NYT: Clinton wins Somali-photo-gate

Hey, where did that photo of Barack Obama looking all Somali come from?

Matt Drudge, who helpfully disseminated the photo in question, cited "stressed Clinton staffers." Obama campaign manager David Plouffe blamed Hillary Clinton's campaign. Clinton campaign manager Maggie Williams didn't deny Plouffe's charge; instead, she issued a statement claiming that the Obama camp's ire evinced A) anti-Somali bias and B) a desire to avoid serious issues and sew discord. Later, Clinton communications czar Howard Wolfson did offer a denial, kind of, saying: "I'm not aware that anyone has sent any such e-mail."

Let's suppose, for the sake of the argument, that this photo was sent to Drudge by an overzealous Clinton staffer who received absolutely no permission or encouragement from campaign higher-ups. Even if this is the case, Williams' statement was preposterous. Of course the Obama campaign is going to be pissed about this photo making the rounds, what with that whole Muslim-secret-agent rumor (which, incidentally, a couple Clinton volunteers in Iowa helped promulgate).

To suggest this indicates a lack of cultural sensitivity, or a lack of substance, or a cynical attempt to foment conflict is just absurd. In fact, by responding the way she did, Williams pretty much guaranteed that, wherever the photo came from, the whole flap is going to end up hurting Hillary's campaign. (It might hurt Obama down the road, if he's the nominee, but that's another story.)

Which brings us to the New York Times. Bizzarely, the paper actually seems to see Somali-photo-gate as a win for Hillary.

After describing the photo in question, and quoting Plouffle's claim that the Clinton camp was engaging in "shameful, offensive fear-mongering," reporters Patrick Healy and Julie Bosman close their treatment of the subject as follows:

It has not been independently verified that the photograph came from the Clinton campaign.

Mrs. Clinton’s new campaign manager, Maggie Williams, recently appointed to bring a tougher hand to the operation, issued a withering reply, not taking responsibility for the photograph but attacking the Obama campaign for suggesting that the photograph amounted to fear-mongering imagery [emph. added].

"Enough,” Ms. Williams’s statement began. "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," she added. "We will not be distracted."

The Times: all the tendentious political analysis that's fit to print!

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