A Tempered Defense of Bill Hobbs


Just bear with me here, and don't gloss over the word "tempered" in the headline. Sure, the Tennessee GOP's press release this week was colossally misguided, and the GOP's decision to use Barack Obama's middle name, Hussein, was an unconscionable gutter bomb. But before this runaway train gets too far down the tracks, it bears reminding that Hobbs hit send on the press release before John McCain issued a fatwa against any partisan use of Obama's middle name. Plus, the content of the GOP missive seized on a legitimate issue that even NBC's Tim Russert raised at the presidential debate Tuesday night—a handful of prominent anti-Semites are supporting Obama. Hobbs—who, by the way, our sources say isn't being canned because of the controversy, as one blogger suggested—tells the Scene, as he had Newsweek and other outlets, that he concedes the point about the name (although he manages not to sound the least bit remorseful). "Was it a mistake? Yeah, it was a mistake to use his middle name and photo, because it served as a distraction to the point of the release, which was raising questions about where Obama stands on the security of Israel." The release, titled "Anti-Semites for Obama," went out at 1 p.m. Monday, and on national television Tuesday night Russert asked Obama the very question at the heart of the state Republican Party's propaganda: about the support of the legendarily anti-Semitic and thoroughly whacked Louis Farrakhan. It was a story, and Hobbs recognized it as such. Obama, of course, answered that he didn't solicit and wasn't pleased by Farrakhan's endorsement. Moreover, it wasn't until John McCain on Tuesday repudiated a talk show host for using Obama's middle name that this story started getting coast-to-coast legs. There was silence within the MSM and even among Democrats about the release until that. In fact, GOP chair Robin Smith and state Democratic Party head Gray Sasser sat together on a panel Tuesday afternoon, and the issue never surfaced. Following McCain's statement, what got lost in the exuberance of reportage about Tennessee's admittedly cornpone GOP was the timeline. (Thanks, ACK.) By virtue of when media outlets began picking up the story of the press release, it seemed that the Tennessee GOP had gone and done something absurd (using the name Hussein) after their presidential nominee to-be had just castigated a talking head for that very act of stupidity. That wasn't the case. It just seems to me that these modest defenses of Hobbs, whose poor judgment the Scene hasn't been shy to chronicle in the past, are only fair. Incidentally, the last thing the state GOP should do is fire Hobbs, because they'd look like bigger morons than they already do. After all, they kind of knew what they were getting when they brought him on; it's not like his willingness to rip on Muslims publicly was some kind of secret. Beyond that, Hobbs has become the lightning rod here when it's his boss Robin Smith who should face the hot lights of scrutiny.

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