WASHINGTON - A photo appearing on the internet of Senator Barack Obama's Chrysler 300 without a giant, yellow, magnetic "I Support The Troops!" ribbon is causing chaos in the presidential campaign over what constitutes a smear.
The AP photo show Obama's car in his Chicago, IL. driveway WITHOUT a giant, yellow, magnetic "I Support The Troops!" ribbon. Drudge posted the photo yesterday and said it was being circulated by "Clinton staffers". The story quoted an e-mail from an unidentified campaign aide. However, Drudge did not include the text of the e-mail in the report.
AP's Nedra Pickler observed:
"Sen. Barack Obama's refusal to slap a giant, yellow, magnetic "I Support The Troops!" ribbon on his car borders on treason. This omission combined with Obama's reluctance to wear American flag lapel pin along with a photo of him not putting his hand over his heart during the National Anthem led conservatives on Internet and in the media to question his patriotism".
Conservative consultants say that combined, the cases could be an issue for Obama in the general election if he wins the nomination, especially as he runs against Vietnam war hero Sen. John McCain.
"The reason it hasn't been an issue so far is that we're still in the microcosm of the Democratic primary," said Republican consultant Roger Stone. "Many Americans will find the three things offensive. Barack Obama is out of the McGovern wing of the party, he doesn't have a giant, yellow, magnetic "I Support The Troops!" ribbon on his car and he is part of the blame America first crowd. And I also have an anti-Hillary website called C.U.N.T., so I think that makes me a credible judge of what most Americans think about giant, yellow, magnetic "I Support The Troops!" car ribbons and patriotism. [ABC News]
The AP story prompted CNN.com to push-poll it readers about Obama's obvious lack of patriotism:
Should Senator Obama be allowed to run for President without slapping a giant, yellow "I Support The Troops!" magnet on his car?
A follow-up poll asked, "Is patriotic for candidates to have the middle name "Hussein"?"
Both polls were quickly pulled from the CNN website.
The Clinton campaign responded the photo flap.
"I just want to make it very clear that we were not aware of it, the campaign didn't sanction it and don't know anything about it," Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said in a teleconference with reporters. "None of us have seen the e-mail in question. If anybody has independent reporting that they've done on it I would welcome it."
Obama, in an interview with WOAI radio in San Antonio, Texas, said voters are "saddened when they see these kind of politics."
"The notion that the Clinton campaign would be trying to circulate this as a negative on the same day that Senator Clinton was giving a speech about how we repair our relationships around the world is sad."
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe accused Clinton's campaign of "the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we've seen from either party in this election."
Clinton campaign manager Maggie Williams said the Obama campaign's reaction was inflaming passions and distracting voters.
"Enough," Williams said in a statement. "If Barack Obama's campaign wants to suggest that a photo of his car without a giant, yellow, magnetic "I Support The Troops" car ribbons is divisive, they should be ashamed. Hillary Clinton's car doesn't have a giant, yellow, magnetic, "I Support The Troops" car ribbon either and our rouge staffers won't be circulating those photos later to right-wing mouthpieces. I won't dignify the accusation that he doesn't even drive an SUV with a response. And frankly, I don't care if Michelle Obama is finally, really proud of her Chrysler 300 that doesn't have a giant, yellow, magnetic, "I Support The Troops!" car ribbon. That's between her, her husband and Allah."
"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."
In response to a question from ABC News' David Wright about it taking "two Clintons to beat" one Obama, President Bill Clinton said, "Jesse Jackson drove a car without a giant, yellow, magnetic "I Support The Troops!" car ribbon in South Carolina in '84 and '88. Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here."