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GOP's Hobbs in Another Obama Controversy

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Bill Hobbs, the Tennessee Republican Party communications director whose flirtations with notoriety have more than once gained him national attention, is on the hot seat again – once more because of a sally against someone named Obama.

Back in February, Hobbs put out one of his patented incendiary press releases, this one referring to the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee by his whole name, “Barack Hussein Obama,” showing a photograph of the Illinois senator wearing native Kenyan clothes (misidentified as “Muslim garb”) on a visit to his father’s ancestral African homeland, and, as some read the release, imputing to Obama anti-Semitism or at least lackluster support for the State of Israel.

That release was roundly denounced in political and media circles and was explicitly repudiated by Tennessee’s two Republican senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker; by 7th District congressman Marsha Blackburn; by Republican National Committee chairman Mike Duncan; and by presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain.

At the time, there was speculation that Hobbs might lose his job, but the annual meeting of the state Republican Party’s executive committee came and went with Hobbs still in the saddle.

So at length Hobbs evidently decided to launch another Obama shot – at Michelle Obama this time, the candidate’s wife, who stopped over in Nashville last week. Coinciding with her visit was a new Tennessee Republican Party press release with an embedded video showing various Nashvillians finding fault with a stump statement by Michelle Obama; “For the first time in my adult lifetime I'm really proud of my country."

The cameos in the video were devoted more to generalized patriotic fustian than to attacks on Michelle Obama per se, but by mid-week Senators Alexander and Corker announced through spokespersons that they were once again displeased. Corker’s chief of staff, Todd Womack, said Alexander had “strongly encouraged the national party and state parties to absolutely refrain from getting involved in negative personal campaigning.”

Meanwhile, Hobbs had succeeded in getting a rise out of Barack Obama himself. Appearing Monday with his wife on the ABC-TV show, Good Morning America, the candidate blasted the Tennessee GOP press release as “low class” and “detestable,” and said, "These folks should lay off my wife. All right? Just in case they're watching. If they think that they're going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign, they should be careful - because that I find unacceptable.”

To which, Hobbs said candidate Obama had been ‘hypocritical,” “condescending,” and “scary,” and insisted on his right to be critical of Michelle Obama as a campaign surrogate for her husband.

  • Barack Obama drew both support and disagreement from another Tennesseean last week. Harold Ford Jr., the former 9th District congressman from Memphis and the current head of the center-right Democratic Leadership Council, first defended Obama – as did fellow MSNBC pundit Pat Buchanan – against an implied accusation of “appeasement” from President Bush, who, speaking to a meeting of the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem, warned against diplomatic dealing with terrorists.

    But on NBC’s Meet the Press show on Sunday, Ford was coaxed into some mild criticism of his own concerning Obama’s professed willingness to start unconditional one-on-one discussions with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Said Ford: “I'll concede, you cannot meet with foreign leaders — with terrorists, rather, those that lead rogue nations — without some conditions.”

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