About that middle name . . .

new-yorker-obama-muslimFollowing on Doug’s questions about differences in media coverage of the murders of Dr. George Tiller and Army recruiter Pvt. William Long, it’s been interesting to see how different political groups are talking about the two murders.

While most Americans (or at least most of those who have heard of both murders) are saddened by both brutal killings, it seems that some political groups care more about one or the other. One of the most recent tangential issues to get people talking is the disparity between President Barack Obama’s statement on the Tiller murder, which was delivered within a couple hours of his death, and the lack of a statement about the Long murder.

I was wondering if Obama’s lack of a commensurate statement weren’t related to the fact that Long’s accused murderer, Abdul Hakim Mujahid Muhammad, is Muslim. Obama is preparing for a big speech to the Muslim world. I have yet to see any media explore that possibility or whether the religion of Long’s accused murderer has led to this disparity. The administration in general has responded differently to the two murders. While federal marshals were sent to guard certain abortion clinics, I didn’t hear of any uptick in federal protection of recruiting centers. (Admittedly, this could be related to my decreased news consumption these past few weeks.) Again, while this might be pure politics, this might also be related to a religious issue of some kind. It might be related to navigating some sensitive religious issues overseas. It seems odd to not see this discussed at all by the media.

However, here’s a really good story by ABC’s Jake Tapper — a political reporter with a healthy interest in how religion affects political news — and Sunlen Miller. He has covered Obama for years and noticed the dramatic shift in how the president now discusses his ties to Islam. It’s written in the less formal style of a blog post but it gets the goods:

The other day we heard a comment from a White House aide that never would have been uttered during the primaries or general election campaign.

During a conference call in preparation for President Obama’s trip to Cairo, Egypt, where he will address the Muslim world, deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Denis McDonough said “the President himself experienced Islam on three continents before he was able to — or before he’s been able to visit, really, the heart of the Islamic world — you know, growing up in Indonesia, having a Muslim father — obviously Muslim Americans (are) a key part of Illinois and Chicago.”

Given widespread unease and prejudice against Muslims among Americans, especially in the wake of 9/11, the Obama campaign was perhaps understandably very sensitive during the primaries and general election to downplay the candidate’s Muslim roots.

The candidate was even offended when referred to by his initials “BHO,” because he considered the use of his middle name, “Hussein,” an attempt to frighten voters.

With insane rumors suggesting he was some sort of Muslim Manchurian candidate, then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and his campaign did everything they could to emphasize his Christianity and de-emphasize the fact that his father, Barack Obama Sr., was born Muslim.

The candidate’s comment at a Boca Raton, Florida, town hall meeting on May 22, 2008, was typical: “My father was basically agnostic, as far as I can tell, and I didn’t know him,” he said.

In September 2008, candidate Obama told a Pennsylvania crowd, “I know that I’m not your typical presidential candidate and I just want to be honest with you. I know that the temptation is to say, ‘You know what? The guy hasn’t been there that long in Washington. You know, he’s got a funny name. You know, we’re not sure about him.’ And that’s what the Republicans when they say this isn’t about issues, it’s about personalities, what they’re really saying is, ‘We’re going to try to scare people about Barack. So we’re going to say that, you know, maybe he’s got Muslim connections.’…Just making stuff up.”

Well, now those Muslim connections aren’t “made up” so much as highlighted by the White House. Such a dramatic shift isn’t surprising — this is what politicians do — but it is interesting and it’s nice to see at least one mainstream outlet notice it. It might also be nice to see some analysis of the change. I won’t hold my breath, however.

Print Friendly

  • Jerry

    I think this is an interesting story but think it might be a bit premature. If there is a media discussion I think it would or perhaps should occur around his statement in Cairo.

  • the man who knows all

    a Muslim connection….. only time will tell…..

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    During the presidential campaign anyone who brought up Obama’s Muslim connections and roots was smeared, derided, insulted by the MSM at the behest of Obama supporters.
    Now he brags about them as he kowtows to the Muslim world.
    But , of course, the MSM–except Fox and Talk Radio–refuses to even mention this complete about face and the censorship by ridicule of which the MSM was a part.

  • Jerry

    Following the whitehouse twitter feed, I came across this reference which gives a bit of a preview of Obama’s speech tomorrow which will no doubt reflect upon the history of Islam in America which goes back to Thomas Jefferson. Based on some comments here, clearly some people will be very unhappy:

    The history of the relationship between America and the Muslim World is deeper and more complex than the common perception might suggest. Thomas Jefferson taught himself Arabic using his own Quran kept in his personal library, and had the first known presidential Iftaar by breaking fast with the Tunisian Ambassador at sunset. President Dwight Eisenhower attended the dedication ceremony of the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C. on June 28, 1957. President Bill Clinton issued the first presidential greeting for Ramadan, appointed the first Muslim American ambassador, M. Osman Siddique, to Fiji, and sent the first presidential Eid al-Adha greeting to Muslims. And one year after President George W. Bush placed the Holy Quran in the White House library in 2005, Representative Keith Ellison took the oath of office on the same Quran owned by Thomas Jefferson two hundred years before.


  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    Also during the campaign, I could not help wondering how many of the bloggers who made a pseudo-issue of “Barack HUSSEIN Obama” were among those who complained about Democrat sneers at “J. DANFORTH Quayle, snicker, snicker.” Or the ones at Bush senior for having four names instead of three (or is it two) like us regular people, proving that he was a no-good PREPPY.

  • Julia

    President Jefferson is also the guy who secretly sent the Marines to Tripoli to rescue kidnapped Americans being held for ransom by the local Muslims sheiks – that’s the source of “the shores of Tripoli” in the Marine Hymn.

    I wonder if that will be mentioned.

    SEE The Pirate Coast by Richard Zacks of which the New York Times said “It is a tale of high ideals, derring-do, [and]extraordinary courage.”

    What’s wrong with DANFORTH as a middle name? Senator John Danforth (R MO), an Episcopal priest, was very highly regarded by both parties as the conscience of the Senate. He presided at Reagan’s funeral and other major political figures. His brother William was a much revered president of Washington University in St. Louis. The Danforth Foundation is a most generous donor in the St Louis area. I don’t remember any snickers about Quayle’s middle name from any source – and can’t imagine why it would be rediculed.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    It was done IN the VP debates.

  • Franklin Jennings

    Really, Will, that’s your big issue? Ever try go-kart racing, or needlepoint?

  • http://www.gettomass.com John 6:54

    Is it 2012 yet?