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I think Kevin Drum has it mostly right on Bob Kerrey's Barack "Hussein" Obama comment/gaffe:

Kerrey wasn't suggesting that electing Obama would have any direct effect on hardcore al-Qaeda jihadists. But terrorists can't function unless they have a critical mass of support or, at a minimum, tolerance from a surrounding population. This is Mao's sea in which the jihadists swim. Without it, terrorists simply don't have enough freedom of movement to be effective, and their careers are short. It's why the Red Brigades in Italy and the Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany lasted only a few years, while the IRA in Ireland has lasted decades.

What Kerrey was getting at was simple: in the long run, the only way to defeat the hardcore jihadists is to dry up their support in the surrounding Muslim world. And on that score, a president with black skin, a Muslim father, and a middle name of Hussein, might very well be pretty helpful.

And the fact that he shares the name with one of the most significant martyrs in Shia Islam would probably be a valuable tool in negotiating with Iran, a place where martyrdom and Islam play a prominent role in history, as well as everyday politics.

It doesn't mean Obama would be the best person for the job, but it does give him a sliver of commonality with a world that is leery and suspicious of American intentions.

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