Wardrobe Wars

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 26, 2008; 8:31 AM

Drudge strikes again.

It's been all the rage online, a photo of Barack Obama dressed as a Somali elder during a visit to Kenya.

The headline: "Clinton Staffers Circulate 'Dressed' Obama."

Matt Drudge says he "obtained" an e-mail in which a Clinton campaign staffer asked: "Wouldn't we be seeing this on the cover of every magazine if it were HRC?"

So what is the take-away supposed to be? That Obama looks like an African tribesman? That the man with a Kenyan father isn't truly a red-blooded American? Politicos traveling abroad do this all the time.

Or is the message that the Hillary camp is so desperate it's using Drudge to slime Barack?

I think this is a tempest in a turban. I doubt it will hurt Obama in the slightest. And while some Clinton staffer might have peddled it, Hillary Clinton herself pooh-poohed the matter, saying she's done the same thing many times. (Still, the image was all over TV.)

Given the tightness of the race, in the wake of Hillary's "Shame on you, Barack Obama" speech, both sides were quick to react. Obama's David Plouffe:

"On the very day that Senator Clinton is giving a speech about restoring respect for America in the world, her campaign has engaged in the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we've seen from either party in this election. This is part of a disturbing pattern that led her county chairs to resign in Iowa, her campaign chairman to resign in New Hampshire, and it's exactly the kind of divisive politics that turns away Americans of all parties and diminishes respect for America in the world."

Hillary's Maggie Williams: "Enough. If Barack Obama's campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed. Hillary Clinton has worn the traditional clothing of countries she has visited and had those photos published widely. This is nothing more than an obvious and transparent attempt to distract from the serious issues confronting our country."

A good, strong statement--but not a denial.

The blog Sweetness & Light had earlier noted that the photo was posted on the conservative Free Republic site, picked up from the tabloid National Examiner, which used the false and bogus headline "Obama's Shocking Al Qaeda Link." (A previous National Examiner cover: "Bush Marriage Over! Laura Erupts After Drinking Binge.")

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