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The politics of nipple rings: Where do Clinton and Obama really stand?

March 29, 2008 |  4:00 pm

Here's one thing that the two remaining Democratic candidates for president have not yet argued over -- nipple rings.

We haven't heard a peep out of either Sen. Hillary Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama One very mean-looking nipple ring larger than the one that kept Mandi Hamlin from passing through a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint for her flight out of the Lubbock Texas airport to Dallas until she removed them with, ugh, pliers about this pointed issue that's been all over the news in recent days. Maybe then, the nation can move along in this seemingly endless political stalemate over their party's nomination.

(By the way, have you voted yet on whether Clinton should just give up and get out of the race? Click here to cast your crucial ballot.)

In the five years this Democratic presidential campaign seems to have been underway, the two presidential wannabes have debated pretty much everything else of real significance for the nation's future -- whether Obama's grandmother is a typical white person, whether Clinton prefers diamonds or pearls, what someone once wrote in a kindergarten paper.

Revealing his proclivity for government secrecy, Obama even refused to disclose what kind of underpants he wears, if you can imagine such a thing in a society where a magazine offers an ex-governor a bundle of money to pose nude.

So, all that's left really are Mandi Hamlin's nipple rings. She thought she....

was simply headed for a 351-mile flight from Lubbock to Dallas, Texas. But she set off the airport metal detector. And when the agent of the Transportation Security Administration passed the magic metal-detecting wand over her, uh, chest, it beeped.

According to Hamlin, she announced that, well, yes, she was wearing metal nipple rings. Another agent was called over and he announced in return that she'd have to remove them in order to board. The TSA website does warn that body piercings may have to come out if they excite the alarms.

Hamlin says she got one out all right, but had trouble with the other. And -- if you're squeamish, you may want to move straight to the next paragraph -- the agent gave her a pair of pliers, which she used to twist the metal thing out of her nipple.

Hamlin recalls she was in pain and crying and that, once scanned again, she was allowed to board her flight, although she was still wearing another undetected ring in her navel. She also says she overheard male security agents snickering and has endured further pain because she's actually chosen to reinsert the metal pieces into her body. And she wants an apology.

She got better than that. A TSA spokesman in Salt Lake City, Dwayne Baird, said once a metal detector alarm sounds, "until that is resolved, we're not going to let them go through the checkpoint, no matter what they're wearing or where they're wearing it."

And the agency announced that while procedures were properly followed with Hamlin, it would prevent such future discomfort by giving a passenger the option of a visual inspection by a TSA agent.

If Obama and Clinton don't think this is a political issue, they should know that Hamlin has retained as her attorney someone named Gloria Allred.

-- Andrew Malcolm