Campaign 2008: Did You Know That His Full Name Is Barack Hussein Obama?
His name is Barack Hussein Obama.
Obama, the popular Democratic Senator from Illinois and possible 2008 presidential candidate, doesn't use his middle name as say, John Quincy Adams or William Henry Harrison did. He doesn't even refer to it -- as say, George W. Bush does with his middle initial.
But conservatives want you, the voter, to associate Obama with his middle name, in the hopes of scaring you into thinking anyone named Hussein must have ties to terrorism, or at the very least, brutal Iraqi dictators.
It all began last month, when GOP strategist Ed Rogers ridiculed Obama on MSNBC's Hardball, making sure to note that Obama's middle name is "Hussein." Now, references to "Barack Hussein Obama" are commonplace on conservative websites.
Forget that "Hussein" -- Arabic for "good, small handsome one" -- is a popular name throughout Africa and the Middle East. Forget that in Obama's case, it's a family moniker passed down from his Kenyan father and grandfather.
Conservatives want to scare you. And if that means saying "Hussein" early and often, so be it.
If the middle name isn't enough to scare you, then conservatives hope Obama -- which of course, sounds like Osama -- will do the trick.
Right-wing Web site Freerepublic.com has featured a photoshopped image of "Senator Osama Obama," and Rush Limbaugh has for some time called him "Obama Osama."
Other conservatives, like CNBC's Larry Kudlow, have "accidentally" referred to Obama as "Osama."
Will all the conservative scare tactics work?
The Chicago Tribune asked that question this week. The answer, apparently, is "not always."
"People have unconscious, emotional reactions to names," Cleveland Kent Evans, a psychologist who studies the practice and effect of naming, told the Tribune. "And there's a lot of psychological research that shows people do a lot of unconsciously prejudiced things. But most people do not think of themselves as biased. And when those things become conscious, when they realize they're in danger of doing something against their values, it may be more likely that they're going to behave the opposite way."
In other words, if the conservative talking heads and radio ranters play the scare card too often, it's bound to backfire.
This may all be moot if Obama decides not to run for president. But clearly, conservatives are scared enough to lay the ugly groundwork in hopes of derailing him.