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Crossing the Line

Clinton's people did the same for Samantha Power.
Clinton's people did the same for Samantha Power. (Sheila Griffin - AP)
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By Dana Milbank
Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Confused about the state of the 2008 campaign?

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Just dial "star-1" on your telephone keypad.

The race for the Democratic presidential nomination is a far-flung affair, with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama crisscrossing many of the 50 states. But you needn't be one of the Boys on the Bus to keep up with the back-and-forth; in fact, you don't need to change out of your pajamas.

Call an 800 number for the "Conference Center" or "Accuconference," enter a passcode, and, after a brief interlude of Muzak, the campaigns will entertain you with near-daily dueling conference calls.

"Hey there, this is Bill Burton with the Obama campaign," the familiar voice of the campaign spokesman announced yesterday afternoon on speakerphones everywhere. "I'm joined on this call by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and [chief Obama strategist] David Axelrod."

The purpose of the call: to draw attention to remarks by Clinton supporter Geraldine Ferraro, printed in the Torrance, Calif., Daily Breeze, suggesting Obama was the beneficiary of preferential treatment: "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman [of any color] he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is, and the country is caught up in the concept."

"Completely out of line," Schakowsky said of the former vice presidential candidate's comments.

Axelrod found the matter "offensive" and demanded punishment for Ferraro. "Gratuitous personal attacks aimed at unleashing the ugliest kind of forces in our society," said he.

Any questions? Reporters raced to punch the star-1 keys -- one so quickly that he wasn't ready when the operator opened his line. "I'm just gonna pass right now, thanks," said the overeager questioner. The Obama aides chuckled.

A quick-fingered Ben Smith of Politico.com, however, was ready. He asked the Obama officials if they were "worried you'll be seen as playing the victim."

"I don't consider it playing the victim," Axelrod replied. "It is part, as I said, of a growing and disturbing pattern."

Speaking of growing and disturbing patterns, the two campaigns have increasingly used the teleconference in recent weeks as their preferred delivery vehicles for bombing runs on one another.


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