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The heat keeps rising in the Democratic race

February 25, 2008 | 11:54 am

Another day, another mini-dustup between the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns.

Regardless of how "honored" she felt late last week about sharing a debate stage with Obama, Clinton spent the weekend expressing both anger and ridicule toward him, as The Times' Michael Finnegan and Mark Barabak detailed here. Today, there surfaced a more indirect effort to undermine Obama, apparently emanating from the Clinton team.

Throughout much of the day, the lead item on the influential Drudge Report has been a photo of Obama dressed in native garb as he visited Kenya two years ago -- a picture that, according to the post, was circulated by "stressed Clinton staffers."

Obama aides, already having dealt with anonymous efforts to depict Obama as a "Muslim plant," reacted with indignation. Campaign manager David Plouffe issued a statement saying: “On the very day that Senator Clinton is giving a speech about restoring respect for America in the world, her campaign has engaged in the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we’ve seen from either party in this election."

The response from Clinton's newly installed campaign manager, Maggie Williams, was intriguing: she essentially told ...

the Obama folks to clam up, without addressing the question of how the photo came to attract such attention.

"Enough," read the start of Williams' statement.

It went on: “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."

Indeed, the Drudge item includes such shots not only of her (with her daughter, Chelsea, also in the frame), but of Bill Clinton and President Bush, as well.

On the trail, meanwhile, Hillary Clinton continued her frontal assault on Obama today. In the speech focusing on foreign policy that Plouffe referred to, delivered in Washington, she had this to say: "We have seen the tragic result of having a president who had neither the experience or the wisdom to manage our foreign policy and safeguard our nation. America has already taken that chance one time too many."

She may not have uttered Obama's name, but it's not like she had in mind presumed Republican presidential nominee John McCain, whose calling card is his foreign-policy credentials.

It's all enough to make you think the two Democrats are approaching some sort of big showdown -- say, in Ohio and Texas.

-- Don Frederick

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