Senator Hillary Clinton’s camp can’t be too happy over New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s latest column, which has some peppery words about her candidacy and her husband from Hollywood bigwig David Geffen.
The news peg is a big, A-list fundraiser in Hollywood — for Barack Obama. There was a time when columnists basically said that then-President Bill Clinton was Hollywood’s man in Washington. Now it sounds like some in Hollywood are ready to work for — and give money to — Barack Obama.
The quotes in this piece (which is on the Times’ Times Select for-pay section) will not be helpful to the Clintons since Geffen’s words will be all over ON conservative talk radio and likely be recycled by political analysists in talking-heads sessions, columnist and (most assuredly) weblogs throughout the campaign. A sampling:
On Hillary Clinton Versus Obama:
â€œNot since the Vietnam War has there been this level of disappointment in the behavior of America throughout the world, and I donâ€™t think that another incredibly polarizing figure, no matter how smart she is and no matter how ambitious she is â€” and God knows, is there anybody more ambitious than Hillary Clinton? â€” can bring the country together.
[Barack] Obama is inspirational, and heâ€™s not from the Bush royal family or the Clinton royal family. Americans are dying every day in Iraq. And Iâ€™m tired of hearing James Carville on television.â€¿
On The Clintons’ Vulnerabilities:
â€œI donâ€™t think anybody believes that in the last six years, all of a sudden Bill Clinton has become a different person,â€¿ Mr. Geffen says, adding that if Republicans are digging up dirt, theyâ€™ll wait until Hillaryâ€™s the nominee to use it. â€œI think they believe sheâ€™s the easiest to defeat.â€¿
On Ms. Clinton’s War Stance:
â€œItâ€™s not a very big thing to say, â€˜I made a mistakeâ€™ on the war, and typical of Hillary Clinton that she canâ€™t,â€¿ Mr. Geffen says. â€œSheâ€™s so advised by so many smart advisers who are covering every base. I think that America was better served when the candidates were chosen in smoke-filled rooms.â€¿
On The Clintons And Hollywood Defections:
Did Mr. Spielberg get in trouble with the Clintons for helping Senator Obama? â€œYes,â€¿ Mr. Geffen replies, slyly. Can Obambi stand up to Clinton Inc.? â€œI hope so,â€¿ he says, â€œbecause that machine is going to be very unpleasant and unattractive and effective.â€¿
Once, David Geffen and Bill Clinton were tight as ticks. Mr. Geffen helped raise some $18 million for Bill and slept in the Lincoln Bedroom twice. Bill chilled at Chateau Geffen. Now, the Dreamworks co-chairman calls the former president â€œa reckless guyâ€¿ who â€œgave his enemies a lot of ammunition to hurt him and to distract the country.”
On What He’d Say To Bill Clinton (he broke with Clinton after Clinton would not pardon someone):
I ask what he will say if he ever runs into Bill Clinton again. â€œ â€˜Hi,â€™ â€¿ he replies. And will he be upset if Hillary wins and he never gets to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom again?
â€œNo,â€¿ he says with a puckish smile. â€œItâ€™s not as nice as my bedroom.â€¿
What’s not surprising about this interview is opposition to Ms. Clinton. After all, there have truly been few steamroller presidential candidacies in recent years when a major party’s presidential nomination is wide open. Those who support one candidate, do tend to “diss” other ones.
This interview is more of a warning sign. It’s a warning sign to the Clinton camp that they have not done sufficient fence-mending with longtime supporters, including some who perhaps gave their support while holding their noses. It’s also a warning sign that they may face another negative out there to confront — dynasty fatigue (Jeb Bush take note.)
Meanwhile, it’s also a warning sign to the media — and to bloggers on the right, left and center — that it ain’t over till it’s over. Especially given the fact that primary season has not even started yet.
UPDATE: The L.A. Times reports that Obama did quite well in California:
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama wrapped up his first California campaign swing Tuesday by invoking the civil rights legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. at a Crenshaw rally, then collecting more than $1 million in checks at a celebrity-studded gala in Beverly Hills….
…Stars who showed up for the $2,300-a-ticket event included Jennifer Aniston, Morgan Freeman, Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller. From the reception, Obama headed to Geffen’s Beverly Hills estate to dine with about 40 guests â€” those who raised at least $46,000 apiece for the Hilton gathering. Obama raised money earlier this week in La Jolla, San Francisco and Palo Alto.
The huge crowd at the Crenshaw event reflected the extraordinary interest that Obama has generated nationwide among Democrats. It is highly unusual for a presidential candidate to draw thousands of supporters to a Los Angeles rally nearly a year before California’s primary â€” or even to try.
“Obama may be the only one who can do that right now, which is significant,” said Joe Trippi, who ran Howard Dean’s White House campaign in 2004.
UPDATE II: The Clinton camp is demanding that Obama cut ties with Geffen and return any contributions. Here’s the statement on Hillery Clinton’s website:
Clinton Communications Director Howard Wolfson issued the following statement today demanding that Barack Obama disavow personal attacks that his campaign finance chair made against Senator Clinton in this morning’s New York Times:
“While Senator Obama was denouncing slash and burn politics yesterday, his campaign’s finance chair was viciously and personally attacking Senator Clinton and her husband.
“If Senator Obama is indeed sincere about his repeated claims to change the tone of our politics, he should immediately denounce these remarks, remove Mr. Geffen from his campaign and return his money.
“While Democrats should engage in a vigorous debate on the issues, there is no place in our party or our politics for the kind of personal insults made by Senator Obama’s principal fundraiser.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.