The "Hussein" Factor

I suppose it's true that it's a bit icky when Barack Obama's opponents keep pointedly repeating the phrase "Barack Hussein Obama" in their robocalls. That said, when his campaign and his fans complain about it, that rings a bit hollow to me. After all, his exotic background is an important part of his appeal to those who find him appealing. Andrew Sullivan's laudatory article on Obama contained this memorable passage:

Consider this hypothetical. It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man—Barack Hussein Obama—is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. A brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority-Muslim school as a boy, is now the alleged enemy. If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.

If he's going to get praised in these terms, he's going to get knocked in them, too. That's just how it is.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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