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What to make of the Obama "Muslim photo" kerfuffle?

vastleft's picture

If you've somehow missed it, the big Drudge-dredged teapot tempest in the current news cycle surrounds the "circulation" of a 2006 photograph of Barack Obama in traditional African garb.

Drudge gets a major two-fer out of it, feeding the Obama-is-a-Muslim "smear" and feeding the racist-Hillary-hits-below-the-belt truism as she attempts an 11th hour comeback.

The Clinton camp seems to be in non-denial denial mode:

Clinton campaign officials didn't confirm or deny a role in the incident; instead, they tried to turn the tables on the Obama camp by saying its indignation over the photo's publication is itself an effort to divide and distract voters.

Maggie Williams, Clinton's new chief of staff, pointed out that Clinton was often photographed in Muslim garb when traveling on behalf of her husband in the 1990s.

"Enough," Williams wrote. "If Barack Obama's campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed.

I'm reserving judgment until I know the, what are those called? Oh, yeah. Facts.

No votes yet


Submitted by lambert on


Rove's To Do List 2-25
See if I can concoct a story that will have Dems believing Matt Drudge and attacking themselves.


Jeez, every politician wears native garb when they're travelling. The real miracle is that they got a photo of Obama at all, given how infrequent his travels outside the country (as an adult) have been.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by Paul_Lukasiak on

Was that this photo (like the "muslim" email) was in circulation long before Drudge did his story -- and there is little doubt that he'd been given it before.

I mean, it had been published in the National Examiners' Feb 4 edition, and was on Free Republic and other wingnut websites -- and its hard to believe that Drudge did get numerous copies of it.

But, as with the "muslim" letter, it only becomes news when someone associated with the Clinton campaign on some level get forwarded it, and stupidly forwards it to others. And its clear that the only reason that Drudge was sent a copy was to point out that the media would have treated a similar picture of Hillary differently.

(The fact is that Obama looks ridiculous in the picture -- the bright red T-shirt that he is wearing under the gorgeous ceremonial gown is just WRONG -- its like Dukakis in a helmut, in the way that cognitive dissonance is the immediate reaction. A black or white or 'neutral' t-shirt would have made the picture 'not ridiculous' -- bright red made it look awful. And the media has never shied away from using pictures of Hillary looking awful).

Submitted by jawbone on

got the MCMers all over this baby.

It went from Drudge, early morning Monday to the cable attacks on Hillary to Josh at TPM to the evening broadcast news--in ONE DAY.

Then it went overseas, followed by question to Hillary during what may have been the final Dem primary debate!

Wow, gotta hand it to Drudge (well, toss it to him--I wouldn't get close enought to hand it...).

He got at least a twofer out of it: THE Photo got more PR than any Freeper could have wet dreamed AND it got Hillary and her campaign slimed--by some of the A-list left/progressive bloggers and many in the blogophere.

Very Rovian.

(Sad thing is that the left blogosphere could have found out about the photo being at the right blogs very easily, plus Dave Johnson at Seeing the Forest had blogged about it being at Atlas Shrugged and WND on Sunday early evening. But, at TPM they don't verify, investigate? Apparently not if it gigs Hillary....)

corinne's picture
Submitted by corinne on

were such pussies about the photo. Following their usual M.O. they bitched and whined and pointed the finger (with no evidence, natch) that it was the Clinton campaign staffers whodunit.

Wahhhh, they're being mean to Barack!

Give me a fucking break.

What really irritated me is that none of the Big Boy Blogs (like the Polk Award winning TPM) or MSM outlets bothered to contact Drudge and ask him to share the e-mail or press him for evidence of its origins.

hypnot's picture
Submitted by hypnot on

I don't know what to make of it, because I don't know who did what. But there's some gutter maneuvering going on, and neither campaign should go there. Obama's people should not be too eager to take Drudge at his word. If Clinton's people pushed the photo--and if they pushed it to Drudge--they should be ashamed and they should be condemned and dumped.

Has Obama's campaign asserted that Clinton's campaign is behind this? Has Clinton's campaign investigated and/or denied the charge? Have both campaigns condemned Drudge, as well as this and other efforts to split the Democratic Party?

Submitted by Paul_Lukasiak on

Has Obama’s campaign asserted that Clinton’s campaign is behind this?

yes, based on Drudge's reporting that it came from a "clinton staffer" -- drudge's lack of any kind of specificity suggests that it was someone without much responsibility or authority in the campaign.

Has Clinton’s campaign investigated and/or denied the charge?

they've denied to the extent that the campaign was behind it -- but they said they aren't going to question all 700 people employed by the Clinton campaign.

There is really no reason to doubt Drudge's reporting that it was a "clinton staffer". But what is also clear from Drudge's reporting is not that the staffer was trying to "smear" Obama as a muslim, but to point out the double standard in the way that these kinds of pictures get used by the mainstream media.

What Drudge did was pretty clever -- wait until he got forward something that was circulating in the right wing blogosphere got sent to him by someone who happens to work for Hillary. Then, get maximum exposure for the picture, while making it look like the Clinton campaign is actively engaged in promoting the "you can't trust Obama becuase he's a closet muslim" theme.

Submitted by lambert on

I poked around, but can't it.

I mean, it passed belief that Drudge was never handed this by the Freepi.

The real story seems to be that our famously free press, both new and old, warmed the story and it took almost a news cycle for the Clinton campaign to respond in the person of Wolfson.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Stellaaa's picture
Submitted by Stellaaa on

As someone from the middle east the fact that he got so offended first that people think his name is Hussein, then wearing Arab looking outfits is offensive. Because it says, it's ok to discriminate against Arabs and Muslims.

Gee, is he multicultural or is he not? This is perfect cultural imperialism, I will take advantage of the parts that benefit me but never do I want responsibility for the bad bits that come along, the parts that the majority culture uses to abuse those people.

I forget he also did not want to identified with Jessie Jackson and being the black candidate. That one was really twisted.

Submitted by Paul_Lukasiak on

.... IIRC, the reference (unlinked) was in a politico story that was linked to by Josh marshall that I got to from some other link somewhere.

but a quick google search of "'national examiner', Obama" turns up a ton of hits, referencing the use of the pic by the tabloid.

Submitted by lambert on

since that would be disposive evidence that the photo was already out there, and that Drudge was likely to have seen it. No need for the Clintons at all. Just more information warfare.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

wasabi's picture
Submitted by wasabi on

I noticed that drudge said he "obtained" an email, not "received" an email. That suggests to me that someone other than a staffer in the Clinton campaign received the email and forwarded it on to Drudge. The story in the MSM and blogs has been that the Clinton campaign gave the email to Drudge to smear Obama. It sounds more like one staffer to another complaining about the unfair press coverage in an email that eventually by a circuitous route made its way to drudge.

Davidson's picture
Submitted by Davidson on

There is really no reason to doubt Drudge’s reporting that it was a “clinton staffer”.

What? There's no proof at all that anyone--even a damn volunteer--sent that to Drudge. To assume that they did is crazy--especially considering that the photo was publicized years ago, by a tabloid no less, and this is Drudge we're talking about, a right-wing, pathological liar. The hell her camp had anything to do with this. No. Way. All it does is hurt her--and badly (Obama is never to blame even though he's the one who allowed himself to be photographed this way, which is perfectly innocuous BTW, but if everyone's in hysterics it's telling that no one dares to blame him for this mess).

I mean, it passed belief that Drudge was never handed this by the Freepi.

That's how bad the Hillary Hate is: we're now assuming her campaign was somehow involved in a non-scandal until we can prove otherwise, which, of course, is impossible.

hypnot's picture
Submitted by hypnot on

Paul_Lukasiak writes: "they’ve denied to the extent that the campaign was behind it — but they said they aren’t going to question all 700 people employed by the Clinton campaign."

And these people want to run the country? If somebody working for me--on my behalf--were in cahoots with Drudge, I would question as many of them as it would take, either to find out who did it (and dismiss him or her) or to make it clear that I am displeased. It's easy to start with an e-mail to 700 people.

Are you telling me that they didn't even make that minimal effort to stop something that hurts both campaigns and the Democratic Party?

Susie from Philly's picture
Submitted by Susie from Philly on

No campaign has the time to waste on something like that. It could be from field staff anywhere in the country.

Staffer-to-staffer bitching sounds like the most likely scenario, and someone else forwarded it to Drudge.

Davidson's picture
Submitted by Davidson on

Even Drudge states that said he didn't receive it, but "obtained" it.

Submitted by lambert on

... is awfully tired. I'm sure any campaign has its kerfuffles. The only real issue here is the megaphonic amplification of a non-issue by our famously free press and Obama's online operatives, egged on by Drudge in his best "Let's you and him fight" mode.

Further, the results of both the 2000 and the 2004 campaign give strong support to the idea that the ability to run a "brilliant" campaign is inversely correllated to the ability to run a successful or even functional government. Which is not so strange, considering what must be done to make the Village and the press happy in the course of the campaign, and the operatives who accomplish that.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by Paul_Lukasiak on

I noticed that drudge said he “obtained” an email, not “received” an email.

have you noticed, btw, how the Politico has been all over this story? And how the Politico has a pretty conservative bias, and anti-Clinton bias?
And has a strong relationship with Drudge?

My theory -- someone at the Clinton campaign, who has been complaining about the disproportionately negative coverage she's received from the media to someone at the Politico, sends it to the Politico as an example of the kind of picture that would have gotten lots of mainstream media attention if it had been a picture of Hillary. Said Politico person hands it off the Drudge, who then does his "magic" with it.

If my theory is true, and this was forward to drudge by someone else -- especially someone in the media -- I hope that the Clinton campaign is doing a thorough-going investigation, because there will be a shitstorm when the media person is identified...

leah's picture
Submitted by leah on

My first thought wasn't "Drum," it was Kevin Hayden's "American Street." Jus' sayin', especially since KH actually deigns to comment here, to our general delight.

Thanks Paul for reminding one and all that the picture was out there before Drudge put it up.
Do you have any handy links? I'm going to Google, just thought in case you have them handy....

Corrine, good point about asking Drudge to produce some actual proof about Clinton being a source, although I don't think the Obama campaigns response was a question of "pussy-ness," so much as an opportunity to go after Clinton and play the victim, something that "feminism" gets charged with enough already, without us adding to the notion. And indeed, that Clinton has been accused of enough, so that maybe we don't have to trot it out.

He does look ridiculous in the picture; I'm not prepared to be critical of him on that point; he might not have had any way of knowing that morning he would need to dress for Kenyan success, but I do think it's interesting that instead of making fun of Obama, the right has chosen to use scare tactics about its implications. I only hope that McCain takes the same tack, because I don't think it's going to work.

Davidson's picture
Submitted by Davidson on

I highly disagree with on the following basis: the HRC camp is not suicidal. They know the corporate media absolutely hates Hillary so any attempt to "smear" Obama would boomerang back to her in the worst possible way. Besides, she has a strong history of firing anyone who even flirts with such controversy. Lastly, it is HRC that had been enjoying some relatively good press of late, from telling Obama off on those damn mailers to even SNL, while Obama had been suffering some anti-messiah backlash. The hell HRC would allow anyone to mess with that flow and give the media a chance to come to bolster Obama and demonize her by coming to his "defense."

Also: it is extremely unlikely that it wasn't the right-wing noise machine, especially considering this photo is not only years old but had been publicized in a tabloid so it was everywhere, just recently having been circulated heavily on right-wing sites. And, oh yeah, Drudge is evil (Why hasn't Drudge put the nail in HRC's coffin and out this supposed "Clinton" source? Odd, huh).

The reality of the situation makes Drudge's "story" beyond unlikely to the point of being laughable. Even believing that's its possible depends on exploiting internalized right-wing anti-HRC hate that we've been conditioned to for the past 20 years.

I can't help but wonder, "Is Obama that bad, that the corporate media would do anything and everything to help him?" If he was just as bad as a typical Democrat in their eyes, they would've bashed him as well, but they completely avoid it at all costs. To me, that's a red flag.

Davidson's picture
Submitted by Davidson on

Wolfson did issue a denial so why do they keep insisting that they didn't?

I'm loving how Andrew Sullivan of all people, the man who said Barack Hussein Obama will have strong appeal to Muslims because he lived amongst them as a child, is losing his chaps over this. So apparently one can endlessly praise Obama on these terms, yet it's uncalled to even notice it if it could possibly be interpreted in a negative light. Totally makes sense.

I'm currently watching The Smartest Guys in the Room and I can't help but draw parallels to so-called "liberals" (namely blogs, talk radio, and OFB) and the Democratic party right now:

janittdott's picture
Submitted by janittdott on

um this is too long for a comment
I'll post it as a blog instead...

america :
"You need a mother VERY badly!"
--wendy to captain hook

Submitted by lambert on

... is always a sign of the VRWC in action.

The response to the Killian memos was exactly the same: Blog post to FOX News in a single news cycle.

One might almost think that the skids were greased (which might point to a campaign, alright, but certainly not Hillary's, because she doesn't control enough links in the propagation chain).

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.