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Obama Does Boca


Obama arrived at Congregation B'nai Torah to sustained applause, and several people wore buttons with his name in Hebrew. But some tensions quickly emerged.

The first questioner praised Obama, then noted that a friend had said: "If Barack Obama would change his name to Barry, I would vote for him."

Obama replied that as a child he was nicknamed Barry. He is named after his Kenyan father, and as a young man he chose to use his full first name to acknowledge his heritage.

"Let's be honest, part of what raises concerns is you've got a black guy named Barack Obama," he said. "So people say, 'He's got kind of a Muslim-sounding name, and we don't know what's going on here.' "

A man who identified himself as Michael Ackerman of Boca Raton read a list of Arab activists and intellectuals whom Obama had met with. To scattered boos, he asked Obama to name Jews who could vouch for him.

Obama bristled as he rattled off several names, including Penny Pritzker, his campaign finance chairwoman; Lee Rosenberg, a board member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group; and Abner J. Mikva, White House counsel to President Clinton.

"One of the raps on me when I first ran for Congress in the African American community is 'He's too close to the Jewish community. All his friends are Jews,' " Obama said. "That's part of the reason why this kind of conversation is frustrating."

P.S. Joe Lieberman's role in this campaign is inherently interesting, but as Tom Bevan notes, that will be especially true in places like this. 

--Michael Crowley