The Clintons will go as low as it takes

Why would a 2006 photograph of Sen. Barack Obama wearing African tribal garments suddenly show up on the Internet? Think about it. What is the point of circulating a photograph of Obama wearing a white turban days before critical primaries, if not to inflame an anti-Muslim sentiment?

Before the Iowa contest, two volunteers with the Clinton campaign were forced to resign after they forwarded a hoax e-mail that said Obama was a Muslim. And before the South Carolina primary, Obama had to combat Internet rumors that he refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

Amazingly, despite these efforts to "smear" Obama as a "security threat," he went on to win both primaries by large margins.

But after Hillary Clinton's 11 straight losses, and with Obama narrowing the gap in Texas and Ohio, the Clinton camp is showing how low it will stoop.

According to the Drudge Report, the photo was circulated by unnamed "Clinton staffers."

Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson insisted Monday that the campaign had nothing to do with making the photo public. But I don't buy it.

So much for Clinton's: ''I am honored" to be in the race with Obama -- a comment she made during the closing minutes of last Thursday's CNN debate.

There's nothing honorable about what the Clinton camp is trying to do.

Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe called the latest attack "the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we've seen from either party in this election."

Apparently, Clinton has Maggie Williams, a loyalist from the Monica Lewinsky and Whitewater White House days, to thank for that.

Williams, who was Hillary Clinton's chief of staff, was at the center of bitter controversies and didn't mind taking the heat for her boss.

She was once reprimanded for accepting a $50,000 donation to the Democratic Party in the White House, one of the acts that led to widespread calls for campaign finance reform.

The big money came from Johnny Chung, a California businessman who figured prominently in investigations into Democratic fund-raising by the Justice Department and the Senate.

Williams was also cited in the Senate Whitewater report as being "less than truthful," about what happened to files related to that case.

So Williams is well-equipped to be Clinton's mudslinger as the floundering candidate tries to climb back up.

"If Barack Obama's campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed," Williams said in a statement released on Monday. "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 said.

It takes a lot of gall for her to suggest that Clinton's donning of traditional clothing from the various countries she has visited as first lady is no different than a photograph of Obama in a turban.

Clinton is a white woman in America. As such, she can put on a Zulu crown or wrap herself in Kente cloth and no one will distort her image or accuse her of being a closeted Muslim.

More importantly, no one is spreading rumors about Clinton's religious beliefs, nor is anyone trying to mislead the public about her allegiance to this country.

By nudging voters to the image of a turban-wearing Obama, Williams is engaging in fear-mongering and is demonizing Muslims.

Frankly, the circulation of the 2-year-old photograph is similar to the infamous Willie Horton tactic used by George H. W. Bush.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who ran for the Democratic Primary in 1984 and 1988, cautioned that Obama's camp can't succumb to the temptation of responding to these negative attacks.

"Sometimes a champion has to play with pain and choose to get ahead rather than to get even," he said.

Having lost her tight grip on college-educated, middle-class, white and black voters, and with Obama racking up endorsements from several large labor unions, Clinton is desperate to hold on to working-class and blue collar workers.

There is obviously a belief that the sight of Obama's participation in a tribal ritual in Kenya will be enough to drive a lot of those voters into Clinton's camp.

That's truly shameful.

Because instead of bridging the divide, Clinton is counting on it.


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