Roy Exum: "Ties To Terrorists"

Sunday, June 15, 2008 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Fred Hobbs, a member of Tennessee’s Democratic Executive Committee, let it slip on Friday that he’s heard Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama “has associates who might have ties” to terrorists and, when he did, his fellow party loyalists were soon calling for tainted tomatoes to be delivered to the tiny town of Eagleville.

Hobbs is the former mayor of Eagleville, a little town of 464 people in Rutherford County near Murfreesboro, and his comments were printed in the Nashville City Paper much to the glee of Republicans everywhere and the red-faced chagrin of state party leaders.

Other state Democratic figures raced to douse the fires which have continued to smolder in the state since Obama displaced Hillary Clinton, the winner of the state’s presidential primary, but the loser of the eventual nomination which will be made official in two months at the national convention.

And while the Democratic national party was eager to get onstage to discount the melee, it was glaringly obvious that 10 of the state’s 17 so-called “super delegates” had still not endorsed the Illinois senator on Saturday. The biggest endorsement would now be that of Lincoln Davis and, according to some pundits, therein lies the rub.

Davis, a congressman from tiny Pall Mall, is said to be pretty conservative, but, better than that, is rumored to be strongly eying a run for the state governor’s mansion. Depending on who’s talking, the idea was for Davis to wait quietly until the national convention because some of his handlers think it wouldn’t be …. er, prudent to endorse the black president in the conservative area where he’s going to need votes for the governor’s race.

That’s where the delightful Mr. Hobbs comes in. He’s one of Rep. Davis’ closest party cronies and he was at his finest when he told the Nashville newspaper, “They reported on Fox News that (Obama) has associates who are connected to terrorism. It does throw a red flag up for me ….I certainly don’t think he’s a terrorist. I’ve just heard he has associates who might have those ties.”

“A whole lot of other people have concerns about him,” added Hobbs, a former state legislator, “It’d be nice to hear from him before the election about some of the things that were said on TV.”

Well, as politicians are wont to do, the Democrats immediately tried to pin the blame on the Republicans in a way that was even more laughable. A party spokesman said, “The Tennessee Democratic Party is united behind our party’s nominee, Sen. Barack Obama. Mr. Hobbs is obviously misinformed, and his statement highlights the perpetual efforts of the Republican party – especially in Tennessee – to turn Internet smears and highly-offensive gossip into their party’s message.”

Whoa! Hobbs is hardly a Republican and his remarks were in no way taken out of context. Instead, those in the know say Hobbs’ remarks were made in a way that would safeguard Rep. Davis when Gov. Phil Bredesen steps down.

Beecher Frasier, who serves as Davis’ chief of staff, discounted the remarks, saying he didn’t feel Sen. Obama was a terrorist, but when the story got stronger legs by Friday afternoon, he issued a terse statement.

“No one in their right mind, including me, believes Sen. Obama has ties to terrorism. It is truly ridiculous for anyone to make hay out of these comments,” said Davis’ spokesman, but it was hardly a secret Davis is one of four super delegates who haven’t given their nod to anyone. The others are AFL-CIO president Jerry Lee, U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon and former Vice President Albert Gore.

Six other super delegates who had endorsed Sen. Clinton haven’t switched, either, and the Clinton campaign, far from being dead, is on hold until after the national convention.

By late Saturday afternoon nobody was saying much, hoping both the story and Mr. Hobbs would cool down, but there was talk of delivering a basket of those salmonella-laced tomatoes to his house, which in the heartland of Middle Tennessee would be just like a terrorist attack, of all things.

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