The Obama campaign’s been caught in a race argument it probably really wanted to avoid by moving Muslim women in headscarves out of camera view at a campaign rally. Backstage, the fight between the First Wives is hotting up.

Muslims barred at Obama event. The Politico blog ignited a political storm when it reported that two Muslim women were moved from standing behind Barack Obama at a rally so they’d be off-camera: “The campaign has apologized to the women, both Obama supporters who said they felt betrayed by their treatment at the rally.” 

Wonkette weighed in with a look at how the Obama campaign volunteers (mis)handled the event:

The volunteer in the first incident at least pretended to be tactful, by telling the Muslim gal that they weren’t allowing anyone with scarves or hats or “anything on their heads” in the special VIP section. Muslim image problem, solved! Until, of course, the volunteer immediately blew her cover by shouting at the Muslim gal, “It has nothing to do with your religion!” The Obama campaign should definitely fast-track this volunteer for a P.R. leadership role.” Comments on this piece were pretty classic – we particularly liked “Nothing like dumbf-ck law students who think that 3 hours of torts gives them some sort of magical political powers; it’s almost like taking policy advice from blog comments.

The NYT Caucus blog pointed out that “the people standing behind the candidate – in full view of the camera – are almost never accidental, and candidates often speak [before] a diverse, albeit clean-cut crowd. And given that Michigan is a center of Arab-American culture, it is unlikely that potential turnout by this group did not occur to Mr Obama’s advance staff.” 
First wives in the spotlight. Like it or not, the spouses of the presidential candidates are scrutinised just as much as the candidates themselves. We’ve already seen current first lady Laura Bush defend Michelle Obama over the charge that she’s “unpatriotic” — hopefully that won’t be the only gracious move in the campaign. (The Huffington Post notes that Michelle Obama sent Laura Bush a thank you note for that). The husbands don’t seem to be managing quite so well — the NYT Caucus blog points out that they seem to agree that candidates’ wives should be off-limits, but then they both use the issue to hit each other. Er, what? 

You might wonder why, if McCain thinks the wives should be off-limits, Cindy McCain recorded an interview bagging Michelle Obama over the ongoing issue of Obama’s “patriotism”. 

TruthDig reports that Michelle Obama is 9 points up in polling on which of the candidate’s wives is more liked by the American public. The NYT has an interesting analysis piece looking at the re-engineering of Michelle Obama’s “complicated” image, particularly on issues of race and patriotism, and how it affects the Obama campaign overall. 

Interestingly, this week has seen the Obama campaign make a number of moves aimed at changing Michelle Obama’s image. She’s been given her own campaign manager, and her appearance on TV show The View was widely described as an effort to “soften” her image (Truth Dig has a clip from the show here).

The Momocrats blog hit out with “a few thoughts on the whole ‘repackaging’ of Michelle Obama that the mainstream media threatens is happening…she is fine the way she is.” 

Having Bill Clinton as the first male contender for the “First Spouse” role threw a lot of the more antiquated parts of the “First Lady” role into question. Salon’s War Room blog points out that the controversy (yes, it’s gotten repeated airplay this week) about whether Cindy McCain “stole” a cookie recipe she submitted to a magazine should perhaps be redirected to ask if it’s time to drop the noxiously 1950s habits of asking First Ladies for recipes.

McCain’s “Abramoff Problem”. The Daily KOS says that John McCain’s use of his wife’s company private jet is leaving him wide open to accusations of breaking campaign finance rules. “Cindy McCain used her beer company’s private jet to fly around the country doing fundraisers for John McCain’s presidential campaign. John McCain’s presidential campaign never paid for the use of that jet, as required by law.” It says the Wall Street Journal, which revealed the information “does its best to give McCain the benefit of the doubt, but it’s an uphill road”.

Obama’s foreign policy. The candidates have been trading blows this week on foreign policy (as we noted in Crikey yesterday). While Obama’s been trying to say that McCain’s approach would be just more of Bush’s “war on terror” foreign policy, McClatchy points out Obama’s foreign policy team is largely former Clinton advisors. Now that Hillary Clinton’s out of the race, Obama’s appointed a number of former Clinton-ites, including former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher. 

McCain on energy. Environmental blog Grist reports that John McCain followed up Wednesday’s speech calling for offshore drilling, renewables and conservation with another energy speech focusing on his support for nukes and “clean coal”: “In his remarks, McCain argued that the major obstacles to expanding use of nuclear power are political, and that it has suffered because of the ‘mindset of those who prefer to buy time and hope that our energy problems will somehow solve themselves.'”

One for the election news junkies. The UK’s Times Online points out a new feature on the Huffingon Post called “Off the Bus” which “is posting all the campaign press conference calls, allowing you to listen in, for instance, to Obama’s (already near legendary) strategist David Axelrod spin the line”. That’s kind of cool. 

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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