When I approached my regular newsstand at 86th Street and Lexington this morning, there was so much red and white on the front pages of the local tabloids that I thought they were running stories on Santa Claus. A closer look at the Post and the News revealed photographs of Barak Obama depicted in Somali dress, complete with turban.
Both papers covered themselves against the charge of pandering to anti-Muslim prejudices--the Post with "Bum Wrap" and the News with "Smear We Go"-- by covering Matt Drudge's allegation that the Clinton campaign distributed the photo to malign Obama.
Call me paranoid, but I suspect that the appeal of this story to Drudge is that it's a twofer: in on stroke, he gets to attack Clinton as mean-spirited while furthering the attacks on Obama that depict him as a Muslim--as if that was a bad thing in and of itself.
I don't trust Drudge at all, and the judgement of the tabs on this story seems shaky. As much as they claim to be covering the smear, in the current cultural climate the picture of Obama in a turban says far more than anything in their headlines and stories. This is one case, I fear, where the picture trumps the words. And the picture furthers a scurrilous campaign to slander Obama on ridiculous religious grounds. If they had to run it at all, it deserved to be on the inside pages.
For what it is worth, in the Times--which came off badly in its flawed story on McCain--ignored the story on today's front page.