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Tennessee GOP creates a stir

February 27, 2008 | 10:56 pm

Talk about being ahead of the curve!

Hands down, the award this week goes to the top officials of the Tennessee Republican Party.

Even before conservative radio talk show host Bill Cunningham on Tuesday dramatically upped his national name recognition by making sure to invoke Barack Obama's middle name as part of a tirade against him, the Tennessee GOP leaders had employed the technique in a release criticizing the Democratic presidential contender.

And the release spotlighted words of unsolicited praise Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan had showered upon Obama -- even before the candidate was forced to grapple with the issue during his debate Tuesday night with Hillary Clinton.

The release, headlined "Anti-Semites for Obama," was issued Monday, and it sought to make the case that, in the words of Robin Smith, head of the Volunteer State's GOP, "an Obama presidency will view Israel as a problem rather than a partner for peace in the Middle East."

Obama, of course, would hotly dispute such an assertion. And the foreign policy section on his website lists ensuring "a strong U.S.-Israel partnership," supporting "Israel's right to self defense" and backing "foreign assistance to Israel" as three of his prime goals.

The Knoxville News Standard ...

published a piece about the release today, reporting that Smith stood by it.

The publicity over it, though, did force some alterations.

A clarification at the bottom notes that it "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."

This would be the much-publicized picture that appeared on the Drudge Report earlier this week.

Another fix was made to Republican release in Tennessee, as the clarification explained: "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 (sic) endorsements from people who are anti-Semitic and anti-Israel -- we have deleted the use of Barack Obama’s middle name."

You can read the entire release here.

Upon learning of the missive, presumed GOP presidential nominee John McCain distanced himself from it, as he had Cunningham's comments.

Bottom line: fasten your seat belt; looks like it's going to be a bumpy general election campaign.

-- Don Frederick