Dec. 20, 2007 -- Though Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has pledged to keep criticisms of his rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, focused on the issues, ABC News has learned that his campaign secretly registered an internet domain name called desperatehillaryattacks.com, a Web site that may seem to insult the former First Lady personally.
The domain name -- and another one, Desperationwatch.com -- connects to a known Web site where the Obama campaign catalogues Clinton's attacks on the Illinoisan, hillaryattacks.barackobama.com But DesperateHillaryAttacks.com has not been known until now.
"Apparently nothing says 'hope' like an attack Web site," quipped Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson.
But Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton denies that his campaign is calling Clinton "desperate." Rather, he insists, they are calling her attacks "desperate."
"Hillary Clinton has been launching desperate attacks on Obama for many months now and our Web site has carefully detailed and refuted each one," Burton told ABC News.
During the primary season, candidates often keep criticisms of rivals within their own party targeted on their actions rather than their character.
Obama, for instance, sent a fundraising e-mail to supporters earlier this month in which he said he would "respond to each of the Clinton campaign's desperate attacks directly and honestly."
It's an odd semantic kabuki, and whether the Obama campaign crossed the line gets subjective.
It boils down to this:
In the URL, is the adjective "desperate" modifying the noun "Hillary" followed by the verb "attacks," as the Clinton campaign sees it? (And as may be implied by the Web site name the Obama campaign publicized, HillaryAttacks.BarackObama.com.)
Or is "desperate" is modifying "Hillary attacks" as one noun (as with "shoe store"), as the Obama campaign maintains?
Earlier today, ABC News reported that Clinton has registered the domain names of two Web sites with the express goal of attacking Obama -- the first time this election cycle a presidential campaign has launched a Web site with the express purpose of launching serious criticisms on a rival.
Votingpresent.com and Votingpresent.org will be used in a Clinton effort to paint Obama as cowardly since he occasionally voted "present" as an Illinois state legislator when it came to controversial legislation.