"The Hollywood Campaign" (September 2004)
Want big money to get elected to national office? If you're a Democrat, you need to head for the hills—Beverly Hills. A miner's map for the liberal Gold Rush. By Eric Alterman
LOS ANGELES—The Tinseltown tussle between the presidential campaigns of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama showcases a serious issue in the Democratic race. "There are questions about the electability of both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton," says Stuart Rothenberg, editor of The Rothenberg Political Report. "Some Democrats wonder if either one can win."
David Geffen, a Hollywood mogul who used to be close to the Clintons, recently hosted a fundraiser for Obama that raised more than $1 million. That didn't sit well with the Clinton campaign. "The word is that she was telling her friends, 'You can't give to everybody; you've got to just give to me,' " said Martin Kaplan, director of the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California. "That didn't go down so well, because a number of people in Hollywood have said that it's a good thing for the Democratic Party to have a robust debate."
And robust is exactly what we're getting.
In an interview with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, Geffen called the senator from New York "incredibly polarizing" and said that Republicans think "she's the easiest to defeat." Speaking of both Hillary and Bill Clinton, he said, "Everybody in politics lies, but they do it with such ease, it's troubling."
The Clinton campaign pushed back hard, issuing this challenge: "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." The reaction signaled to Democrats that the Clinton team will respond just as aggressively when Republicans attack their candidate.