There are some rules to the game of politics. It only looks like chaos.
Certain things are considered in bounds and certain things are considered out of bounds, and when you push the boundaries even a little, it can make news.
Something happened at Harvard University Monday night that pushed the boundaries a little.
Harvard was conducting the second part of its "Campaign 2008: Look Ahead" forums.
Two weeks ago, political operatives from the top-tier Republican campaigns came and talked about what they were doing and then took questions from students.
It was all kind of fun and didn't make any real news.
This week, the Democratic operatives showed up, and it turned un-fun pretty quickly.
During a question-and-answer session, a student got up and directed a question to Mark Penn, a top strategist for Hillary Clinton.
"Hillary Clinton voted for the war," the student said. "How do you convince those of us who are inclined to support her that she isn't inclined to get us involved in another war?"
Penn replied that Hillary Clinton is not the kind of person who would have started the Iraq war. He said that had she been president, she would have found out the truth about the weapons of mass destruction and there would have been no war.
But Penn didn't stop there. Even though he had been asked nothing about Barack Obama, Penn said that Obama's record on opposition to the war was "complex" and Obama had made statements in the past that appear to support the Iraq war.
Obama's top strategist, David Axelrod, was sitting about 6 feet away from Penn, and he was not going to take that.
Axelrod, who is normally soft-spoken and mild-mannered, replied, "I really think it is important, if we're going to run the kind of campaign that will unify our party and move this country forward, that we do it in an honest way, and that was not an honest way."
What's the big deal with that? Don't people on opposing campaigns accuse each other of being dishonest all the time?
No. Not in public, anyway. It is considered pushing the boundaries of what is done and not done.
Axelrod continued, "Are we going to spend 10 months savaging each other or lift this country up?"
"I think that is a false choice," Penn replied. "Are we going to look at everybody's record and everybody's votes, and tell people the truth?"
Un-fun. But very interesting.
I have two thoughts about the exchange between Penn and Axelrod: First, it is a sign that no campaign is going to risk getting "Swift-Boated." Any campaign that is attacked or thinks it is being attacked is going to respond quickly and vigorously.
Second, the Iraq war is not going to go away as in issue within the Democratic Party. When it comes to the war, who said what when, how they said it and what they say about it now is going to continue to be a very big deal.
After the question-and-answer session, the campaign staffs, some reporters and some students retired to a large, off-the-record dinner.
And I figured Axelrod might use the opportunity to bury the hatchet.
"I want to go on the record to say that Mark is a longtime friend of mine, whom I respect deeply," Axelrod said. "But let's not throw out half-quotes that are aimed at misleading. I did not say a word about Sen. Clinton's choice to vote for the war in 2002."
That's burying the hatchet, all right. Right in Mark Penn's head.