War of words over photos of Obama in traditional dress

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

When visiting his father’s homeland of Kenya two years ago, Presidential candidate Barack Obama wore a traditional white turban and a wraparound white robe presented to him by elders.

In the febrile atmosphere of the 2008 primaries, that picture has been released, allegedly by staffers for his rival for the Democratic nomination for President, Senator Hillary Clinton.

Senator Obama’s campaign manager was furious, and the claim and counter-claim over the issue brings the public scrapping between the only female and the only black candidate in the race for the White House to a new low.

Just days ago Senator Clinton was saying her opponent ought to be ashamed of himself over campaign leaflets about her plans for health care.

Over the weekend she bitterly mocked his message of hope and change.

“I could just stand up here and say ‘Let’s just get everybody together, let’s get unified,'” she told a rally in Rhode Island.

“The sky will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect.

“Maybe I’ve just lived a little long, but I have no illusions at how hard this is going to be. You are not going to wave a magic wand and have the special interests disappear.”

Yesterday the team around her was accused of “the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we’ve seen from either party in this election” by Obama campaign manager David Plouffe over the photo incident.

Senator Clinton’s team tried to spin the story to their advantage, but their protestations of innocence were not helped by the fact that two staffers had to resign in December after sending out emails claiming her 46-year-old opponent is a secret Muslim.

“If Barack Obama’s campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed,” Senator Clinton’s campaign manager Maggie Williams said.

She did not comment on how the photo came to be distributed.

“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.”

The two contenders for the Democratic party nomination will debate tonight for probably the last time in this campaign.

The increasingly strident attacks by Senator Clinton are a symptom of her steady loss of support among her core support groups.

Meanwhile Senator Obama continues to gain ground in the key primaries of Ohio and Texas, which will be held on March 4th.

Senator Obama has won the last eleven contests in a row and now has more pledged delegates at the nominating convention than his opponent.

In Ohio Senator Clinton, 60, has seen her lead reduced from 21% to 11%.

The national polls are even worse for her campaign. The Associated Press-Ipsos survey found Obama leading Clinton by 23% among white men and 17% among liberals.

Overall he leads her 46% to 43% nationally – jus two weeks ago Senator Clinton had a 5% lead.

The poll was conducted from February 22nd to 24th and involved telephone interviews with 1,011 adults nationally. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.1%.

A New York Times/CBS News Poll published today also found that Senator Obama’s appeal is broadening. Nationally, 54% of Democratic primary voters saying they wanted to see him nominated, while 38% want Senator Clinton.

See full results of the NYT/CBS poll here.

“I think if we lose in Texas and Ohio, Mrs. Clinton will have to make her decision as to whether she moves forward or not,” senior Clinton aide Harold Ickes told the Wall Street Journal yesterday.