- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 22, 2007

The two top Democratic presidential candidates sparred yesterday as a political battle played out Hollywood-style in a possible preview of the fight to come for superstar dollars.

Democrats with eyes on the White House are playing roles in the Hollywood primary, which is almost as crowded as the real contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Starring in yesterday’s drama were Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, whose rival campaigns feuded over some comments made by a major Hollywood player who helped raise $1.3 million for Mr. Obama.

The fundraising figure impressed pundits, but the headline of the day featured remarks that music and movie producer David Geffen made about Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

The fundraiser on Tuesday was hosted by Mr. Geffen’s DreamWorks/SKG colleagues Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Mr. Spielberg has promised to hold similar parties for Mrs. Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, but Mr. Geffen is supporting Mr. Obama.

“Obama is inspirational, and he’s not from the Bush royal family or the Clinton royal family,” he told New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

Mr. Geffen in the column called Mrs. Clinton “polarizing” and said he thinks Republicans will use Mr. Clinton against his wife if she gets the nomination. He called the former president a “reckless guy.” Mr. Geffen also criticized Mrs. Clinton for refusing to apologize for her October 2002 vote to authorize the Iraq war.

The Clinton campaign demanded Mr. Obama disavow the comments, quoting his own promise to avoid “slash-and-burn” politics.

“If Senator Obama is indeed sincere about his repeated claims to change the tone of our politics, he should immediately denounce these remarks … and return his money,” said Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson.

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs noted that Mr. Geffen had raised millions for Mr. Clinton and famously slumbered in the Lincoln Bedroom.

“We aren’t going to get in the middle of a disagreement between the Clintons and someone who was once one of their biggest supporters,” Mr. Gibbs said.

He added that Mrs. Clinton accepted the support of South Carolina state Sen. Robert Ford, who said recently that if Mr. Obama got the nomination, “everybody else is doomed.”

“Every Democrat running on that ticket next year would lose — because he’s black and he’s top of the ticket. We’d lose the House and the Senate and the governors and everything,” Mr. Ford said, according to the Associated Press. He later apologized when his remarks drew wide criticism.

Mr. Wolfson wasn’t satisfied with Mr. Gibbs’ response, saying it called into question whether Mr. Obama “really believes his own rhetoric.”

He added, “When one of Senator Clinton’s supporters made an inappropriate statement, her campaign disavowed it immediately and the supporter apologized for his words. Why won’t Senator Obama do the same?”

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