So who was the mysterious oppo researcher who gave Matt Drudge that photo of Barack Obama dressed in a turban and Somali garb on a trip to Africa in 2006? And why does his campaign consider it a “smear photo?” For that matter, why did John McCain apologize after one of his surrogates kept referring to Obama using his full name, “Barack Hussein Obama.” Is Obama’s parentage not half-African? Is Obama’s middle name not Hussein?” 

So many questions. Here’s a few more from The Washington Post:

[W]hat did it mean? Was it a deliberately leaked smear image? Or an innocent snapshot of a guy humoring the locals by dressing up? The photograph, which might just as easily be seen as feminizing Obama as suggesting hidden Islamic sympathies, didn’t yield many clues.

Even if it was meant as a smear image, the Obama in Africa picture was only slightly more sophisticated in its insinuations than an old Polaroid with horns and fangs drawn on it. By the end of the day, the only clear message from the strange episode is that whoever was spreading the image was not particularly sophisticated about the way images work in our new media world. …

An image such as this one also needs to circulate first among people inclined to believe the worst about its target. For a smear photograph to function properly, it must begin its journey into the body politic with what one might call a “Have you seen this?” phase. As it circulates under the radar, it gains a kind of credibility momentum, as people inclined to believe begin to think it is actual, documentary evidence of something that is being suppressed. …

If the image debuts to the larger world without that momentum, its smear message will be drowned out by a chorus of other story lines: Where did it come from? Who distributed it? Why did they do it? …

The ABC News blog, Political Radar reports that in a radio interview with Dallas/Ft. Worth radio station WBAP, Obama floated the theory that the photo was meant to “imply in some way that I’m foreign,” adding, “These are the kinds of political tricks and silliness you start seeing at the end of campaigns.” Ouch.

For her part Hillary denied that she personally – not her campaign, mind you – was the source of the photo, and claimed not to understand what all the fuss was about: “This is in the public domain.” Bizarrely, both she and her campaign manager Maggie Williams seemed to claim that the photo was a dirty trick on her, not Obama: “This is one more attempt by my opponent’s campaign to change the subject,” said Hillary, while Williams put out an e-mail response that took Obama to task:


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.

But when all is said and done, whoever provided the photo to Drudge Report it backfired, notes the WaPo:

Successful political photographs emerge when an audience finds an image it is already inclined to believe. This photograph seemed to be an image in search of an audience, and it got shot down before it could find one. One might see in this a parable of two political campaigns: One has an audience almost romantically inclined to accept its message, the other has a lot of messages that are looking for an audience.

Poor Hillary. Obama is rubber, she is glue. Attacks bounce off him and she’s stuck with falling poll numbers in the must-win states of OH and TX.

Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog.

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