Donald Lambro

And, alluding to her husband's infidelity, and by implication the Monica Lewinsky scandal that led to his impeachment, Geffen suggested he had not changed his habits. "I don't think anybody believes that in the last six years, all of a sudden Bill Clinton has become a different person," he told Dowd. The Clinton campaign lashed out at Obama. It blamed him for the attack, demanded he apologize for the remarks and return the money Geffen had contributed to his presidential bid.

Obama's campaign struck back, reminding Clinton that Geffen was a former Clinton ally who had helped raise millions for their campaigns. When the smoke cleared, Hillary Clinton had suffered the most damage. The New York Times said in a front-page story that her efforts to blame Obama were "widely viewed among Democrats as carrying some cost to Mrs. Clinton." The intensity of her political attack was "a sharp reminder of Clinton family history that has led some Democrats to believe Mrs. Clinton cannot win a general election," the Times said.

In the end, the episode was seen by some as "a minor speed bump" on the road to next January's primaries, but it served to remind voters of the Democrats' propensity to squabble among each other.

It was the kind of politics-as-usual feuding that Obama had lectured his party about at last month's Democratic National Committee meeting, where he warned Democrats to beware of those who still think that "politics is a game, a blood sport" in which the object is to destroy your opponent.

If the skirmish resulted in anything, it sharpened the contrast between the old and the new politics. Clinton was the old politics: Hit 'em hard; hit 'em early. Obama was seen as the new politics, defending himself from an unfair attack, to be sure, but seeing politics as a higher calling, not a blood sport "to dig for skeletons" in a rival's past, as he said last month.

Maybe that's why respected Democrats like former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, still troubled by the Clintons' scandals, and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine have endorsed Obama.

Last month, Clinton hit back hard but maybe too hard this time for a party looking for a new kind of politics and a fresh face to lead it.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.