Drudge Says Clinton Staffers Circulate “Dressed” Obama Photo (SECOND MAJOR UPDATE)

NOTE: This is one of many updates. It increasingly appears as if the photo did come from the Clinton camp:

The Drudge Report’s front page now has a screeching headline saying staffers from Hillary Clinton’s campaign are circulating a photo of a “dressed” rival Barack Obama — actually dressed in Kenyan dress — that at first glance fits in with the “Obama as Muslim” motif spread in emails and whispering campaigns — a longstanding charge that is inaccurate but being used as a slur. But Drudge couples this with photos of Clinton and President George Bush dressed in local gear as well.

UPDATE: The Politico reports that the Obama campaign has blasted the Clinton campaign — which reporter Mike Allen says has not denied or commented on the charge that it is spreading use of the photo:

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe accused the Clinton campaign Monday of “shameful offensive fear-mongering” by circulating a photo as an attempted smear.

….The Clinton campaign did not deny the charge, but did not comment further.

…..Plouffe said in a statement: “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,” said Plouffe.

The photo created huge buzz in political circles and immediately became known as “the ‘dressed’ photo,” reflecting the Drudge terminology.


But Marc Ambinder reports
that some Clinton aides have denied circulating the photo (see his quote in roundup below) and suggest the Obama campaign sent it.

And TNR’s The Plank suggests it may come from GOP operatives (see quote in roundup below).

UPDATE II: The Politico now has a Clinton campaign response which does not answer the question as to whether its campaign or staffers spread the email but pushes the blame on Obama for trying to “distract” the campaign. The Politico reports that the response is “from Maggie Williams, which doesn’t respond to the question of whether a staffer was circulating the photo of Obama in Somali garb, but takes issue with the Obama campaign’s embrace of the issue:”

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 today and to attempt to create the very divisions they claim to decry.

We will not be distracted.

UPDATE COMMENT:

Any editor or reporter knows what this kind of statement is: it is a refusal to deny. Even if the Clinton campaign comes back later and denies it, the damage is now done.

Williams’ statement will be widely seen as tacit confirmation that the Clinton campaign has been spreading the email due to the attempt to put the onus on Obama for somehow raising a fake divisive issue by complaining about it.

The first truth a reporter even just hired and on probation learns is: news sources and subjects who are outraged will make flat, blanket denials and won’t hedge. William’s comment is either an evasion or a hedge to The Politico’s question. Either way, it suggests Drudge source wasn’t from the Obama or GOP camps.

NEW UPDATE:
Josh Marshall apparently agrees with TMV on this:

We spent the better part of the morning trying to get some comment from the Clinton campaign. For the first hour or more we couldn’t get anything. Then we got this statement in which the Clinton camp says Obama should be “ashamed” at saying the picture is “divisive,” without addressing one way or another what they’re accused of doing.

(He got the same statement as The Politico.)

Put it all together and the Clinton camp would appear to be unwilling to make even the most perfunctory denial that they are or were circulating this photo around.

We held up on this because we never want to take Drudge as a fact witness for anything. But I think the Clinton camp’s statement speaks for itself.

(BACK TO OUR ORIGINAL POST)
We don’t usually link to Drudge or quote him (a lot of his reports didn’t hold up) but this one is quite specific and fits in with other reports of emails — plus a host of emails (not from Clinton staffers) this writer has deleted. Click this link soon since these reports don’t always have a long shelf life. Here’s the first part of it:

With a week to go until the Texas and Ohio primaries, stressed Clinton staffers circulated a photo over the weekend of a “dressed” Barack Obama.

The photo, taken in 2006, shows the Democrat frontrunner fitted as a Somali Elder, during his visit to Wajir, a rural area in northeastern Kenya.

The senator was on a five-country tour of Africa.

“Wouldn’t we be seeing this on the cover of every magazine if it were HRC?” questioned one campaign staffer, in an email obtained by the DRUDGE REPORT.

We’ll pass on running the photos here (go to the link) due to the intent behind the emailing and trying to get them published.

Conservative blogger Rick Moran writes that he, for one, is getting sick of the effort to display Obama as a Muslim (which he isn’t: the charge and implication arouses feelings of anti-Muslim bigotry, where some then feel if he is a Muslim he is a threat to American security):

Well, today conservative stupidity regarding Obama and his supposed ties to Islam hit paydirt – as in generating a ten on the laugh-o-meter. Evidently, the probable next president of the United States was caught in flagrante dilecto, dressed to the nines in what appears to be some kind of native garb (probably Kenyan) and with a (gasp!) turban on his head. To some of my unschooled, ignorant conservative friends, this is further proof that if we elect Obama president, there will be a department of Sharia Affairs.

The truth as Jim Hoft (via Sweetness and Light) shows, is a little less dramatic. The costume is that of a Kenyan tribal elder.

Now Obama already has some problematic connections to Kenya including his appearances for presidential candidate Raila Odinga, a distant cousin and someone whose recent actions in fomenting violence in Kenya following a crooked presidential election are extremely troublesome. (There have also been rumors of a deal between Odinga and the small Islamist party in Kenya that he would, if elected, establish Sharia law – a dubious proposition and almost certainly a lie that has been picked up by some conservatives in this country and passed off as the truth.)

But the idea that Obama in traditional Kenyan garb proves he’s some kind of closet Muslim or Islamic sympathizer is absurd. Kenya is 70% Christian and only 10% Muslim. To extrapolate that Obama’s dress denotes anything other than acknowledging his birthright not to mention playing the gracious guest by donning the clothing of his hosts is irrational, stupid, ignorant, and totally without foundation.

On the other hand, some conservative bloggers are expressing dismay over the photos on Drudge and are critical of the pix and those who are circulating them. (See roundup below). Moran also has this to say:

I would say to my conservative friends who continue to insist that this is a rich vein to mine that you are so off base as to be a laughingstock. Just because my middle name is David doesn’t mean I’m a Jew despite a long, illustrious connection of that name to the history and faith of the Hebrews. Hence, this nonsense about Obama’s middle name being “proof” that he is a Muslim has got to stop. There’s no evidence that name was given to him for any other reason except the given one – it was his father’s middle name as well.

Nor does Obama dressing up in local garb make him a Kenyan elder or a shadow Muslim. The fact that he is wearing a traditional headress is irrelevant to what he believes. When Calvin Coolidge was photographed wearing a Lakotan headdress, no one came out and said Coolidge was a devotee of The Great Spirit. Politicians wear all sorts of funny hats and clothes. It’s part of Americana. For Obama to be singled out for honoring his hosts by dressing in traditional garb is the height of stupidity and my conservative bretheren should be ashamed of themselves.

I really wish this meme would stop. There is so much else to criticize Obama for that to start tilting at windmills by claiming he’s a danger to our Judeo-Christian society is a waste of time, effort, and resources. I would imagine the candidate himself rather than being hurt by these accusations probably gets a good laugh out of them, so silly they are and so revealing of the stupidity that permeates a large subset of the right.

If Clinton staffers are indeed spreading this then its a second instance of the Clinton camp playing a bigotry card. The most blatantly flourished card was taken out of the deck by President Bill Clinton in a move widely condemned by liberals, conservatives, African-Americans and others — which and it sparked a diplomatic apology by Senator Clinton this weekend in front of an African-American group.

It’s unfair to blame this from coming from the campaign’s top echelon — there is no proof — but at the very least it is a sign of poor management and a campaign that apparently feels the vital issues that need to debated aren’t enough and that the purpose of the campaign is to discredit Obama.

Moran believes the biggest danger with Obama isn’t that Muslims would be more sympathetic to Obama, but that with what he describes as Obama’s “his past associations with radical leftists” the Senator might be someone who’d eventually negotiate with bin Laden.

But on the issue of Obama as Muslim threat he tells conservatives who are harping on Obama being a Muslim (which he isn’t): “Get a grip…”

SOME OTHER WEBLOG REACTION. So far only conservative blogs have commented:

Patterico:

Man. She really is desperate. The debate is gonna be great.

Hot Air:

A weird sidenote: What’s Drudge doing helping to publicize this story? By his own admission, he “needs” Hillary Clinton. Making a spectacle of her desperation ain’t going to improve her chances.

IMAO:

He’s going to eat our babies! Apparently a Hillary staffer is distributing it, and Drudge helpfully provides pictures of other leaders visiting countries and wearing the local costumes. We have to stop that practice. We’re America, the powerful and awesome country there ever was, and people that don’t dress like us all look extremely stupid. Because they are stupid. Because they aren’t emulating us.

Don’t encourage them.

The Backwater Report:

There is a kicker though here.

When you see Bush or Hillary in those pictures with them outfitted in non-Western attire they look goofy – kind of like seeing someone in a pirate outfit showing up at a formal dinner. You can just tell that the person and the outfit are unnatural.

No so with Barack Hussein Obama. When you see Barack Hussein Obama in that outfit you think, “He looks like a Muslim Somali Elder,” or, “He looks like he belongs in that get up.”

I think the picture hurts Obama.

Ohio Conservative:

This is beyond silly, and I think it’s pretty obvious the Clinton campaign is desperately trying to play off the “Obama is a Muslim” emails that have been going around – which might say something about who started those emails in the first place.

I’m halfway contemplating asking for a Democratic ballot next week just to vote for Obama (since McCain already has the Republican nomination sewed up), but I don’t think I can handle being a registered Democrat.

SOME UPDATED REACTION AND SPECULATION ABOUT EMAIL SOURCE:

Marc Ambinder’s post must be read in full. Among other things, he says some Clinton people are suggesting Obama’s campaign sent it:

It’s unclear who is circulating the photo, what the photo means, why only Matt Drudge would receive it, why anything would assume that eve “stressed” Clinton staffers would do such a thing, and why, absent any proof that such a photo was circulating, Obama’s campaign would formally react.

(Clinton campaign aides denied circulating the photo, although they worry that, if someone on the campaign — 700 people now — did so without authorization, they will be in a pickle.

……Anyway, the Clinton campaign believes that the Obama campaign is cynically exploiting the Drudge fetish that news producers have in order to step on her big foreign policy speech today, and the Obama campaign believes that the Clinton campaign is actually sending out a funny-looking photo of Obama….Incidentally, an Obama campaign aide who would know said the campaign did not sent the e-mail to Drudge.

TRN’s The Plank:

This is a total win-win for Drudge. Not only does he get to post a photo of Obama dressed like a foreigner (and a Muslim foreigner at that); he gets to attribute the smear to the Clinton people. This, if you’ll recall, was the exact same M.O. Insight Magazine used last year to float its B.S. Obama-madrassa story–citing “sources close to [a] background check,” which was “conducted by researchers connected to Senator Clinton.” ( A good rundown of this whole dynamic, including some stuff I wrote that is gone and quite possibly never coming back to our archives, can be found here.)

So, while I don’t think Hillary should drop out before Texas and Ohio, her withdrawal would mean that if the GOP wanted to smear Obama, they’d have to do it without hiding behind her.

–Ed Morrissey’s post must be SEEN AS WELL AS READ.

Political Machine:

Despite Senator Clinton’s warm words at the end of CNN’s Democratic debate Thursday night, the rhetoric coming from the campaign and Clinton herself has turned decidedly negative since this past weekend. My colleague David Knowles covered one of Clinton’s more strident attacks on Obama on Saturday here.

If proven that this did indeed come from the HRC camp, this will be one of the lowest blows laid on Obama to date outside of the right-wing blogs and virtual crayon-written spam emails. Some will see this as a desperation move by the campaign to instill fear and loathing before the crucial upcoming March 4 primaries.

KPS104′s dairy at Daily Kos:

Even after I saw the Obama Manchurian Candidate photo on Drudge this morning, I shrugged it off. “Who cares,” I thought, “it won’t make a difference.” But then I saw Maggie Williams’s breathtakingly rude response about it.

I decided I could never vote for Hillary again, not even for the Senate.

I called her New York Senate office and very politely told them as much. I said, “I like Hillary, I voted for her in 2006 for the Senate, and, even though I support Obama for President, I was planning to vote for Hillary in 2012 for Senate. But after this photo, and Maggie Williams’s response, I can never vote for her again. I withdraw my support for Hillary Clinton as my senator. I am appalled.”