The Note: (Not) Ready to Make Nice


Those who don't learn from campaign history are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.

So/and a quick review of Wednesday's Clinton-Obama-Geffen chronology makes it clear who made errors at which points along the way. Read it with an eye towards judging in the future who has learned from their own mistakes (and those of others) and who has not.

(Note: events marked with a * did not necessarily happen -- but probably did.)

3:30 am ET: *A Googling monkey reads Maureen Dowd's New York Times column with the Geffen quotes and rings the bell at its work station.

5:30 am ET: *Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson -- a long-time devotee of the New York Times and an early riser -- reads the Maureen Dowd column with the Geffen quotes and immediately realizes that he has both a problem and an opportunity.

6:16 am ET: *A bleery-eyed, twenty-something rapid responder in the Hillary Clinton for President war room reads the Maureen Dowd column with the Geffen quotes and immediately calls Phil Singer. Singer says, "I know, I know -- Howard already called me."

9:35 am ET: *DreamWorks political mastermind Andy Spahn wakes up and reads The Note. He goes back to sleep.

9:47 am ET: The Clinton campaign releases the first of its statements from Wolfson, calling on Sen. Obama to renounce Geffen and return his campaign cash. The Clinton campaign rends its own credibility with a certain category of reporters by wrongly saying that Geffen has an official role in the Obama campaign.

9:55 am ET: *Newsrooms in Washington and New York gleefully adjust their plans for the day.

10:10 am ET: *Edwards strategists Jonathan Prince and Nick Baldick share a cheerful, cold-blooded strategy call.

10:22 am ET: *Dowd begins to get calls from every cable and broadcast television show – 90% from bookers and 10% from reporters wanting access to her audio recording of the interview. Dowd, remembering her famous "Nightline" appearance on arms control, refuses all requests.

11:11 am ET: Taking the Wolfsonian bait, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs strikes back with his own statement, invoking the Clintons' previous affection for Geffen (or, at least, his money) and the crass exploitation of the Lincoln Bedroom. The Obama campaign rends its own credibility with a certain category of reporters by wrongly saying that Clinton had not disavowed the controversial statement of one of her own supporters.

10:35 am ET: *A "senior" Clinton advisor who wasn't consulted about the initial Wolfson statement angrily tells everyone he/she can reach that it was a mistake. Later, as the day plays out, the same advisor begins implying to friends that she or he thought of the original idea to put out the statement.

11:17 am ET: *Terry McAuliffe, Harold Ickes, and Bill Clinton begin a series of phone calls to various people on the East and West Coasts. Profanity is used.

Noon ET: *Spahn begins a series of telephone calls to figure out how to respond and work on a statement. The sequence, played out over several hours: Obama strategist David Axelrod calls Spahn. Spahn calls Geffen. Spahn calls Geffen back after Geffen hangs up on him. Spahn, smoother than a baby's bottom, gets it done and makes everyone -- but the Clintons -- happy.

12:08 pm ET: Wolfson releases another statement.

12:09 pm ET: *The Clinton campaign decides to try to ruin the Obama trip to Iowa by planning an afternoon press conference call with supporter Bonnie Campbell, who will channel Wolfson. The Clinton campaign knows that for many in-state Democrats, Campbell personifies "Iowa values."

3:10 pm ET: Geffen, refusing all interview requests, tells ABC News in a statement, "Despite reports to the contrary, I am not the Campaign Finance Chair and have no formal role in the Obama campaign, nor will I, other than to continue to offer my strongest possible personal support for his candidacy. My comments, which were quoted accurately by Maureen Dowd, reflect solely my personal beliefs regarding the Clintons. Thank You." Many at ABC News believe the use of the "thank you" is a nice touch.

3:36 pm ET: Sen. Clinton, once again following the Bush 2000/04 playbook, stays (mostly) above the fray, refusing to directly address the contretemps when asked about it in Nevada by George Stephanopoulos -- although she does invoke "the politics of personal destruction," which she knows is a base-stoking code phrase for many Democrats, including African-Americans.

4:20 pm ET: *Dennis Kucinich continues to ready his plans for the Department of Peace, moving the little figurines around his model set, whispering to them softly, "You guys never fight. No. You guys are friends. My friends."

4:30 pm ET: Bonnie Campbell does her hit job, essentially reeking of Iowa values.

4:35 pm ET: *Biden/Vilsack/Richardson/Dodd turns in disgust to an aide with him in Carson City and say: "I guess this is what we have to look forward to for the next year."

4:45 pm ET: James Carville goes deep inside the Situation Room and makes tetchy jokes about David Geffen. The jokes go over Wolf's head.

5:40 pm ET: Sen. Obama, outside the Iowa state capitol, aw shuckses his way through a press conference, in which he (mostly) supports Geffen. Iowa big-footed journos Kay Henderson, Henry Jackson, and Charlotte Eby enjoy the spectacle and exude the proper amount of incredulity.

6:30 pm ET: *The array of Hollywood celebrities who attended the Geffen-hosted fundraiser are still unaware of any controversy; the Oscars are on Sunday, after all.

7:03pm ET: Bob Shrum appears on "Hardball" and reveals enough of his pro-Obama/anti-Clinton feeling to cross the line at Whitehaven. Ed Rogers is amused.

7:10 pm ET: Wolfson, coming more in (faux) sadness than in anger, appears on NY1's " Inside City Hall ," during which time anchor Dominic Carter merrily watches Wolfson melt butter in his own mouth.

7:25 pm ET. Wolfson, still more sad than angry, appears on "Hardball" and engages in an extended colloquy with Chris Matthews, during which Wolfson appears to take the position that he speaks for himself, and sometimes for the campaign, but not for Sen. Clinton. Matthews is incredulous but accommodating. Wolfson also suggests that Geffen was put up to making the remarks to Dowd.

8:02 pm ET: *Steven Spielberg calls Geffen and says, "I really can't believe this. Those DC types... they're so... shallow."

The man who believes Hollywood does not represent the heart and soul of America, George W. Bush, participates in a 11:15 am ET tour of Novozymes North America, Inc., a biotech company that supplies enzymes to help produce ethanol, in Franklinton, NC. The President then takes part in an 11:55 am ET panel discussion on cellulosic ethanol, a type of ethanol made from materials such as wood chips, switch grass, and other agricultural waste.

First Lady Laura Bush has an 12:20 pm ET tour of Katrina Cottages, Cusato Cottages in Ocean Springs, MS. She then has a 1:00 pm ET luncheon at McElroy's on the Bayou Restaurant followed by a 2:25 pm ET visit to D'Iberville Elementary School in D'Iberville, MS.

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow keynotes the 6:15 pm ET Republican Committee of Allegheny County Lincoln Day Dinner in Pennsylvania.

As the jury continues deliberations in the trial of Scooter Libby, Vice President Cheney is in Australia -- the country whose prime minister recently took a shot at Sen. Obama's Iraq war posture. This week, Australian Prime Minister John Howard offered more troops for Iraq and Afghanistan as Britain announced withdrawals from southern Iraq. Howard said Australia would sent another 70 military trainers to Iraq and said he's weighing an increase of 500 troops in Afghanistan. Anti-war demonstrators are expected to greet Cheney at many of his stops.

Sen. Obama attends a closed to the press reception at Communications Workers of America in Houston, TX. At 9:00 pm ET, he hosts "Crucibles of Courage," which is part of the History Channel's tribute to Black History Month.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) seems to be doing secret, private things in the West.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) headlines the Spartanburg County Republican Party's annual President's Day banquet at the Marriot Renaissance hotel at 7:00 pm ET in South Carolina. Earlier today, Gov. Romney was scheduled to attend an 9:00 am ET breakfast at Thursday Too restaurant in Rock Hill, SC.

The Spartanburg GOP has been holding an "issues caucus" to gauge what issues grassroots Republicans care about in South Carolina. Presented with 15 possible choices, local Republicans have been asked to circle their top five issues.

The results will be announced at tonight's dinner.

Citing the "runaway trade deficit" and record "deficit spending," Rick Beltram, the chairman of the Spartanburg GOP, tells The Note, "As grassroots Republicans, we are very disappointed over the performance of the federal Republican officeholders."

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-NY) holds a 4:30 pm ET meeting with Delray Beach Residents at Lox Around the Clock Delray Beach, FL.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (D-CA) holds an 11:30 am ET press conference at the South Carolina State House. LINK

The Senate is in recess until Monday, Feb. 26. The House is in recess until Tuesday, Feb. 27.

Dust-up in the desert: morning television:

Appearing this morning on "Good Morning America," ABC News' George Stephanopoulos – the moderator of yesterday's forum -- said that "Barack Obama wants to appear above the fray but it did not work out that way yesterday. I think the Clinton camp hit back hard yesterday because they're getting very frustrated. They think Senator Obama has been getting a free pass from the media on the one hand going out running against negative politics, but in private they believe both his supporters and Senator Obama himself are being very critical of Clinton behind the scenes and they wanted to call him on it."

Stephanopoulos also added, "neither one won this round. Both campaigns want to pull back from this engagement. People like Senator John Edwards who were out of it did well."

He also gave an indication of who could capitalize on the current drama saying, "with this race getting so negative so early, it leaves an opening for someone like an Al Gore to come in very late when people are sour on all the candidates in the race."

NBC's "Today" characterized the Nevada forum as having "descended into trash talk," with the preview headline, "When Democrats Attack."

While appearing on NBC's "Today" show, former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., bemoaned the sparring that took place Wednesday between the Clinton and Obama camps over comments made by Obama supporter David Geffen to the New York Times' Maureen Dowd.

"I think it's awfully early for that sort of sniping back and forth," said Edwards, adding that he intends to run a "positive campaign."

More on the "Political Radar" from ABC News' Paul Fidalgo: LINK

Dust-up in the desert: winners and losers:

Slate's Dickerson says Clinton won. LINK

The New York Post's Podhoretz says the Republicans won. LINK

Newsweek's Fineman says that the Republicans and Edwards won, but he sucks up to Wolfson and Gibbs too. LINK

Dust-up in the desert: Geffen focused:

The New York Times' Patrick Healey and Jim Rutenberg write that yesterday's fighting between the Clinton and Obama camps "was a remarkably caustic exchange between the Clinton and Obama campaigns that highlighted the sensitivity in the Clinton camp to Mr. Obama's rapid rise as a rival and his positioning as a fresh face unburdened by the baggage borne by Mrs. Clinton…," LINK

"One adviser, who is not part of Mrs. Clinton's day-to-day inner circle but speaks to her regularly about politics and fund-raising, said Mr. Geffen's comments might not shock "political insiders" in Washington or New York who are used to hearing bad things about the Clintons. But such criticism, especially from a former Clinton supporter like Mr. Geffen, could surprise and concern average voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and in other politically important states where they are starting to form impressions of Mrs. Clinton as a presidential candidate."

"By pulling Obama into the controversy, Clinton aides hoped to take the shine off a candidacy that has sparked surprising excitement, not only in Hollywood but among many Democratic activists across the country," write the Los Angeles Times' Tina Daunt and Peter Wallsten. LINK

"Clinton, Obama Camps' Feud Is Out in the Open," reads the Washington Post headline on the front-page story by Dan Balz and Chris Cillizza. LINK

"The locale, with the snowy Sierra as a backdrop, was intended to steer the discussion toward regional issues, such as water and land use. But it was the war that dominated nearly two hours of talk by the Democratic hopefuls," writes the Los Angeles Times' Mark Barabak on the Democratic forum held yesterday. LINK

"The first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses may be 10 months away," writes ABC News' Jake Tapper, "but the bitter sniping . . . is indicative of just how competitive the race for the Democratic presidential nomination has become. LINK

"H'wood Clash of the Titans," glares the New York Post's page one story. LINK

In tomorrow's Time magazine, Karen Tumulty compares the Clinton-Obama snit to "All About Eve." LINK

"An email fusillade yesterday left many Democrats shaking their heads that party infighting -- like everything else about the 2008 presidential campaign -- is starting so soon, nearly a year before the first nominating votes, writes the Wall Street Journal's Jackie Calmes under the header "Clinton-Obama Rattles Party Faithful."

For the New York Times' "The Caucus," Jeff Zeleny blogs about Obama's "it's not clear to me why I should be apologizing for someone else's remarks. LINK

ABC News' Teddy Davis calls Sen. Clinton's denunciation of the "politics of personal destruction" a "throwback to the 1990s." LINK

The Chicago Tribune's Mike Dorning and Jill Zuckman call the Geffen spat "the first big food fight of the 2008 presidential election." LINK

Steven K. Paulson of the Associated Press reports that while kicking off his Colorado campaign today, Gov. Richardson said of the Obama-Clinton flap, "I believe it's best if Sen. Obama apologizes for the comments made by David Geffen. This is a small blip. It will be over soon." LINK

Jeff Jones of the Albuquerque Journal reports on Richardson's speech yesterday at the AFSCME forum where he called on all candidates to keep it clean. LINK

John Tabin of The American Spectator compared the Nevada presidential forum to "speed dating," and Noted that, "While Barack Obama skipped the forum, pleading a scheduling conflict, Obama's ghost seemed to dominate the event." LINK

"Behind the brawl between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is a fight over the black vote, a valuable piece of political turf both are counting on to carry them to the White House," writes New York Daily News columnist Errol Louis LINK has the video clip of George Stephanopoulos asking Sen. Clinton whether Obama should repudiate Geffen's comments. LINK

More coverage of Clinton v. Obama from:

The New York Daily News: LINK

The Chicago Sun-Times Lynn Sweet: LINK

The Boston Globe's Susan Milligan: LINK

USA Today's Jill Lawrence: LINK

Washington Times: LINK

Jake Tapper's Political Punch Blog: LINK

ABC News' Ed O'Keefe: LINK

Dust-up in the desert: not Geffen focused:

After the Nevada forum, Gov. Vilsack told reporters, "As more and more of our young people die, as more helicopters are shot down, ... I think more and more Americans are going to see the wisdom of this position [to cut off funds for the Iraq war]," reports Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register. LINK

Gov. Vilsack added, "And I will guarantee you, six months from now, virtually everybody on that stage today will be where I am today."

Molly Ball of the Las Vegas Review-Journal ledes with the Iraq plans of Gov. Vilsack and Sen. Biden, and looks at the local reaction to the sudden national attention on Carson City. LINK

Bloomberg's Jonathan D. Salant stays away from Geffen and writes that Iraq dominated yesterday's forum. LINK

ABC News' Paul Fidalgo on Sen. Edwards saying that country needs a leader "who will take responsibility for their mistake." LINK

ABC News' Tahman Bradley on Gov. Vilsack asking of his rivals: "What have you done today to end the war in Iraq?" LINK

ABC News' Teddy Davis on Sen. Biden saying: "Just look me over." LINK

ABC News' Tahman Bradley on Sen. Dodd saying: "We've had six years of on the job training…that has to stop in America." LINK

ABC News' Matthew Zavala on Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) mocking his Democratic rivals for being deceived by President Bush. LINK

Dust-up in the desert: look ahead to the Nevada caucus:

Tom Beaumont of the Des Moines Register reports on the rush for Nevada organizers to ready themselves for their early presidential caucus in less than year. LINK

Libby trial:

The Wall Street Journal's Evan Perez and Jay Solomon see the Libby trial as threatening to "further undermine confidence in American claims on other sensitive matters. That could be a particular problem in the U.S. campaign to convince the world to curb Iran's nuclear program." Los Angeles Times' Richard Schmitt on Libby. LINK


In a must-read, the Union Leader's John DiStaso reports that Gov. John Lynch (D-NH) and Gov. Chet Culver (D-IA) will hold a power meeting to discuss the dates of their respective states' primaries/caucuses, as Culver is concerned New Hampshire might schedule its primary before the Iowa caucuses in response to the DNC's new nominating calendar. LINK

There is of course much more on your favorite '08ers in the usual Thursday romp.

The New York Times' Bosman has a must-read look at the 2008 contenders' literary aspirations. LINK

In an op-ed for the Financial Times, Slate's Jacob Weisberg compares Giuliani's management unfavorably to that of Michael Bloomberg. LINK

2008: Republicans:

New York Times columnist David Brooks offers 7 rules for G.O.P presidential contenders. LINK

2008: Republicans: Giuliani:

Russell Berman writes this morning that Giuliani was praised yesterday in South Carolina as "the face of the 9/11 response" and was even made an honorary fire chief. LINK

2008: Republicans: McCain:

While on an aerial tour with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) in California to discuss energy and environment issues, McCain took the opportunity to take some direct shots at President Bush. President Bush's record on global warming? "Terrible," McCain declared. His pursuit of the Iraq war? "A train wreck." The LA Times' Michael Finnegan has more. LINK

The Des Moines Register on "Senator McChuckles." LINK

2008: Republicans: Romney:

The Boston Herald editorial board pens another piece playing off the perceived irony in the Romney's campaign ad claim that he "turned around" the state of Massachusetts. LINK

2008: Republicans: Brownback:

It's Sen. Brownback vs. Mario and Luigi, as the Senator reintroduced his Truth in Video Game Rating Act, which would require the Entertainment Software Rating Board to review all of a game's content before assigning a rating, reports Lou Kesten of the Associated Press. LINK

2008: Democrats: Clinton:

The New York Post's ed board condemns Hillary Clinton's foreign policy. LINK

The Las Vegas Review-Journal's Paul Harasim and Molly Ball report on Sen. Clinton's visit with teachers at Dol Sel High School in Las Vegas, where the Senator said, "We're turning our teachers into test-givers in chief," the Junior Senator from New York said early in her appearance. "And very often the tests have little to do with how much a student really knows." LINK

2008: Democrats: Obama:

ABC News' Jake Tapper reports on former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's (D-SD) endorsement of Obama, with Daschle's comparisons of Obama to John and Bobby Kennedy. LINK

The New York Sun's Josh Gerstein reports that Sen. Obama has "put off another potential policy speech." LINK

"The Illinois senator was considering delivering a talk on Middle East issues Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, but organizers said Mr. Obama's staff indicated yesterday that he would not be able to attend."

Obama has a strategy and his swing through California could only help. Lynn Sweet gives a look at Obama's campaign strategies as far which states to visit because of earlier primary and caucus dates. LINK

Abby Simons of the Des Moines Register reports on Sen. Obama calling for a roll back in President Bush's tax cuts for "the very wealthiest Americans." LINK

The Quad City Times has video of Sen. Obama's campaign visit to Des Moines, IA. LINK

Obama got a lot of TV time in the Des Moines market yesterday, while his rivals were sharing desert time.

ABC News has provided you, the reader, with a handy who's-who photo gallery of big name Hollywood Obama supporters. LINK

2008: Democrats: Biden:

Scott Sonner of the AP recaps Biden's trip through Nevada and discusses what the world was like the last time Biden ran for president. LINK

2008: Democrats: Kucinich:

The RNC released opposition research material on all the major Democratic presidential candidates, but they left out Kucinich. The Plain Dealer's Stephen Koff has more. LINK

Bush Administration agenda:

In an interview with CBN's Melissa Charbonneau, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was asked about Bob Novak writing that Democrats are planning to go after him. LINK

"I think that the American people lose if I spend all my time worrying about congressional requests for information, if I spend all my time responding to subpoenas, to things of that nature," said Gonzales. He went on to list all the things he wants to do including going after "bad guys."

Despite the fact his plan to use the tax code to expand health coverage has been squashed by Democrats, President Bush "forged ahead Wednesday, conducting a chat session here in Oprah Winfrey style with people who are uninsured." LINK

Democratic agenda:

The AP reports on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's pushback on Cheney's comments. LINK

Sam Nunn:

Michael Crowley, in the forthcoming New York Times Magazine, profiles former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA) and his quiet quest to save the world. In "what may be the most ambitious example of private dollars subsidizing national security," Sen. Nunn formed the Nuclear Threat Initiative in 2001 to help stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and cover ground the government is unable to cover and "do the things now that we would otherwise wish we had done."

Once a pro-nuclear hawk during the Cold War, Sen. Nunn now worries about the threat posed by nuclear material in the hands of terrorists, and is working toward the ultimate goal of complete world disarmament. "You can probably only get to the achievement with the next generation," said Nunn, "But the world has to see that direction."

Political potpourri:

"The cozy relationships between lawmakers and lobbyists that embarrassed Congress and cost some lawmakers re-election haven't stopped the revolving door between Capitol Hill and the lobbying industry that seeks to influence legislation," writes USA Today's Matt Kelley on former members of Congress serving in "advisory" roles to lobbyists. LINK

In his 'On Language' column in the forthcoming New York Times Magazine, William Safire bravely tracks down the etymology of the term "doughnut hole" in the context of the Medicare prescription drug benefit. In doing so, he manages to discover its origins, explode some acronyms, and explain to all of us that we should not be using the spelling "donuts" because, "they are made of dough, not do."

Intern for the ABC News Political Unit:

The ABC News Political Unit is now seeking full-time unpaid summer interns in Washington, D.C.

There are a few requirements you should know about before applying for the internship.

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-- The internship begins May 29 and runs into August.

Not only will you get to write for The Note and help us manage ABC's Political Radar, but ABC News Political Unit interns also help us by conducting research, maintaining contact lists, and attending political events.

If you write well, don't mind getting up early, and have some familiarity with web publishing, send a cover letter and resume to as soon as possible, with the subject line: "INTERN" in all caps.