Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

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Monday, February 25, 2008
Talk about Rovian tactics...
Barack Obama greeting crowds in Kenya in August 2006.
You won't see this photo circulated by the Clinton campaign...

So Hillary is pissed that Barack Obama's campaign circulated mailers that pointed out that she's prepared to garnish wages to achieve mandated, universal health care coverage (something she admits) and that she praised NAFTA during her husband's administration (something that's fairly obvious, since there are no public records suggesting otherwise...) and she calls his tactics -- pointing out POLICY differences -- "Rovian" ... but we're supposed to believe that the Clinton camp's decision to circulate a photo of Barack Obama dressed in what looks like traditional Muslim garb during a 2006 trip to Kenya, forwarding it to Matt Drudge, and implying that he is a Muslim, when Hillary knows damned well that he is a Christian, is not Rovian? My head hurts...

Obama's response is sufficiently stinging, with campaign manager David Plouffe calling it "divisive" and "fear mongering."

New campaign manager Maggie Williams' response is clever, but actually makes matters worse, in that it implies that Camp Clinton is indeed behind the photo flap. And she gets the country wrong:
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.
WRONG! It was Kenya, dear. Nothing more to see, here...

Meanwhile, Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times gives us some background on that photo:
WASHINGTON—Retired Air Force Gen. Scott Gration, who accompanied Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on his trip to Kenya in 2006, on Monday defended Obama’s trying on local garb over his clothes during a visit to the rural Wajir region in the country, a picture of which is at the top right now of the Drudge Report. ...

... Gration was with Obama on every leg of the African visit, including Wajir, an area that often does not get the attention of foreign visitors. Obama, whose father was Kenyan, was treated as a head-of-state during the visit, part of a multi-nation trip of which Kenya was the highlight. Obama, his wife Michelle, their two daughters and friends accompanied them on the Kenya leg of the trip.

Gration is a Swahili-speaking retired Air Force major general, a native of St. Charles, Ill., who spent much of his youth in Africa. I asked him about the circumstances surrounding the photo during a conference call the Obama campaign organized as a prebuttal to a major foreign policy speech Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) will deliver today in Washington. The just completed call featured Obama foreign policy advisors Susan Rice, Gration and former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig.

“I was along on that picture,” Gration said. They were seeing a “community mobilization” in Wajir and witnessed the “live auction” of camels and other livestock..

During the course of this, Obama was given an outfit, and “as a great guest,” he tried it on, much in the way, Gration said, people “try on Christmas gifts” they may not want to keep.

Obama did “what any leader should do…accept the gift, accept the hospitality,” said Gration. Obama was “accepting a gift of friendship in a way we expect,” he said.

Rice, who served as an African expert in President Clinton’s White House, said release of the photo was designed “to be divisive.’’ But she also noted that President Clinton had himself dressed in kinte cloth as part of respecting local customs and cultures.
Sweet wrote about the 2006 trip, which was highlighted on Barack's Senate website:
It's not unusual for members of Congress to travel to African nations -- a House delegation was in Kenya last week, led by House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.). Dreier was in Kenya to observe the work of the U.S. House Democracy Assistance Commission, which helps new democracies establish government services.

But Obama's unique situation -- the only African American in the Senate -- a son of an African with family in Kenya whose popularity in the United States is soaring to the point where he is being talked about as a presidential candidate -- makes this journey special, a trip of symbolism as well as substance.

Obama is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee panel on African Affairs. Obama, sworn into office in January 2005, in his freshman year visited Russia and other former Soviet states; Iraq, Kuwait, Israel and the West Bank.

In other words, it was not unusual to take the trip, or wear the outfit. But for Barack, the reception WAS unusual. He was greeted in a manner we're accustomed to only seeing with Bill Clinton (or Will Smith, or a generation ago, for Mohammed Ali) -- only with Barack, it was far more personal. CNN covered the euphoria with which he was greeted:

KISUMU, Kenya (CNN) -- Tens of thousands of Kenyans lined the streets of Kisumu on Saturday, giving U.S. Sen. Barack Obama a hero's welcome as he arrived to visit the nearby village where his late father and grandfather lived.

Massive crowds screamed "Obama, Obama" and waved flags emblazoned with his name and face, as the 45-year-old junior senator from Illinois rode through the streets in a truck flanked by a lengthy convoy.

"I greet you all," he shouted in the local language, Luo, waving.

Many people wore T-shirts dedicated to the Democratic Party's rising star, who was received like a head of state, if not a rock star.
The NYTimes covered it, too.

Frankly, as one who also visited hundreds of countries as first lady and as a Senator, taking care to respect the culture of each one as she traveled, Hillary Clinton should know better.

Mrs. Clinton, with all do respect, raise your game. If you're going to stay in this thing, then have a little class. This kind of campaigning is beneath you, and yes, it's very Rovian, too. Leave this kind of crap to the folks at Fox Noise, and get Maggie Williams a world map.

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posted by JReid @ 1:16 PM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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