Monday, December 1, 2008

The Oath

At noon on January 20, 2009, Barack Obama will take the oath of office. The Los Angeles Times says he should use his full name.

When George W. Bush was sworn in for his second term in 2005, he began his oath of office with the words: “I, George Walker Bush.” Never mind that Bush isn’t in the habit of using his middle name (as opposed to his middle initial, which became the title of an Oliver Stone movie). In inaugural oaths, as in baptisms and other ceremonies, the addition of middle names adds an appropriate note of solemnity.

No controversy surrounded Bush’s inclusion of his middle name in the oath. The same might not be true of a decision by Barack Obama to take his oath as “Barack Hussein Obama” — which is precisely why he should do so.

For one thing, it will give all the righties something to get their knickers in a twist over, which is always fun to watch (and they will still be climbing down from their rants over the “war on Christmas”), and, as the editorial notes, it sends a signal to those who have a name that isn’t dripping with a WASPish pedigree that it’s okay to say your name out loud.

There was a similar dust-up in 1977 when Jimmy Carter was sworn in as “Jimmy Carter” instead of using his full name, James Earl Carter. Most of the grumping about the lack of solemnity by the new president came from the righties who were sure that the White House would then be turned into a feed store with bubbas sitting outside consuming Dr. Pepper and Moon Pies. Now they’re worried that by invoking his full name, President Obama will somehow summon forth all the spirits of whatever it is that goes with a name that he inherited from his father. It’s like “Hussein” is Arabic for Voldemort.

If there’s anything more trivial to get upset about in our current situation, I can’t think of it. But I’m sure the righties will come up with something.