Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bill Hobbs and The Tennessee GOP Get Nasty

Kevin Drum points us to Matthew Yglesias who points us to a press release from the Tennessee GOP that marshals all the dirty tricks so far developed by the GOP against Obama: it consistently refers to Obama as "Barak Hussein Obama," shows the pic of him in Muslim clothes, mentions Farrakhan, and cites his "anti-Israel" leanings.

Bill Hobbs, blogger and communications director of the Tennessee GOP, then compares the use of Obama's middle name to the use of the 'Rodham' in 'Hillary Rodham Clinton,' asserting that those who object to the press release must think that it's never permissible to use people's middle names. Now that's about as dishonest as you can get.

Just for the record:
People who go out of their way to use Obama's middle name are doing so in order to suggest some kind of association with Saddam Hussein, or to support the rumor that Obama is Muslim, or some similar thing. No one is objecting to using people's middle names in general. To suggest that that's the claim is just to pile dishonestly on dishonesty.

Nice going Bill Hobbs. Way to put party over country and simultaneously raise the level of political discourse.

So the GOP is out of the blocks early with some particularly nasty stuff. This brings up a point that I've been thinking about a bit: playing nice is easy in the abstract, difficult in practice. We're going to face some very, very nasty attacks from the GOP if Obama is the candidate. Here's the way these things often go: party A resolves to be calm and respectful. Party B is aggressive and unfair. Party A then seems to have to choose between (i) just taking it and (ii) striking back in kind. Even if A takes a lot before striking back, if he eventually does, the story line will be: both parties on the attack. A pox on both your houses. This is, of course, more or less what's happened between Democrats and Republicans for the past fifteen years or so.

So what to do?

Well, there is a third way. Respond, but not in kind. Point out the bad actions and obvious sophistries of organizations like the Tennessee GOP and individuals like Mr. Hobbs. Do so calmly, but firmly. Perhaps someone prominent could point out to them that they obviously do not really believe that the issue is about using middle names in general, but Obama's unfortunate middle name in particular. This point can be relentlessly pushed without venom. If the parties in question admit their indiscretion, then that's good. If they don't, then honest people should make a point of relentlessly reminding everyone of their dishonesty at every opportunity.

This approach might not be as gratifying as firing back angrily and in kind, but it's the kind of thing we have to do if we are seriously committed to reforming American political discourse.


Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

The photo and the "Hussein" have already been deleted, I see.

Which I applaud, and renounce and reject their use in the first place.

As for the actual point of Sen. Obama perhaps not being as strong a friend of Israel as the other two remaining candidates, that is lost forever.

Nice job, Mr. Hobbs. Form always takes precedent over function, especially these days. You nincompoop.

7:37 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

In fact, I sent a scolding email to Mr. Hobbs, asking for his apology to Obama, McCain...and me, his fellow Republican.

"Puerile and counterproductive." Thx for the inspiration, WS. I have always said that we can judge the parties by the way they handle their most, um, exuberant members.

9:23 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Good work, Tom.

9:57 PM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

Bill Hobb(e)s is nasty and brutish. Don't know about short. His politics in this instance is the subset of identity politics known as bigotry.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

The Republican National Committee also scolded Hobbs and the Tennessee Republicans.

Meanwhile, Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, continues to spew his race-baiting filth.

Sorry, WS. This civility thing seems to be a one-way street.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

It's really bad to compound an error by feigning stupidity in that way. That is, in this case, saying "oh, so now it's not permissible to use people's MIDDLE NAMES, eh?"

Talk about doing your part to make the world a less rational place...

I don't know Mr. Hobbs's work, but he might not be a bigot. One way this could go is like so:
Rudy Republican really dislikes Obama because, well, he dislikes all liberals. He finds out that his middle name is 'Hussein,' and Rudy's beady little mind can't resist any way to say something nasty about a liberal/Dem, so he starts using the 'Hussein' in Obama's name. He's not necessarily anti-Muslim and trying to draw that association--rather, he's got *Saddam Hussein* in the back of his mind. He suspects that all liberals are Saddam lovers in the same way that folks in my youth thought all liberals were commies.

Now that, though stupid--and false--is not bigoted per se.

Hobbs might be a bigot, but I personally certainly don't have sufficient reason to think so.

1:21 PM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

The Chairman of the Democratic National Committee and former Governor of Vermont contrasted the two parties’ presidential candidates, saying that with a woman and an African-American as the two front-runners, the Democratic field “looks like America,” while the all-white male Republican field “looks like the 1950s and talks like the 1850s.”

So, TVD, this is your idea of "race-baiting filth"?

2:13 PM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

WS, I used to interact with Hobb(e)s on South Knox Bubba, now superseded by KnoxViews. He's a doctrinaire Southern conservative, and it's impossible for him not to know that his use of 'Hussein' is meant to appeal to nativist sentiments. In this case, the bigotry is religious, not racial, which I didn't make clear. Your blog above is a sample of the racism also being tossed Obama's way. Of course, Hillary is getting smacked with sexism, too.

2:20 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, the reference to the slaveholding era of the 1850s when used in the context of race is filth.

But you think it's just fine, and yes, once again you prove my point.

And even if the slaveholding aspect is spun away---altho the code being used here is unsubtle---there is no way this kind of slur fits any definition of civility.

3:04 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Look, boys, I gotta say: I'm not convinced that Hobbs's claim was bigoted, and I'm also not convinced that the 1850s claim was a reference to slavery. Rather, one always points to the 1950s when one wants to point to an era of stifling conformity, and the 1850s are 100 years before that, so a rhetorically convenient blahbitty blah.

It's always possible to put the worst possible spin on such things. But there's usually a less nefarious interpretation.

Now, LL knows more about Hobbs than I do...I'm not denying that he's bad...I'm just saying that I can't tell from the post I cite.

But I really, really, really doubt that Dean was trying to paint the Republicans as slave-holders or whatever.

6:02 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, WS, the occasion was a speech honoring Black History Month. I mean, what's on everybody's mind? Oppression.

And the beauty of talking in code is the plausible deniability.

But if Chairman Dean didn't have a history of plying the race card, I'd be more inclined toward the benefit of the doubt.

Regardless, it was a slur.

As for Mr. Hobbs, he has a history of this sort of thing, too. Google his name and "Belmont." I hope the GOP gets Hobbs' head.

6:33 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

That's an important datum--the fact that it was in a speech honoring Black History Month seems to me to significantly raise the likelihood that Dean intended the reference to 1850 to evoke thoughts of slavery.

That, if true, is inexcusably heinous. Unfortunately,it's so heinous that we'd need better evidence than we've got that that's what he meant. If it IS what he meant, then that makes it doubly heinous...because it's sneaky enough to maintain plausible deniability.

I've never liked Dean, to tell you the truth, and this--though unproven and perhaps unprovable--moves my opinion of him farther into negative territory.

8:19 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

The alleged "history of playing the race card" seems less convincing to me, however.

8:23 AM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

But you think it's just fine, and yes, once again you prove my point.

TVD, you're back in high school again. Did someone encourage this in you?

Note that there's lots of space between 'wrong' and 'filth', but you don't notice that when it's convenient to impute to me statements I haven't made.

11:18 PM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

By the way, "talks like the 1850s" is a reference to states rights rhetoric, which Mike Huckabee has definitely used.

11:42 PM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

... oh, but that still would have been better stated more particularly.

11:43 PM  

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