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Obama rally inclusive -- except for 2 Muslim women in scarves

June 18, 2008 |  7:02 pm

Once presidential candidates were always placed on podiums, above the crowds, on balconies or the backs of trains speaking down to the voters from on high.

In the last few presidential election cycles, however, populism became the theme. It's been the stage fashion to plop the candidate amid adoring throngs. All campaigns now line the back of rally stages with handpicked, politically correct supporters who represent the message of the day -- young college students, old white women, a rainbow array of ethnicities. The president does it too, lots of soldiers behind him, men, women, black, white, Latino.

These are the happy, adoring, enthusiastic supporters who will be on camera with the candidate for presumably millions of Americans to see and identify with. The others in the front audience are there to yell and scream and wave signs.

The candidate's advance team and its volunteers are charged with arranging this human facial bouquet before the event. There are risks, of course. Young children easily get bored and fidgety and sometimes pick their noses on camera.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama surrounded by supporters in Pennsylvania

Others may yawn or fall asleep and provide evil news photographers with an inadvertent comment on the candidate's remarks that will appear all over the country as quickly as you can say, "Hot dog, not another candidate holding a microphone photo!"

Trouble is, apparently a Barack Obama volunteer or two in Detroit on Monday barred two Muslim women from standing behind Obama because they were wearing head-scarves. Everyone knows how hard the Obama forces have fought viral rumors that with the middle name Hussein and a childhood in Indonesia he is really a closet Muslim plotting to subvert the United States of America.

So the volunteer, described as a black woman in a green shirt, barred the women from the stage.

Our colleague over at the Swamp, Katie Fretland, has this version of the embarrassing episode. And the Politico.com has a longer one here.

She explained, according to the women, by citing the political climate and widespread antipathy toward Muslims. It's particularly awkward for the Obama campaign, which talks often about its inclusiveness and the fact that Michigan is a major center of American Arabs.

The campaign apologized. "“This is of course not the policy of the campaign," said Bill Burton. "It is offensive and counter to Obama’s commitment to bring Americans together."

But at least one of the women has indicated that an apology is insufficient. She wants an invitation to stand right behind Obama at another rally.

Watch for that. And watch for Obama then to walk over and personally apologize. Turn a minus into a plus.

--Andrew Malcolm

Photo Credit: The Daily Pennsylvanian

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