What's In A Middle Name?

 For the second time in three days, a rally for the Republican presidential ticket invoked Democrat Barack Obama

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP) -- For the second time in three days, a rally for the Republican presidential ticket invoked Democrat Barack Obama's middle name, Hussein, in an attempt to add to doubts about his background, faith and campaign.

Before John McCain and running mate Sarah Palin arrived at their rally in eastern Pennsylvania, Lehigh County GOP Chairman Bill Platt twice used Obama's middle name. Neither McCain nor Palin referred to Platt's remarks when they spoke, but their campaign quickly issued a statement saying it did not condone "this inappropriate rhetoric."

McCain has called the use of Obama's middle name both improper and inappropriate and once apologized after a supporter warming up a rally used it. Referring to Hussein - a name Obama shares most famously with deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein - is widely viewed as an effort to link Obama to radical Islam even though he is a Christian with no such ties.

Shouts of "socialist," "terrorist" and "liar" from supporters followed McCain's references to Obama at Lehigh University.

In Florida on Monday, a sheriff told voters at a Palin rally: "On Nov. 4, let's leave Barack Hussein Obama wondering what happened."

When a radio talk-show host referred to "Barack Hussein Obama" three times before McCain took the stage at a rally in Cincinnati in February, McCain quickly distanced himself from the remarks. At the time, Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton were competing for the Democratic nomination.

"I did not know about these remarks, but I take responsibility for them. I repudiate them," McCain told reporters after that Ohio rally. "My entire campaign I have treated Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton with respect. I will continue to do that throughout this campaign."

Yet McCain left it to his campaign to issue an e-mail to reporters to distance the Arizona senator from Platt's remarks Wednesday.

"We do not condone this inappropriate rhetoric which distracts from the real questions of judgment, character and experience that voters will base their decisions on this November," McCain spokesman Paul Lindsay said.


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