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Opening Arguments

In the middle

Quick, Give me Hillary Clinton's full name, including the middle one. Bet you anything your first answer was wrong.

Middle names are nothing but trouble. Parents think about first names a lot, but the middle name is usually an afterthought. It is given to honor an obscure, long-ago relative or placate a bunch of noisy current ones. Or else it is meant to be symbolic, represent something near and dear to the parents' hearts but of absolutely no use to the kid it is hung on, except to be a major embarrassment. Of all the things our parents did for us, Leo (nmi), Larry (nmi) and Judy (nmi) Morris thank them for not giving any of us middle names.

The politician currently in the news for his middle name is Barack Hussein Obama. There is no reason to be that specific with his name, of course:

Obama doesn't use his middle name in his public life, and it's not necessary for anyone else to use it to distinguish him from other Barack Obamas.

The only reason to say "Barack Hussein Obama," as radio talk show host Bill Cunningham did repeatedly Tuesday in warming up a John McCain campaign rally in Cincinnati, is to try to excite anti-Muslim, anti-Arab prejudices (though Obama is neither Muslim nor of Arab descent) and not so subtly suggest that Obama's actually a slippery foreigner.

Obama's father was a Muslim, and his mother a flaky anthropologist who saw the world in terms of oppressors (Americans) and victims (everybody else). Hussein, as much as we like to hang it on a certain dictator that we learned to love to hate, is like "Smith" in part of the world. But all of that was Obama's parents' baggage, not their son's.

John McCain will go into the presidential race with a middle-name advantage, since hardly anybody even knows it. It is Sidney, by the way, and, furthermore, he is a third -- John Sidney McCain III. Doesn't sound so much like the great war hero, does it? How was the POW camp, Sidney? But again, not his baggage.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is the only one who has tried to maniulate her name to her own advantage. But of course "Rodham" is not really her middle name. She was born Hillary Diane Rodham and, upon her marriage, became Hillary Diane Clinton. "Rodham" is the maiden name that she drops in and pulls out of her full name depending on which group she is trying to appeal to at the time.

So we'll probably have a presidential race between Hussein and Sidney, each making his own way in the world regardless of what their parents tried to hang on them. Diane? She was never really there, was she?


Harl Delos
Mon, 03/03/2008 - 12:18pm

You know what Paul Harvey's middle name is?

Harvey. He thought people would have trouble with Aurandt.

And how many people know who Leslie Lynch King, Junior, and William Jefferson Blythe are?

The Iriquois (and other tribes) changed their names as events happened in their lives. I'm not the same person I was 20 years ago; why should I be burdened with the same name?

Oh, by the way, I'm not. I was retired and my bride was well-known in her profession, so I changed my surname, instead of her.