- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 21, 2007

4:46 p.m.

As if Hollywood weren’t dramatic enough, Sen. Barack Obama’s star-studded fundraiser there last night sparked a political battle that has dominated the day’s news coverage.

Mr. Obama, Illinois Democrat, raised $1.3 million at the fundraiser, hosted by film director Steven Spielberg, who has promised to hold similar parties for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, and former Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat.

The number impressed political pundits, but for most of today, the political back-and-forth focused on some remarks music and movie producer David Geffen made about Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

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

Miss Dowd’s column went on to quote Mr. Geffen, who is with Mr. Spielberg’s Dreamworks/SKG, as saying Mrs. Clinton couldn’t win the Democratic nomination because of her family history.

“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,” he said.

The Clinton campaign this morning demanded that Mr. Obama disavow the comments and return Mr. Geffen’s cash, quoting his 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, remove Mr. Geffen from his campaign and return his money,” said Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson.

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs responded with his own hit and noted that Mr. Geffen once raised millions for Mr. Clinton — and took the Clintons’ invitation to slumber 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.

Mr. Gibbs added that Mrs. Clinton accepted the support of South Carolina state Sen. Robert Ford, who said recently Mr. Obama could not be elected because he is black.

Mr. Wolfson fired back: “By refusing to disavow the personal attacks from his biggest fundraiser … Senator Obama has called into serious question whether he really believes his own rhetoric.”

Despite the celebrity drama this morning, last night’s event was well-received by those used to walking the red carpet.

Actress Jennifer Aniston of television’s “Friends” fame told a reporter that she finds Mr. Obama to be “lovely,” and Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines praised Michelle Obama, the first-term senator’s wife.

Also in the crowd of 300 were comedian Ben Stiller, producer Ron Howard and actors Morgan Freeman and Eddie Murphy.

The $2,300-per-ticket fundraiser, at the Beverly Hilton, featured a carving station, shrimp dumplings and crab cakes.

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