In a December 18 column headlined "Barack Hussein Obama: Once a Muslim, Always A Muslim" and posted on her website, right-wing pundit Debbie Schlussel argued that because Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) middle name is Hussein, his late, estranged father was of Muslim descent, and he has shown interest in his father's Kenyan heritage, Obama's "loyalties" must be called into question as he emerges as a possible Democratic presidential candidate. In the column, Schlussel asked: "So, even if he identifies strongly as a Christian ... is a man who Muslims think is a Muslim, who feels some sort of psychological need to prove himself to his absent Muslim father, and who is now moving in the direction of his father's heritage, a man we want as President when we are fighting the war of our lives against Islam? Where will his loyalties be?" She ended her column by asking if Obama becoming vice president instead would be acceptable. Answering her own question, she wrote: "NO WAY, JOSE ... Or, is that, HUSSEIN?"
In questioning Obama's "loyalties," Schlussel immediately noted his middle name and then pointed to several "items in his background." First, she wrote that Obama's father was "apparently a Muslim." She went on to note that his mother's second husband was an Indonesian man, whom Schlussel described as "likely a Muslim." She also brought up a March 3, 2004, Salon.com article by Scott Turow which noted that Obama attended a Muslim school while living in Indonesia. But in citing these "items" as evidence of Obama's Muslim leanings, Schlussel ignored several pertinent facts. First, she left out that Turow made clear in his 2004 article that, during his time in Indonesia, Obama transferred to a Catholic school:
[T]he new family moved to Djakarta, where Obama's sister Maya was born. (Obama describes her looks as those "of a Latin queen.")
After two years in a Muslim school, then two more in a Catholic school, Obama was sent by his mother back to her parents' home so that he could attend Hawaii's esteemed Punahou Academy.
Schlussel also left out Obama's assertions in the past that both his father and stepfather were "non-practicing" Muslims. From an April 5, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times article:
Obama describes his father, after whom he is named, as "agnostic." His paternal grandfather was a Muslim. His mother, he says, was a Christian.
When he was 6 years old, after his parents divorced, Obama moved with his mother and her new husband -- a non-practicing Muslim -- to Indonesia, where he lived until he was 10 and attended a Roman Catholic school.
"I went to a Catholic school in a Muslim country, so I was studying the Bible and catechisms by day, and, at night, you'd hear the [Muslim] prayer call," Obama recalls. "My mother was a deeply spiritual person and would spend a lot of time talking about values and give me books about the world's religions and talk to me about them.
Schlussel's column fits into a larger pattern in the recent media coverage and commentary regarding Obama. Indeed, like Schlussel -- who has repeatedly appeared on MSNBC in the past -- numerous media figures have gone out of their way to highlight Obama's middle name in recent weeks:
- During MSNBC's special election coverage on November 7, co-anchor Chris Matthews remarked that Obama's "middle name is Hussein" and suggested that it would "be interesting down the road."
- On November 27, MSNBC host Tucker Carlson referred to radio host Bill Press as "a true member of the Barack Hussein Obama fan club."
- During the November 28 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, Republican strategist Ed Rogers referred to "Barack Hussein Obama."
- On the December 5 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, senior political correspondent Carl Cameron told viewers: "Though he's written two books about himself already, most people know very little about Barack Hussein Obama Junior's uncommonly privileged life."
- On the December 11 edition of CNN's Situation Room, correspondent Jeanne Moos noted that "[o]nly one little consonant differentiates" Obama and Osama. She then added, "[A]s if that similarity weren't enough. How about sharing the name of a former dictator? You know his middle name, Hussein."
- On the December 11 edition of The Situation Room, CNN senior political analyst Jeff Greenfield compared the similarity of Obama's "business casual" clothing to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "jacket-and-no-tie look." Greenfield concluded the segment by saying: "Now, it is one thing to have a last name that sounds like Osama and a middle name, Hussein, that is probably less than helpful. But an outfit that reminds people of a charter member of the axis of evil, why, this could leave his presidential hopes hanging by a thread." He later explained on the CNN website that he was making "a joke."
- On December 13, Matthews teased another interview with Rogers by describing the strategist as "the one who just loves Barack Obama's middle name Hussein."
- On the December 14 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio program, Rush Limbaugh gave Obama a "nickname" -- "Barack Hussein Odumbo" (in reference to Obama's "big ears").
- On the December 14 edition of Hardball, NBC's Mike Viqueira announced "a man named Barack Obama, whose middle name, incidentally, is Hussein, running for president."
According to Schlussel's online bio, she claims "unique expertise on radical Islam/Islamic terrorism and a host of other issues" and that her "online fan club is the Internet's second largest for a political personality -- behind only Ann Coulter."
From Schlussel's December 18 column:
Many months ago, readers began asking me whether Barack Obama is Muslim. Since he identifies as a Christian, I said, "no," and responded that he was not raised by his Kenyan father.
But, then, I decided to look further into Obama's background. His full name -- as by now you have probably heard -- is Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. Hussein is a Muslim name, which comes from the name of Ali's son -- Hussein Ibn Ali. And Obama is named after his late Kenyan father, the late Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., apparently a Muslim.
And while Obama may not identify as a Muslim, that's not how the Arab and Muslim Streets see it. In Arab culture and under Islamic law, if your father is a Muslim, so are you. And once a Muslim, always a Muslim. You cannot go back. In Islamic eyes, Obama is certainly a Muslim. He may think he's a Christian, but they do not.
Then, there are the other items in his background. As best-selling author Scott Turow wrote in Salon, Obama went to a Muslim school for two years in Indonesia. His mother, Anna, married an Indonesian man (likely another Muslim, as Indonesia is Muslim-dominated and has the largest Islamic population in the world).
And Obama has a "born-again" affinity for the nation of his Muslim father, Kenya, and his Kenyan sister. (Although Kenya is largely Christian, it has a fast-growing Muslim population that has engaged in a good deal of religious violence and riots against Christians. And Kenyan courts will apply Sharia law, when the participants are Muslim.) Wrote Turow:
Obama's father died in a traffic accident in Nairobi in 1982, but while Obama was working in Chicago, he met his Kenyan sister, Auma, a linguist educated in Germany who was visiting the United States. When she returned to Kenya in 1986 to teach for a year at the University of Nairobi, Obama finally made the trip to his father's homeland he had long promised himself. There, he managed to fully embrace a heritage and a family he'd never fully known and come to terms with his father, whom he'd long regarded as an august foreign prince, but now realized was a human being burdened by his own illusions and vulnerabilities.
So, even if he identifies strongly as a Christian, and even if he despised the behavior of his father (as Obama said on Oprah); is a man who Muslims think is a Muslim, who feels some sort of psychological need to prove himself to his absent Muslim father, and who is now moving in the direction of his father's heritage, a man we want as President when we are fighting the war of our lives against Islam? Where will his loyalties be?
Is that even the man we'd want to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency, if Hillary Clinton offers him the Vice Presidential candidacy on her ticket (which he certainly wouldn't turn down)?
NO WAY, JOSE ... Or, is that, HUSSEIN?