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Flip flap: What was Obama doing with that finger?
Nick Juliano
Published: Friday April 18, 2008

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Moving on from the important issues of just what Barack Obama was doing 40 years ago when the Weather Underground was blowing up government buildings, or whether he truly loves the country because he won't wear the stars and stripes on his lapel, the conservative and Clinton-supporting sections of the blogosphere are opening another line of attack against Obama.

Did he really raise his middle finger when referencing Hillary Clinton? Well, maybe. But conclusive evidence would be virtually impossible to obtain.

The latest flap over whether Obama flipped the bird started Thursday evening when video of him speaking to supporters in North Carolina showed up online. In the video, Obama was talking about how Hillary Clinton seemed "in her element" during the first half of Wednesday night's debate, during which the discussion was devoid of issue discussions and instead focused on tough questions to Obama about his patriotism and his associations w/ Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers.

"They like stirring up controversy. They like playing gotcha games, and getting us to attack each other," he said. "And I have to say Sen. Clinton looked in her element. She's..."

At this point, Obama took a long pause and raised his right hand to scratch his face, leading with his middle finger. Some in the audience laughed and applauded, apparently thinking he was directing a raised-middle-finger toward Clinton.

An Obama camp source notes that he scratched his face with another finger earlier in the speech when not referencing Clinton.

"He actually..i know this is shocking ..scratches his nose all the time," the source said in an e-mail to RAW STORY.

The Los Angeles Times describes the incident as follows:

He doesn't use his whole hand though. Just one finger. Briefly. A couple of strokes. He pauses. He smiles slyly as the crowd begins to mumble and then he tries, somewhat distracted, to continue his remarks, smiling as the buzz spreads through the crowd. He'll no doubt deny it later, but that mischievous smile seems to confirm plenty. And the crowd sure sees something.

The Chicago Tribune's blog headlined its post "Obama fingers a 'gotcha' debate," but the paper's Mark Silva also wrote around the precise impact of the event. He said "viewers need to pay some attention to ... the finger with which he scratched" his face.

Throughout the evening, several different versions of the video tape emerged. Earlier in his speech, Obama absent-mindedly scratched his face with his pinky finger, suggesting the second gesture may have been similarly absent minded with no nefarious aims. One could count on some of the most virulent pro-Clinton voices in the blogosphere to fill in the gaps.

"SusanUnPC" writes at NoQuarter:

Further — as you’ll see below in a short clip, just below this longer video — he flipped off Hillary in a “street” sort of way. But it is undeniable — I have asked several people to confirm — that he indeed did give Hillary the finger, and it’s clear from the audience reaction that he did so.

Stuart O'Neill at The Democratic Daily calls Obama an "ass" and says the gesture was "classless" and "deliberate." Corrente accuses Obama of "frat boy antics."

Not to be left out in the cold, some conservative blogs jumped on the Obama bird bandwagon, including RedState, Hot Air and National Review's campaign spot.

Later in the video, in a less noticed exchange, Obama gave what Spencer Ackerman calls "perhaps the coolest subliminal cultural reference in the history of American politics." He said the best way to get beyond GOP attacks was to simply brush them off.

"You've gotta expect it, and you've just kinda gotta let it," he said, before brushing off his shoulders. Obama apparently was referencing the Jay-Z song, "Dirt Off Your Shoulders."

A commenter at satirical blog Wonkette even created an animated gif of Obama.

Defenders of Obama were sparse by not impossible to find. Wonkette's Ken Layne called it "an important clue to how crazy everyone is getting that this video from a local teevee station in North Carolina is suddenly being set out by the anti-Obama Internets."

At American Street, a post defended Obama based on a YouTube clip of the incident. After viewing another angel Kevin Hayden updated that Obama's middle finger might have been up, but there's no way to prove what his intentions were.

"So if the truth is in the eye of the beholder," he writes. "his face touch means whatever you behold then."