The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

May 2, 2012

What’s in a name? Just ask Newt (2-15-2012)

By Adam Smith
adam@athensnews-courier.com

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Each presidential election season gets me to thinking.

Yes, I know that’s a dangerous concept.

This week, I’ve been thinking about the names of our presidents, or our potential next president. Two of the top Republican contenders — Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich — don’t possess classic names. Then again, our current president doesn’t either.

On election night in 2008, I wasn’t dumbfounded by the fact that Americans had elected a black man as president. I was, however, perplexed that we had elected a president named Barack Obama. It’s not exactly a baseball and mom’s apple pie kind of name.

Of course, President Obama’s detractors — when they’re not busy asking for copies of his birth certificate — like to refer to him by his whole name, Barack Hussein Obama. During the heated election year of 2008, haters of all things remotely Democratic liked to point out that the Democratic frontrunner shared a middle name with Saddam Hussein, ranked at the time as the world’s third most-hated person behind Osama bin Laden (1) and Ryan Seacrest (2).

Ironically, Obama is now the world’s third most-hated person behind Donald Trump (1) and Ryan Seacrest (2). Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Karl Rove are in a statistic dead-heat for fourth place. It’s true; look it up.

We want our president to have good, sturdy, American names like George, James, Andrew, Abraham, John and Richard. If those names are also biblical in nature, it certainly can’t hurt his chances. And I say “his” chances, because who ever heard of a woman president? Just kidding, ladies.

Mitt and Newt certainly don’t qualify as good, sturdy, American names in my book. Mitt sounds like a nickname for a grotesquely ugly fellow whose face resembles — what else — a catcher’s mitt. I’m not sure how I’d classify the name Newt. While it sounds like a delicious Nabisco snack made of fruit and cake, it also bears resemblance to the name of an undiscovered alien race.

Barack — clearly not a good, sturdy American name — obviously makes us think of Middle Eastern oil tycoons riding in chrome, bullet-proof vehicles through the desert as they sip champagne and laugh at our high gasoline prices. That’s what his name makes me think of anyway.

Now there are two other Republican candidates — Rick Santorum and Ron Paul — with perfectly acceptable names. Of course, I’d have a hard time voting for anyone whose first and last names are really two first names. And “President Santorum” also sounds odd to my ears.

I could never run for president because my name is too bland. Adam is a biblical name, sure, but there will never be a President Smith in the White House. Even I wouldn’t vote for President Smith.

For starters, there are too many Smiths in the world. It’s likely there are hundreds of millions of us and we’re multiplying on a daily basis. Perhaps we are that undiscovered alien race I referred to earlier.

If I ever became president, I’d feel pressured to bow to the concerns and wishes of the Smiths of the world. We are a very powerful lobbying group, after all. I’d have to offer large tax breaks to only the Smiths who owned businesses or large industries like Mrs. Smith’s, Smith & Wesson, the Smith Industry and Smith Manufacturing.

People named Jones or Johnson would just be out of luck.

I’d also likely be forced to offer free health care and entitlement programs to people only named Smith. And ultimately, the Jones’ and Johnson’s would end up paying more taxes to help me fund my pro-Smith agenda.

I’m sure the haters of the world would brand me with some disrespectful nickname, just like they did with Richard Nixon (Tricky Dick), Bill Clinton (Slick Willie) and George W. Bush (Idiot). I don’t know what my nickname would be, but I can imagine it would be pretty harsh.

So, it’s clear that my name will not lead me to a position of political power, and maybe that’s for the best. I’m more than happy to let the Mitts, Newts and Baracks solve the world’s problems for me.