The Mysterious Mr. Cunningham


Over at an Ohio campaign rally for John McCain, we just saw something that could set the tone for the general election. Talk radio host Bill Cunningham warmed up the crowd by repeatedly emphasizing Obama's middle name, "Hussein."

Hussein is Obama's middle name, but talk show host Bill Cunningham used it three times as he addressed the crowd before the likely Republican nominee's appearance.

"Now we have a hack, Chicago-style Daley politician who is picturing himself as change. When he gets done with you, all you're going to have in your pocket is change," Cunningham said as the audience roared.

The time will come, Cunningham added, when the media will "peel the bark off Barack Hussein Obama" and tell the truth about his relationship with indicted fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko and how Obama got "sweetheart deals" in Chicago.

MSNBC asked the campaign about Cunningham and they pleaded dumb: They invite local radio hosts onstage all the time! They couldn't have known that Cunningham's shtick is… well, it's calling Obama "Barack Hussein Obama," hitting that middle name like a slow-moving whack-a-mole.

[A]fter the so-called "white voters" in Iowa and New Hampshire weighed in heavily, especially in Iowa, for Barack Hussein Obama and then in New Hampshire, Hillary kind of made a little bit of a comeback. There has been a conscious effort by Bubba Clinton to smear and to slime Barack Hussein Obama on the race issue… The Clintons know what they are doing, and I'm afraid Barack Hussein Obama does not.

This is what Cunningham says on TV. On the radio he sheds the "I'm jes' sayin' his name" pretention and calls Obama "Barack Mohammad Hussein Obama." And prior to this he's gotten well known in southwestern Ohio for hurling dung at Democrats. In 2006 he and Jerome Corsi (of "Swift Boat" fame) pushed the rumor that now-Gov. Ted Strickland was a closeted gay who took his "boy toy" on a trip to Italy. Cunningham and Corsi convinced Republican candidate Ken Blackwell to try and attack Strickland on that front, and it was hilarious.

What I take away from today's story, though, is this:

McCain apologized three separate times for Cunningham's remarks. He said he takes "responsibility" for him being here but says he has no idea who chose him and says he doesn't know him and didn't hear the comments when they were uttered but was told about them before he came on stage.

Yes, conservative talk radio has patched up relations with McCain temporarily over the NYT story. But George W. Bush seemed a bit more comfortable with letting allies lob grenades than McCain does. So did Mitt Romney, and so, probably, would have Fred Thompson. I wonder how much trouble McCain will have keeping the activist right in line if he keeps blubbering and apologizing when they say what they want to say. I just don't get the feeling it's a well-oiled machine; I think McCain will keep caving on this stuff.