Has Barack Obama decided to start "playing the victim"?
"There's been this insidious pattern on the part of the Clinton campaign to allow negative, really negative, and out of bounds comments to be made and to simply gloss over them," David Axelrod said Tuesday. "To kind of give a wink and a nod."
Axelrod tied Ferraro's comments to what he called Hillary Clinton's "own inexplicable unwillingness" to fully reject the suggestion that Obama might be a Muslim.
(In her "60 Minutes" interview, Clinton said there is no reason to think Obama is a Muslim before raising eyebrows by adding "as far as I know").
"When you wink and nod at offensive statements, you really send a message to your supporters that anything goes," said Axelrod.
Axelrod's call for Clinton to remove the 1984 Democratic vice presidential nominee from her campaign came just one day after Obama decided to start making an issue of the DrudgeReport's claim that the Clinton camp forwarded a photo of Obama in Somali garb.
When the Drudge photo was raised during a Feb. 26 debate in Cleveland, Obama said that he took Clinton at her word that she knew nothing about the photo.
"So I think that's something that we can set aside," said Obama.
But that was before the former first lady revived her presidential bid by winning primaries in Ohio, Texas, and Rhode Island on March 4th.
While campaigning Monday in Jackson, Miss., Obama accused Clinton's campaign of being behind the photo which ended up on the DrudgeReport.
"When in the midst of a campaign you decide to throw the kitchen sink at your opponent because you're behind, and you start, your campaign starts leaking photos of me when I'm traveling overseas wearing native clothes of those folks, to make people afraid. Then you run an ad talking about who's going to answer the phone at three in the morning, an ad straight out of the Republican playbook. That's not real change," said Obama. "That's not real change. That's the same old thing."
Asked by Politico's Ben Smith on Tuesday if he is worried about being seen as playing the victim, Axelrod rejected the premise of the question.
"Well, Ben," said Axelrod on a conference call with reporters, "I'm not going to adopt your terms. I don't consider it playing the victim."
"The only question," he added, "is whether" Sen. Clinton "is serious about [policing the tone of this campaign] or whether she's trying to send a signal to her supporters that anything goes . . ."
Speaking to ABC's affiliate in Harrisburg, Pa., Clinton said that she disagreed with Ferraro's remark but did not go along with the Obama campaign's demand that Ferraro be fired from her position on Clinton's leadership team and finance committee.
"Well, I don't agree with that," said Clinton of Ferraro's remarks to the Daily Breeze, "and I think it's important that we stay focused on issues that matter to the American people."
"Both of us," she added, "have had supporters and staff members that have gone over the line and we have to reign then in and try to keep this on the issues."
Obama spokesman Bill Burton called Clinton's comments a "refusal to denounce or reject Ms. Ferraro" and charged that it was evidence that Clinton's campaign "gets to live by its own rules and its own double standard."