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Don't Anger Queen Hillary! [Updated]

[Sorry about the boodle outage! That was horrible. Moveable Type had to change the ink cartridge, or something like that. But if we're back in business, look to this space Sunday night for some live-blogging of the Oscars! I'll be hanging with my movie-obsessed friends who will make up for the fact that I haven't seen any movies since they went to Talkies.]

[I feel bad that Tom Vilsack dropped out before we had time to formulate any Vilsack jokes. Didn't catch fire, couldn't raise the money. Keep an eye on Richardson: He may be the most underrated in the bunch (though Cillizza gives him props). More from Ben Smith. And here's Kos on why he doesn't like Kucinich. ]

[At the bottom of this kit you'll see the link to the great oceans series in the L.A. Times. The American Geophysical Union also gave an award to a series by Betsy Mason in the Contra Costa Times, about the 1906 earthquake. Check it out. And FYI, here's my National Geographic story on earthquake science. Now back to our regularly scheduled program.]

Wow. A bizarre unforced error by the previously efficient, trains-run-on-time, buttoned-down Clinton campaign (pardon the serial metaphors). She hadn't made any serious mistakes until now, but something snapped and she decided to attack Obama for -- hold on -- something that David Geffen said to MoDo. And thus in one swell foop she managed to paint herself as imperious and thin-skinned. You can't criticize the queen! She'll get mad! "Off with their heads!"

Actually, she merely dispatched her communications person to demand that Obama "disavow"the Geffen comments:

"By refusing to disavow the personal attacks from his biggest fundraiser against Senator Clinton and President Clinton, Senator Obama has called into serious question whether he really believes his own rhetoric. How can Senator Obama denounce the politics of slash & burn yesterday while his own campaign is espousing the politics of trash today?" asked Howard Wolfson.

This reflects the new obsession wth disavowals. Edwards had to disavow two bloggers. Obama had to disavow a word he wished he hadn't used. Now, according to Sen. Clinton, Obama must disavow Geffen's rather free-wheeling fireside snipes. But Geffen doesn't work for Obama. He is merely an Obama contributor.He can say whatever he wants. The smart move for Sen. Clinton is to ignore what he said, or, better yet, use the time-honored tactic of humor. Like: "When David comes to see me in the White House I'm short-sheeting the bed in the Lincoln Bedroom." Only, you know, funnier. (And frankly, Obama probably didn't do himself any favors by taking the bait. An Obama aide issued a response: "It is ironic that the Clintons had no problem with David Geffen when he was raising them $18 million and sleeping at their invitation in the Lincoln bedroom.")

Let us review the remarks by Geffen that were supposedly the "politics of trash." He called Hillary "ambitious" ("God knows, is there anybody more ambitious than Hillary Clinton?"). He said Obama is inspirational, and he's tired of hearing James Carville on television. He criticized Sen. Clinton for not admitting that her vote authorizing the Iraq war was a mistake. "It's not a very big thing to say, 'I made a mistake' on the war, and typical of Hillary Clinton that she can't."

Not much there so far. But then he accused the Clintons of lying promiscuously: "Everybody in politics lies, but they do it with such ease, it's troubling."

Harsh. Still, that's probably not what triggered the ballistic response. Here's where Geffen may have stepped over Hillary's line: He called Bill Clinton "reckless," saying he "gave his enemies a lot of ammunition to hurt him and to distract the country." Arguably that is an extremely accurate statement. Wasn't this, for example, the guy who had sex with a White House intern while he was PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA??? Yeah, but then Geffen indelicately upped the ante, implying that Clinton probably remains a wandering sort:

"I don't think anybody believes that in the last six years, all of a sudden Bill Clinton has become a different person."

Well. OK. This is a dicey area. Conceivably the Clinton camp believes that any attack on Hillary or Bill must be immediately repulsed, street-fighter style, regardless of whether it comes from Democrats or Republicans. But how can this not backfire? It generates headlines about an intra-party squabble, and might put the substance of Geffen's comments into play.

Sen. Clinton has her own substantial C.V. to run on, and her best bet to become the nominee and then the president is to make this a campaign about her experience, beliefs, political talent, etc. Overreacting when some rich guy in Hollywood calls Bill a rogue won't help her. It will only generate more media scrutiny on irrelevant issues.

How long before the media start following Bill Clinton around with helicopters, as though he were a freeway bandit in Los Angeles?



It's called HD 209458b. It's 904 trillion miles away and scientists can tell what's in its atmosphere. Sadly, there's no water vapor, or at least we can't see any. We like water vapor. Because as you know, our actual physical, corporeal selves are 70 percent water, and our thoughts, generated in "the mind," are 70 percent water VAPOR. But let me double check that.

Here's what the press release says:

'From previous observations, scientists already knew that HD 209458b had sodium, hydrogen, helium and carbon in its atmosphere. They also expected it to have water vapor, but the Goddard spectral analysis did not show any signs of water vapor in the atmosphere. Scientists did not find traces of water vapor in the atmosphere of HD 189733b either.

'"That doesn't mean water vapor's not there, but it means the atmosphere is behaving differently than expected," Seager said.

'The Goddard team's other major finding was evidence of sandy particles known as silicates in the atmosphere of HD 209458b. NASA scientists hypothesize that clouds of those particles could be blocking emissions from water vapors.'

Can I just note that I'm pleased to be a member of a species that can figure out what kind of elements exist in the air of a planet 904 trillion miles away?


This amazing series on our endangered oceans, by Ken Weiss and Usha Lee McFarling in the L.A. Times, has won the Walter Sullivan Award from AGU. Richly deserved. Great web presentation, too.

By Joel Achenbach  |  February 22, 2007; 7:37 AM ET
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