No Apologies for Obama Remarks, Republican Lawmaker Says

By Penny Starr | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT

( - Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said he stands by his remarks to an Iowa radio station last week that a Barack Obama presidency would be seen as a win for al-Qaeda and other Muslim extremists.

"I don't want to disparage anyone because of their race, their ethnicity, their name -- whatever their religion their father might have been," King told KICD radio in Spencer, Iowa on Friday, March 7. "I'll just say this: When you think about the optics of a Barack Obama potentially getting elected President of the United States -- I mean, what does this look like to the rest of the world? What does it look like to the world of Islam?"

Sen. Obama of Illinois is the frontrunner in the Democratic Party's campaign to elect a nominee to run for president. Despite criticism on blogs and being grilled by TV commentators and reporters, King continues to defend his statements that Obama's foreign policy -- and middle name -- would make his election detrimental to U.S. security.

"The fact that he has declared defeat in Iraq and said he would get the troops out immediately -- that clearly sends a message," King told Cybercast News Service. "Who do you think al Qaeda is for? Who are our enemies for? Who are the radical Islamics for? It's going to be Obama first, Hillary second, because they don't want to face a United States that's determined to achieve a victory." Listen to audio

On the radio last week, King also said of Obama: "If he is elected president, then the, the radical Islamists, the, the al Qaeda, and the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11."

Obama has built a large part of his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president around his vote against the invasion of Iraq. He states on his Web site that "the surge is not working," and his plans to end the hostilities there are detailed.

"Obama would immediately begin to pull out troops engaged in combat operations at a pace of one or two brigades every month, to be completed by the end of next year," the Web site states.

The Web site also states, however, that some troops would be kept in Iraq. It reads: "(Obama) will keep some troops in Iraq to protect our embassy and diplomats; if al-Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes on al-Qaeda."

King said a president with the middle name 'Hussein' would send a message.

"With regard to his middle name, it shouldn't matter here in the United States if you are running for president," King told Cybercast News Service. "One of the reasons it shouldn't is because we change our religion; the religion of our father is not necessarily our religion by the time we go through adulthood."

"In the Muslim world, it's different," he said. "The religion you're born with is the religion you'll die with, up to and above the 99 percentile." Listen to audio

According to one expert, however, Obama is just one of many famous Americans whose names have Semitic roots.

"I want to say something about Barack Hussein Obama's name," Juan R. I. Cole -- the Richard P. Mitchell Distinguished University Professor of History at the University of Michigan, who has written extensively about Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and South Asia -- stated in an essay on his Web site. "It is a heroic name, as heroic and American in its own way as the name of Gen. Omar Nelson Bradley or the name of Benjamin Franklin" -- both names being derived from Semitic languages, said Cole.

Cole further said that 14 of the 43 U.S. presidents have names with Semitic roots, including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Abraham Lincoln.

Rep. King said Obama's name, however, might not be as big an issue if his foreign policy sent the right message to America's enemies.

"(His name) wouldn't matter as much if he was determined to win the war, but he's been determined to declare defeat," King said. "If the commander-in-chief , the leader of the free world and the only superpower in the world, if he declares defeat, you'd have to be a moron to think the enemy aren't going to declare victory."

"When they do, are they going to celebrate? The answer is yes," said King. "They celebrated Sept. 11 and they'll celebrate in greater numbers if he's elected president." Listen to audio

King also is sticking to his refusal to apologize for his comments.

"I don't feel any need to apologize," he said. "I stand by what I said. If I'm wrong, I'll apologize. I'm not wrong and (critics) know it. I'd like to have them stand up and say if they're wrong, they'll apologize."

"Let's have a crow dinner," he said. "Someone will have to eat it, me or them. And I don't think it will be me. And they don't think so either." Listen to audio

Jill Hazelbaker, communications director for GOP presidential hopeful John McCain (R-Az.) said: "The Senator rejects the type of politics that degrades our civics and this campaign will be about the future of our country. [Sen.] McCain could not be clearer on how he views these types of comments and obviously that view extends to Congressman King's statement."

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