US leaders trot the globe putting on native garb - a form of costume diplomacy that's like kissing babies at home.
But when a photo popped up Monday showing leading US Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama wearing the turban and garb of a Somali Muslim tribesman in northern Kenya, nerves frayed like grass in the arid plains of Wajir.
That's the desperate work of Obama's struggling rival for the party's nomination, Hillary Clinton, his campaign staff charged. What's the big deal, Clinton's staff asked, without denying ownership.
The muckraking Drudge Report website claimed the photo had been emailed by Clinton staffers.
For many, the 2006 image resurrected past smear attempts that Barack Obama is not really a US patriot: his last name rhymes with Osama bin Laden's first name. His middle name is Hussein - the heritage of a Kenyan father who was Muslim. And he attended a Muslim school in Indonesia when his mother lived there with his stepfather.
Obama and his family are longstanding members of a Christian church in Chicago.
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe accused the Clinton campaign Monday of "shameful, offensive fear-mongering", the Washington Post reported.
Clinton campaign manager Maggie Williams, in a statement posted on Clinton's website, said that Obama's campaign "should be ashamed ... to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive.
"Hillary Clinton has worn the traditional clothing of countries she has visited and had those photos published widely," Williams said. "This is nothing more than an obvious and transparent attempt to distract from the serious issues confronting our country today and to attempt to create the very divisions they claim to decry.
"We will not be distracted," she said.
The next Obama-Clinton face-off in the presidential primaries is on March 4 in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont. The Ohio and Texas races are seen as key to whether Clinton can come back from 11 straight losses in state contests.