Barack Hussein Obama

February 27, 2008 10:38 p.m.

Earlier today at TPM Election Central, Eric Kleefeld wrote about a scurrilous press release from the Tennessee Republican Party that used innuendo and faulty causation to try to link Obama with anti-semitism.

As a bonus the press release featured the now-notorious photo of Obama in Somali tribal garb from a 2006 congressional trip to Kenya — and referred to him as Barack Hussein Obama.

Ben Smith Jonathan Martin at The Politico is now reporting that the Republican National Committee has “warned” the Tennessee GOP about using “Hussein” in the press release:

The Republican National Committee this afternoon scolded the Tennessee Republican Party over their use of “Barack Hussein Obama” in an official press release and warned the state party that they will be denounced by the national committee if they use the Democrat’s middle name again, said a GOP official close to the RNC.

“The RNC has notified the Tennessee GOP that they do not support or agree with their approach,” said this source, requesting anonymity to discuss the private conversation between a staffer in the national committee’s political department and a top aide at the state party. “If they don’t refrain from doing so again, they will be publicly repudiated by the Republican National Committee.”

This source said the national committee did not ask the Tennessee party to retract their statement, but effectively put them on notice for the future.

Pretty stiff stuff. I mean, you can associate Obama with Louis Farrakhan and anti-semitism, you can repeat garbage from Farrakhan and make it look like Obama approves of it, and you can cast all sorts of other aspersions about Obama, but use “Hussein” and you’ve crossed some invisible line drawn by the RNC (which it will enforce with anonymous hand-wringing and ineffectual warnings).

Sure enough, the press release is still up, stripped of the Hussein reference (we captured a portion of the earlier version, with Hussein intact). The author of the press release was state communications director Bill Hobbs. Ironically, Hobbs apparently missed the sarcasm in Josh’s satirical post below about these attempts to smear Obama, and late today he was approvingly citing it in a post on his own blog.

Meanwhile, the McCain campaign says their candidate condemned the press release and apologized to Obama, Smith Martin reports. But, really, what’s the McCain camp to do? “There will be times in this campaign where people do and say stupid things,” a spokesperson told The Politico. “It’s a fact and it’s beyond our control.”

As Josh notes, we’ll be hearing a lot of that over the next nine months.

Late Update: There’s now a new version of the press release posted, with the following “clarification” (via Jake Tapper):

*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.

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