A Mogul's Revenge

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 22, 2007 7:50 AM

It's a classic Hollywood plot line of power, money and betrayal.

The all-too-polite presidential campaign turned deliciously mean yesterday, courtesy of Maureen Dowd, who was channeling David Geffen, who was getting even with the Clintons, who wasted no time joining in the trash talk.

I haven't had this much fun since Britney shaved her head and went into rehab for another 20 minutes.

Geffen, the Tinseltown mogul, was a big Clinton backer--he even slept in the Lincoln Bedroom, twice--but he is no Hillary fan and just helped Barack Obama stage a million-dollar fundraiser (with his pals Spielberg and Katzenberg).

That would be heresy enough, but he unloaded on HRC in a chat with MoDo. (And none of this weaselly out-of-context stuff. Geffen's guy sent out an e-mail yesterday saying his man was quoted accurately.)

To wit: "I don't think that another incredibly polarizing figure, no matter how smart she is and no matter how ambitious she is -- and God knows, is there anybody more ambitious than Hillary Clinton? -- can bring the country together."

And: "Obama is inspirational, and he's not from the Bush royal family or the Clinton royal family. Americans are dying every day in Iraq. And I'm tired of hearing James Carville on television."

And: "Everybody in politics lies, but they"--that would be Bill & Hill--"do it with such ease, it's troubling." And Bill was "a reckless guy" who hasn't changed very much. ( He's playing the Monica card already?)

And then the issue that has infuriated the left: "It's not a very big thing to say, 'I made a mistake' on the war, and typical of Hillary Clinton that she can't."

By the way, Geffen is still steamed at Bill for pardoning fugitive financier Marc Rich but not pardoning someone who Geffen wanted pardoned. So thoughtless.

The Clinton camp fired back at . . . Obama. "While Senator Obama was denouncing slash and burn politics yesterday," said spokesman Howard Wolfson, "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."

Geffen says he's not the finance chair and has no official role in Obama's presidential bid.

Man, if this keeps up, Hillary and Barack will both be bloody long before they get to Iowa.

The MSM can't get enough.

Chicago Tribune: "The Clintons have long been known for skilled, aggressive political infighting, and Geffen's comments provided a way for the Clinton campaign to test how Obama, relatively new to the national stage, would take a punch. It also was the first of what will no doubt be many attempts by rivals to knock the halo off Obama's head."

LAT: "The first person to draw wide attention to some of the old controversies was not a Republican candidate or the 'vast, right-wing conspiracy' that the Clintons have assailed, but a leading liberal at the heart of Hollywood."

NYT: "A remarkably caustic exchange between the Clinton and Obama campaigns that highlighted the sensitivity in the Clinton camp to Mr. Obama's rapid rise as a rival and his positioning as a fresh face unburdened by the baggage borne by Mrs. Clinton, the junior senator from New York. The Clinton camp seemed also to be sending a warning to mudslinging critics that they would be dealt with fiercely."

Boston Globe: "Obama, still basking in the glow after a highly publicized fund-raising event led by Geffen that attracted many A-list Hollywood stars, refused to condemn Geffen, and the two campaigns spent the day exchanging snippy remarks."

NY Post: "The ugly bare-knuckle brawl - coming a year before the first presidential primary -- was triggered by Tinseltown movie mogul and Obama supporter David Geffen's lengthy disparaging remarks about Hillary and Bill Clinton --his former friends."

Slate's John Dickerson says Hillary won the round:

"The response from the Obama campaign was good, old-fashioned hardball. You call me a hypocrite, and I'll respond by raising something out of your ugly past. But that wasn't the way Obama has said he'll play the game. It's very hard to run in the political system while simultaneously running against the system, but that's what has seemed so audacious about his campaign rhetoric. He has promised to lay down a lot of political weapons, and voters will reward him for taking that risk. But apparently, the weapons are still in his back pocket.

"Does the Clinton team look a little thin-skinned? Yes, but they'll take the rap for being thin-skinned if they can show their opponent to be a hypocrite."

Well, maybe. But isn't everyone buzzing about Geffen turning on the Clintons, not the degree to which Obama is responsible for Geffen popping off?

Ana Marie Cox: "Geffen comes across as bragging about his new bff to the school gossip and trashing his ex-girlfriend. Oh, and his bedroom is nicer than the Lincoln bedroom. Why don't just go buy yourself your own country, then, David . . . ?"

Jonah Goldberg:

"So the million-dollar question for strategic primary voters is, which candidate will swing voters like? It's a tougher question than it seems because your personal feelings are irrelevant. John Edwards's saccharine populism grates on me to no end, but I doubt average voters will see him as the angry honey-dipped marshmallow I take him for. Interestingly, the GOP has a significant lik[e]ability advantage (and disadvantages almost everywhere else). John McCain may be unpopular with much of the Republican base, but Americans would love to go to the pub with him. Rudy Giuliani, too, seems like a good guy with whom to watch a baseball game at the bar. The super-polished Mitt Romney's a tougher call, and Duncan Hunter would be a pain because he'd keep asking the immigration status of the busboys. But the GOP front-runners (save perhaps Newt Gingrich) all have the advantage over Hillary. She may have star power, but you get the sense that most Americans would like to have their picture taken with her and then drink alone. With the exception of Sen. Christopher Dodd, I'd guess all of the Democratic wannabes are more likable than Clinton, too. Sexism probably is part of the equation, but not as much as Clinton's defenders will claim."

ABC's Jonathan Karl caught up with the veep yesterday, and here's part of the transcript:

Karl: You probably heard John McCain again come out and say that your friend Donald Rumsfeld is perhaps the worst Secretary of Defense ever. What do you make of that?

Cheney: I just fundamentally disagree with John. John said some nasty things about me the other day, and then next time he saw me, ran over to me and apologized. Maybe he'll apologize to Rumsfeld.

Karl: So what's your take on where Secretary Rumsfeld fits in?

Cheney: I think Don's a great secretary. I know a little bit about the job. I've watched what he's done over there for six years. I think he did a superb job in terms of managing the Pentagon under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. He and John McCain had a number of dust-ups over policy, didn't have anything to do with Iraq -- other issues that were involved. John's entitled to his opinion. I just think he's wrong.

Karl: I know we're just about out of time, but I wanted to clarify: Senator McCain had said that the problem with President Bush is he listened to you too much. So this is what he was apologizing to you for?

Cheney: Yes, yes.

Karl: What did he say?

Cheney: Well, he came up to me on the floor a couple of days later, the next time I was on the floor of the Senate, said he'd been quoted out of context, and then basically offered an apology which I was happy to accept.

Does Newt Gingrich want the GOP to draft him? Yes, says Dick Polman, who wonders how short conservatives' memories are:

"People forget, for instance, that the House speaker was nearly overthrown in 1997, by conspirators that included Tom DeLay, in part because he was not deemed to be sufficiently conservative. They felt that Newt had caved to President Clinton on a number of key budget issues (at the time, the conservative Weekly Standard magazine assailed Newt for committing 'a profound act of political self-mutilation'). They complained when Newt invited Jesse Jackson to join him on the House podium in January of '97. They were angry when Newt refused to launch a frontal assault on affirmative action. They didn't like it when he defended the National Endowment for the Arts and broke bread with liberal activist and actor Alec Baldwin. People also tend to forget that it was Newt, as a key GOP strategist, who forced his party to overreach during the Clinton impeachment crisis. At a key moment during his reign, he misjudged the national mood.

"During the autumn of '98, as a campaign tactic for the midterm elections, he spotlighted the Monica Lewinsky scandal and pushed for impeachment (at a time when he was conducting his own extramarital affair). But, as the voters made clear in November, when the Democrats scored gains in both the House and Senate, impeachment was generally viewed as excessive punishment for dirtbag behavior. Within a week of the election, Newt quit the speakership -- as well as his seat."

Since I mouthed off awhile back about why the punditocracy wasn't treating Bill Richardson more seriously, this post by Matthew Yglesias struck a chord:

"We'll leave aside, momentarily, the fact that Richardson is clearly more qualified for the White House than anyone else in the race, since everyone knows that doesn't matter. Just consider the bare fact that he's the popular, second-term governor of a swing state -- you know, the sort of person who back in the day used to win presidential elections. And it's not as if Richardson isn't getting attention because the field is crowded with popular second-term governors of swing states. No. We're too excited about the first-term senator from Illinois whose only competitive election in the past was against Bobby Rush -- and who lost. Or that vice presidential nominee from a losing ticket . . .

"The change seems driven almost entirely by the national media, which simply decided unilaterally some years ago to only cover people who were already famous.

"This isn't something we should take lying down. I'm not going to tell you to vote for Bill Richardson, or even that I'm going to vote for Bill Richardson. But, at a minimum, I'd like to learn more, and you should, too."

But that would require journalists to write less about Hillary and Obama!

Remember the Air Pelosi flap? TPM's Greg Sargent finds an interesting admission from Adam Putnam, the No. 3 House Republican:

"Putnam now acknowledges he had no personal knowledge of any Pelosi request. He said he was commenting on an anonymously-sourced story in The Washington Times and additional coverage from CNN. 'This was a classic case where the media got out in front of us,' Putnam said. 'Did we jump on it? Yes.'

"And he is unapologetic about that. He calls the Pelosi plane story, whatever its legitimacy, 'the first break [Republicans] have had from the media in driving our message since before the Mark Foley story broke.'

"And these days, as chairman of the House Republican conference committee, it is in Putnam's congressional job description to care intensely about that.

"I'm not sure it gets any clearer than that. Putnam had no idea whether the story was true or not. Yet based on an anonymously sourced Washington Times story (and allegedly based on CNN, though what exactly CNN had added to the story at that point is unclear), he happily attacked Pelosi for 'arrogance' and 'extravagance.' More important, he is still 'unapologetic' about the fact that the story turned out to be false, because, well, it's not his job to care about such things. It's his job to 'drive' the GOP's 'message.'

"Look, of course Putnam is going to lie. But what of the media? This story was all over the airwaves and newspapers for days and days and days -- even well after it had been discredited. Can we all agree that this sort of occurrence is a bad thing for journalism, for politics, and for the state of our discourse? Can we all agree that it would be desirable to avoid this sort of thing? Agreed?"

Not to defend what Putnam did, but don't congressman pop off every day of the week about some story in the paper without checking it out?

Will the Money Honey ever talk to reporters again? Check out this San Antonio Express-News report:

"Known for asking the tough questions on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, she avoided taking any herself at Trinity University's sold-out Policy Maker Breakfast. She hasn't answered media questions since the Citigroup ethical issue came to light.

"Perhaps that's why Bartiromo skipped the breakfast series' traditional post-speech news conference."

CBS's Public Eye questions whether the Boston Globe should have run the following as a front page story:

"Bridget Moynahan, whose three-year relationship with Tom Brady ended late last year, is pregnant and says the New England Patriots quarterback is the father."

What? Of course it's a Page One story! Especially since the past Super Bowl champion is dating Gisele Bundchen! (Brady's flack now says he's "excited" about the pregnancy. Yeah, right. I'm sure Gisele is too.)

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