% of that slice is voting their skin color.""

if guido's racial logic (rather, lack thereof) is correct, i suggest americans should elect a composite president, ie. 12% Obama and the rest McCain and pale shades of palin and biden. genomics and biotechonology can make it possible.

quite a specimen (namoona in "Indian") you guido!

October 26, 2008
06:37 PM


your thoughts on this slice of surrelism:?

""CNN)-- An interview Sen. Joe Biden did with an Orlando television station is making headlines Sunday, after the reporter asked if Sen. Barack Obama's now famous conversation with 'Joe the plumber' about 'spreading the wealth' made the Democratic nominee seem like he was adopting Marxist principles.

"You may recognize this famous quote," WFTV Anchor Barbara West told Biden on Thursday. "From each according to his abilities to each according to his needs, that's from Karl Marx. How is Senator Obama not being a Marxist if he intends to spread the wealth around?"""

October 26, 2008
07:38 PM

sorry but even if your math were correct (and I do not think it is) I do not think blacks voting for another black based on race is "racist" in the sense that you and I know it (the pejorative sense). I think it reflects the fact that african americans are sick of seeing people that do not really represent them in positions of power. I do not think it is racist for them to want to see that. It has been far too long coming, actually.

October 26, 2008
08:31 PM


There is no denying that conservatives have screwed up America big time. Their ideological dogmatism and 6 out of 8 years of absolute control over Washington has taken them too far to the Right as if people gave them a long rope and GOP took it to hang themselves. Conservatives consider military might, free trade, capitalism, fiscal discipline, limited government to be their natural turf, their ticket to power - but GOP has failed each of them. It is not lost on people that McCain offers more of the same failed conservative dogmatism and orthodoxy. That is why Obama's rhetorics of changes resonate so well with people. It is the year of rats. Any democrat would have won this race hands down. Obama's race has made it much closer race than it should have been.

But worry not. People are likely to give Obama Hussain the same long rope, and democrats are most likely to grab it to hang themselves. If polls are to be believed, Democrats will control all 3 branches of government with nobody to hold them back for next 4 years. When economy is in tail spin, populism is likely to trump and take them to overreaching socialist remedies that would tighten a noose around government and economy. When economy needs restoring a robust wealth-creating engine, usa is most likely to restore a giant wealth redistribution machine instead. When capitalism, free trade, consumerism, financial sectors are undergoing meltdown, USA needs government intervention to boost them back to health, not an excuse to re-enact socialist welfare state. When welfare state for the economy is needed, welfare state for the classes is what it will get, prolonging the recession. It is populist, where only demagogues can thrive. We can already see the demagogory in public discourse about bailing out wall street vs bailing out main street. In foreign policy too, there will be big bumps. Sensing vulnerability of USA, new rogue regimes will emerge. McCain is making all these points quite eloquently. But people are not in a mood to listen to any republican. This is the year to be a republican.

I personally feel McCain when checkmated by Democratic congress would provide an ideal political combination to wade thru difficult transition without USA getting bogg down to extremes of ideology. Need of the hour is pragmatism, not ideology. McCain has shown remarkable ability to blur ideology whenever pragmatism is needed. The same can not be said about democrats in congress or Obama, especially when there will be no pressure on them to show pragmatism, balance or restraints. I suspect, democrats will go too far and hang themselves by 2012 and GOP will have their chances to come back stronger. Best thing for GOP is to let democrats have a long rope.

October 26, 2008
08:37 PM

Correction......in #25 end of para 2.......This is NOT the year to be a republican.

October 26, 2008
09:24 PM

The fact that Obama has reached where he is now speaks for the country. So there are these racists wackos here and there. So what? Are we really expecting every one to be above all these prejudices? You got to be joking. These human failings and they are part of all of us more or less.

Obama knows all those things. He knew what he was going into. That is why he can take it and still come out smiling and may even turn out to be the winner.

Elections are always dirty games. I am sure in India too they are not any cleaner than in the US. I am not saying that it is good. But that is the way it is. I think the author paints the picture a lot worse that it is. If it was any where as bad as she says Obama would have been still a community councelor some where in Chicago.

October 27, 2008
03:53 PM


I was asked what Aditi meant in Arabic. I was asked in all seriousness why I was so sold on going to hell. Even as I tried to comprehend the question I was then shrilly reprimanded in the middle of a busy mall for not accepting Lord Jesus Christ as my savior.




it is all so Rovianesque

but Karl is being trumped this time...by bloggers and citijournos...

hence this brand of politics of fear and divide is not as effective as in the past

October 27, 2008
04:57 PM


Not my stats. Google the subject and you'll get a range from 89 to 97 percent, depending on source and location. Either number tells the story.

I didn't intend to suggest that all blacks were voting their race. But the numbers are undeniable as are the implications.

Derogatory or not, the fact is a very large number of African-Americans are voting skin color. Justified? That's a judgment call. Condoning it in any form for one group or the other is a slippery slope I want no part of. It is racism and no amount of rationalization will change it.

Ciao, Guido

October 27, 2008
05:12 PM


If McCain loses, it will not be because he's too far right. The conservative base has never lent their support and considers him a typical RINO (Republican In Name Only). While some will hold their nose and vote against Obama, others share your view that it's time to let the liberals ruin the day. Many ascribe to the phoenix strategy. That is the traits of real conservatism (some of which you mention) will arise from the ashes in the GOP, once Barack and the Democrats really screw things up. But Obama isn't CinC yet.

I think your comments (for the most part) are on target.

Ciao, Guido

October 27, 2008
06:15 PM

Guido, but blacks in America have voted in overwhelming numbers for the Democratic candidates in the past too, as compared to the Republican candidates. Methinks you are ignoring that trend from your analysis in your haste to attach a "racist" label to blacks deciding to vote for Obama this time in much greater numbers than 4 years ago.

October 27, 2008
07:41 PM

Overwhelming % of Blacks voting for democrats could mean

- That they do not like white-centric Gop party
- That they identify with ideologies and policies adopted by democrats

Blacks have been consistent about it throughout past elections. So if they vote again in like manner, it is not because Oabama is black, but because they feel policies of democrats are best for them.

If majority of jews refuse to for a Nazi party, it would not make them racist.

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