In a February 9 article for The Politico titled "Undoing Obama: Inside the Coming Effort to Dismantle a Candidate," chief political correspondent Mike Allen claimed one of Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) "big vulnerabilities" in the 2008 presidential race is "his frank liberalism in a time when the party needs centrist voters." As evidence of Obama's "frank liberalism," Allen cited Obama's support for "civil unions for gay people." However, Allen ignored the fact that polling shows the majority of Americans as well as the majority of self-identified "independents" favor same-sex marriage or same-sex civil unions.
Also, Allen claimed that Obama's name is another potential weakness, and suggested that Obama has been inconsistent in explaining its origins, writing: "Why has he sometimes said his first name is Arabic, and other times Swahili?" In fact, "Barack" is the Swahili derivative of the Arabic word meaning "blessing."
In interviews, strategists in both parties pointed to four big vulnerabilities: Obama's inexperience, the thinness of his policy record, his frank liberalism in a time when the party needs centrist voters and the wealth of targets that are provided by the personal recollections in his first book, from past drug use to conversations that cannot be documented.
He went on to offer a "capsulized look" at Obama's "liberalism," writing:
The senator is unabashedly more liberal than the centrist path charted by President Bill Clinton. Back in 1996, a Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter wrote that Obama -- then the Democratic nominee from his state Senate district - sighed when asked about the fall election. "Bill Clinton?" Obama was quoted as asking. "Well, his campaign's fascinating to a student of politics. It's disturbing to someone who cares about certain issues. But politically, it seems to be working."
"Audacity of Hope" advocates civil unions for gay people, declaring tartly that Obama is not "willing to accept a reading of the Bible that considers an obscure line in Romans to be more defining of Christianity than the Sermon on the Mount." He says he doesn't "believe we strengthen the family by bullying or coercing people into the relationships we think are best for them -- or by punishing those who fail to meet our standards of sexual propriety."
He writes that Bill Clinton and conservatives turned out to be "right about welfare as it was previously structured." He adds, "But we also need to admit that work alone does not ensure that people can rise out of poverty."
However, polling data have shown that majorities of Americans and "independents" favor either same-sex marriage or same-sex civil unions -- undermining Allen's suggestion that Obama's support for civil unions will alienate "centrist" voters. According to a November 4-5, 2006, Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, 60 percent of respondents favor allowing same-sex couples "to get legally married" or enter into "a legal partnership similar to but not called marriage." An October 27-31, 2006, CBS News/New York Times poll found that 57 percent of all Americans, and 59 percent of "Independents," favor allowing same-sex couples to marry or enter into civil unions. An October 26-27, 2006, Newsweek poll found that 50 percent of Americans, and 56 percent of "independents," favor full marriage rights or civil unions for same-sex couples.
Allen also suggested Obama has been inconsistent in explaining the etymology of his first name, asking, "Why has he sometimes said his first name is Arabic, and other times Swahili?" Allen added:
Even his name offers fodder for the critics. When he was growing up, his family, friends and teachers called him "Barry." Then as a young man, he started insisting on "Barack," explaining in a memoir published in 1995 that his grandfather was a Muslim and that it means "blessed" in Arabic. His dad, who was Kenyan, had gone by "Barry" -- probably trying to fit in when he came to the States, his son figured. On the campaign trail during his 1994 Senate race, Obama told reporters that "Barack" was Swahili for "blessed by God."
According to Yale University's "Kamusi Project" -- the "Internet Living Swahili Dictionary" -- the Swahili word "baraka," meaning "blessing," is derived from the Arabic word "bariki." According to a January 12, 2004, Copley News Service article: "In an interview last week, Obama said he decided to call himself Barack -- a Swahili derivative of Arabic that means 'blessed,' as 'baruch' does in Hebrew -- after his father died."