How appropriate that the presidential campaign drama that some already are calling "Geffengate" and "Hilla-Bama," among other nicknames, happened to break during Oscars week.
Nothing puts a smile on the lips or a lift in the footsteps of reporters and pundits like a story brimming with big names, powerful people, Hollywood glitter and some major feuding.
One must call upon the drama critic in one's soul to do justice to the epic reception that Southern California's deep-pockets Democratic donors gave to upstart Sen. Barack Obama. For most of us, it would be enough to have Halle Barry say, as she said exuberantly of Obama, that she would go out and pick up litter in the streets to ease his progress.
Quickly on the heels of the big crowds and big-money fundraisers came a titanic war of words between the Illinois senator's supporters and those of the presidential frontrunner, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Oh, pass the popcorn!
In this corner, we have movie mogul David Geffen, whom you may recall from earlier episodes of Washington life as a big booster and running buddy of President Bill Clinton. That was so last century.
Last week, Geffen co-hosted a $1.3 million star-studded Beverly Hills fund-raiser for Obama, followed by dinner for a few VIP donors with the senator and his wife, Michelle, at Geffen's palatial home. Geffen also slung a few barbs at Sen. Clinton. In an interview with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, he called her unelectable and raised questions about both Clintons' ethics and trustworthiness. "Everyone in politics lies, but they do it with such ease, it's troubling," Geffen told Dowd. Ouch.
Round Two: Clinton's chief spokesman, Howard Wolfson, responded with a demand that Obama disavow attacks from Geffen, whom Wolfson incorrectly called Obama's "finance chair," and return Geffen's money "If Senator Obama is indeed sincere about his repeated claims to change the tone of our politics," Wolfson said.
In fact, Geffen is only a fundraiser, not a member of Obama's campaign. Obama's chief spokesman, Robert Gibbs, dismissed Wolfson's demands.
"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," Gibbs said. "It is ironic that the Clintons had no problem with David Geffen when he was raising them $18 million and sleeping at their invitation in the Lincoln bedroom." Ouch again.
With that double-barrelled counterpunch, Gibbs reminded everyone of the mid-1990s Lincoln bedroom campaign finance scandals that the Clintons would rather we forgot.
So, who wins this round? With misgivings about Mrs. Clinton's viability already worrying many in her base, despite her frontrunner status in the polls, I don't see how reminders of the grim side of the Clinton years hurts Obama in any way.
And Wolfson's reaction revealed a curious touchiness for a frontrunner's spokesman. I imagine it must be quite painful for Team Clinton to watch what they see as another free pass for Obama in his mostly favorable media coverage. But, if anyone should know better than to try holding candidates accountable for what each and every one of their supporters say, it is the Clintons.
Meanwhile, Obama was wise to lay low and emerge later at a Houston fundraiser with his halo intact as Senator Peacemaker. He called for an end to the "tit-for-tat" that dominates politics. That was a good move to make before another "tat" could come flying his way from the Clinton camp.
Since the country is waiting with either hope or dread for Obama to stumble in his rapid ascendancy, it says a lot about his instincts and the reflexes of his campaign team that they responded rapidly and passionately to the Hillary aide's jabs. Obama and his people appear to have learned from the mistakes of earlier candidates who let accusations fester for too long in the media boilers until they took on an undeserved appearance of truth.
I often hear from people who complain about news coverage that "focuses on the candidates instead of the issues." But that ignores, in my view, how much the candidates themselves are the issue.