THERE ARE TWO THINGS to be said about the first major intramural spat of the 2008 Democratic primary season. The first is that David Geffen has a point (and we’re not saying that just because there is a remote chance that we might work for him someday). The second is that if California moves up its primary, presidential candidates visiting here will soon have to pander to more than just Hollywood moguls.
Geffen, once among Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s biggest financial backers, threw Hollywood’s first mega-fundraiser of the election cycle on Tuesday -- for Barack Obama. His criticism of Hillary Clinton, reported Wednesday by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, sparked an amusingly overwrought exchange between the Clinton and Obama camps.
Geffen was on to something with his passing mention of the fact that Obama is not from “the Bush royal family” or the “Clinton royal family.” Regardless of what you think of Bill Clinton’s presidency, or his wife’s talent, the dynastic aspect of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy is an issue that will increasingly come to occupy center stage in this campaign. Is the country prepared to be governed, potentially, for 28 years by two families who alternate turns in the White House?
The Clinton campaign appears unwilling to acknowledge this concern. The candidate likes talking to audiences about whether the nation is ready for a female president. But the question of whether the country is ready to perpetuate the dueling-family reign by voting in the former president’s spouse is disingenuously left off the table. Maybe Hillary Clinton can make the case that she is the most qualified candidate, but she is going to have to find a way to address the dynastic issue directly. She can’t have it both ways -- trading on her husband’s popularity but not acknowledging people’s unease at turning the White House into a family business.
Yet Californians, at least, may be grateful that candidates vying for the 2008 presidential nomination in both parties will have to worry not only about what big donors think of them but what all Californians think. In recent presidential primary seasons, the California contest hasn’t gotten beyond the David Geffens because the state has been solely a fundraising battlefield. But now that California is likely to move its presidential primary to early February, candidates will no longer think of their California constituencies as consisting solely of that other royalty: Hollywood celebrities.
So, if you are frustrated that one Californian’s view on the race could be so newsworthy, bear with us. You’ll get your turn.