You’ve probably already seen that blaring headline on Drudge’s site, alleging that Clinton staffers have been circulating a 2006 photo of Obama in the garb of a Somali village elder with a turban. The photo apparently comes from a 2006 congressional delegation he was on during his second year in the senate. The Obama campaign has now jumped on board slamming the Clinton campaign. (The pretty transparent subtext is that the picture has Obama looking done up like a guy you might see on some documentary on the Taliban, though obviously members of Congress try on local garb all the time when they’re on foreign trips.)
Now, Drudge’s claim is vague — who circulated it? and who did they circulate it to? And, in any case, this is Drudge. So as a fact witness his say-so is close to meaningless.
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.
Here’s the text …
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.
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.
Late Update: The Clinton campaign has now put out a second statement that goes further but I think still basically amounts to the same thing. You be the judge. In any case, I know you come to TPM to find out what’s happening in politics not to get insights into our editorial process. But a number of readers have asked so, a little more detail. When we first heard about this brouhaha this morning, we didn’t want to do anything with it before we heard what the Clinton camp had to say, for the reasons I described in the initial post. We know that without doing some sort of exhausted internal investigation, there’s no way a national campaign can say that no one in their campaign had anything to do with it. There’s high-level staff, mid-level, hundreds of volunteers, etc. That’s not what we were looking for. In most cases, in a situation like this a campaign or in this case, say, perhaps Howard Wolfson or some other top level staff would say: “We don’t condone this. We didn’t authorize this. As far as we know no one in our organization had anything to do with this. Our campaign is made up of hundreds of people. So we can’t say definitively that someone somewhere didn’t make a stupid decision. But this isn’t something the campaign has anything to do with.” We pushed and pushed. But we didn’t get anything like that. The new statement goes further. But not that much. The Clinton campaign is either terribly inept at dealing with the story or they know or suspect that it’s accurate. In any case, what we try to do is give you the background to the blaring headlines you see and the benefit of what we find out through our own reporting. That’s just what we did in this case.