Unapologetic TN GOP whitewashes its Obama hit job, still misses the point
A follow-up to my post below about the Tennessee Republican Party's vile, ethnically and religiously divisive smear against Barack Obama... the Somali photo and the reference to Obama's middle name have been removed from the state GOP's press release, and the following note added at the bottom:
Clarification: This release originally referenced a photo of Sen. Obama and incorrectly termed it to be “Muslim” garb. It is, in fact, Somali tribal garb, hence, we have deleted the photo. Also, in order to diffuse attempts by Democrats and the Left to divert attention from the main point of this release - that Sen. Obama has surrounded himself with advisers and recieved endorsements from people who are anti-Semitic and anti-Israel - we have deleted the use of Barack Obama’s middle name.
This "clarification" is grossly inadequate to resolve the issue. In fact, in a couple of ways, it makes things worse.
First of all, consider for a moment the claim that the original press release "incorrectly termed [Obama's clothing] to be 'Muslim' garb. It is, in fact, Somali tribal garb, hence, we have deleted the photo." Wait, what? Hold the phones. They're admitting they deleted it because it is "Somali," not "Muslim," garb. But how on earth did its alleged "Muslimness" make it relevant in the first place?
As best as I can tell, the Tennessee GOP is now explicitly stating that, in their opinion, if Barack Obama had been wearing "Muslim" garb, that simple fact -- standing alone, without regard to the photo's actual context -- would have made the photo automatically relevant to the party's claim that he "has surrounded himself" with anti-Semitic supporters. WTF?!? Someone needs to call them out on this, force them to explain themselves further. Are they suggesting that all Muslims are anti-Semites? That if someone is a Muslim, or is wearing "Muslim garb," that somehow creates a presumption that they're anti-Semitic? It appears they are saying precisely that; otherwise, the "clarification" makes no sense.
This afternoon, before the "clarification" was issued, I called the Tennessee GOP and left an angry (but respectful) phone message on Bill Hobbs's machine, asking why on earth they had concluded that the intentionally inflammatory Somali photo was in any way relevant to the press release. The "clarification" appears to answer that question, and it seems the answer is: "We thought it was relevant because we thought it made him look like a Muslim." That answer makes them look even worse.
A far better answer would have been: "Some intern added that photo because he thought it was funny. It was a mistake. We apologize." That, I could have accepted. Instead, they have elevated anti-Muslim bigotry to the level of official party policy! What was once implicit is now explicit. Astounding.
Secondly, the party claims it removed Obama's middle name in order to "diffuse attempts by Democrats and the Left to divert attention from the main point of this release." Leaving aside the misspelling of the word "defuse," this statement is downright Hillaryesque in its mendacious spin, as it attempts to deflect the blame for the GOP's own inexcusable mistake by suggesting that "Democrats and the Left" are somehow the villains here.
Never mind that the folks attacking the press release included such liberal luminaries as former Republican State Senate candidate Bob Krumm and conservative blogger John Norris Brown (who condemned the release even though "I would never support Obama because he’s an empty suit with whom I have almost no policy agreements"), not to mention centrist independents like myself.
Never mind that Karl Rove and John McCain himself have specifically said it's inappropriate to use Obama's middle name against him. (And please, let's not pretend that the usage is somehow innocent. Nobody calls him "Barack Hussein Obama" except as a deliberate, divisive maneuver based on religion, ethnicity and race. In the actual context of reality, it is transparently bogus to claim that calling Obama by his full name is anything other than a conscious playing of the Muslim Card. We all know what's going on here, so please, don't play dumb.)
Never mind that it was the Republicans themselves who "diverted attention" from their own "main point" -- their tenuous-but-debatable substantive claims about Obama's "anti-Semitic" ties -- with the deliberately inflammatory and divisive use of that photo and of "Hussein." (There is no other explanation for the inclusion of the photo, nor the usage of "Hussein," except the racist/inflammatory/divisive explanation. Their presence in the press release makes no sense otherwise.)
Never mind that the Tennessee GOP was privately scolded by the national Republican Party and publicly rebuked by John McCain for the press release.
Forget all that. According to the state GOP, this whole controversy is the liberals' fault.
Well, I'm sorry, but that's just not good enough. What's needed here isn't a "clarification," it's an apology. And until the state Republican Party owns up to the transparently obvious fact that they made a conscious, deliberate decision to use Barack Obama's racial and ethnic background, and his family's religious history -- and an utterly irrelevant photo of him in "Muslim garb" -- against him for political purposes... until it straightforwardly apologizes for that despicable tactic, and promises not to engage in such contemptible shenanigans again... my anger will remain intact. This mealy-mouthed "clarification" doesn't even begin to make things right.