What’s in a name?

Barack Obama, Sr.

Barack Obama, Sr. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

William Shakespeare

Ronald Reagan‘s middle name was Wilson, but no one ever criticized him for it because he was given his names when he was born and did not choose them himself. Some in the GOP strongly dislike President Woodrow Wilson since he was a liberal Democrat.

On the other hand, today President Obama is criticized for his middle name, Hussein. He was given that name by his parents, being named for his father of the same name. President Obama is correctly identified as Barack Hussein Obama II, just as John McCain is correctly identified as John Sidney McCain III and Mitt Romney as Willard Mitt Romney.

The only thing we learn when someone refers to President Obama as Barack Hussein Obama is that the speaker or writer wants to emphasize the President’s difference and is probably calling for unjustified impeachment.

Barack at Osawatomie

English: John Brown Museum in Osawatomie, Kansas

Image via Wikipedia

Osawatomie, Kansas is 50 miles South-South-West of Kansas City, Missouri. It was the site on August 31, 1910, of a speech by Teddy Roosevelt (TR) that laid out his vision of a progressive America. Days before Barack Obama was scheduled to deliver a speech of his version of a progressive America, some conservative bloggers were already denouncing what the President had yet to say. In the days ahead, it will be repeated endlessly that TR lost the 1912 election after delivering what was then and would be now a controversial speech. Conventional wisdom is that TR split the Republican vote, giving the election to Woodrow Wilson, whose first name incidentally was Thomas.

That is one interpretation of the vote totals, but I would like to suggest another. The period between McKinley‘s assassination and the end of WW1 was a progressive era, and as hard as it is to believe even some Republicans were progressives. I am not an expert on the 1912 election, although I am reading biographies of TR and Wilson, I have not reached the 1912 election in either book. The third candidate in the race was Taft who later went on to become Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. I am looking forward with great interest to reading about Taft’s life because he was President when my mother was a child and my father was a teenager.

The vote totals in 1912 in rounded numbers
Wilson   6,300,000  42%
TR         4,100,000  27.5%
Taft        3,500,000  23%
Debs         900,000     6%

Debs was the Socialist candidate, and I am going to add his votes to those of Wilson and TR to get a progressive total of 75+%. TR was a former President and Taft was the sitting President. I am speculating that the voters wanted a progressive candidate and that they wanted a fresh face. Wilson had a sterling record as President of Princeton and Governor of New Jersey. Anyway that is my theory and it does require additional study on my part to either confirm or deny.

Presidential trivia

Seal of the President of the United States

Image via Wikipedia

This is the start of a regular feature that will continue as an Aside. I enjoy sharing bits of Presidential trivia.

Thomas Jefferson preferred the written word over the spoken word. He gave only two speeches during his eight years as President, his first and second inaugural addresses.

Teddy Roosevelt was a voracious reader and writer. He read all 47 of Anthony Trollope’s books in one year.

Woodrow Wilson’s first name was Thomas.

U. S. Grant’s first name was Samuel. When he applied to West Point, his first and second names were reversed and he never changed their order. Grant was a close friend of Mark Twain.

LBJ earned the nickname Light Bulb Johnson by turning out the lights in the White House when not in use.

JFK suffered migraine headaches if he did not have a sexual encounter every three to four days.

Jimmy Carter immersed himself in the details of his office. He personally scheduled the use of the White House tennis courts.

Dwight Eisenhower was noted for his sometimes convoluted speech. He did this on purpose to confuse his questioners in the press.

Andrew Johnson was so highly regarded by the voters of his time that he was regarded as a second Andy Jackson.