There was a palpable sense of anger among aides to Senator Obama during a conference call on Friday, as they ripped into Sen. Hillary Clinton for being untrustworthy, misleading, and un-vetted.
The call crested with David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager suggesting that "It will be next to impossible," for Clinton to win in the general election, when "more than half of the people think that you are not trustworthy." His reference was a recent Gallup poll that had the New York Democrat with a sub-50% rating on honesty and trustworthiness.
Speaking with overt intensity, Plouffe went through a laundry list of issues in which he deemed that Clinton been either dishonest or not fully scrutinized. Some of the topics were newly emergent on the campaign scene.
On NAFTA, he took the New York Democrat to task for claiming a career opposition to the measure when recent White House schedule disclosures show that she attended a meeting in 1993 to push for the bill's passage. The Clinton campaign has stressed that she did this only once in five such meetings and against her private will.
On the controversy surrounding Obama's now-controversial former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Plouffe criticized the Clinton campaign for being hands off the issue in public, only to push the story in private as evidence of Obama's unelectability.
"Her campaign is clearly pushing Rev. Wright to super delegates, Lanny Davis and others have written on this, and yet she claims no knowledge," he said, in reference to a New York Times story and Clinton surrogate Davis' Huffington Post blog. "It is these kind of evasions and misleading of voters."
The Obama camp, it should be noted, pushed a picture of Wright and President Clinton meeting shortly after the Monica Lewinsky scandal to the New York Times on Wednesday night.
Staying on the topic of religion, Plouffe ripped Clinton yet again, this time for what he described as an attempt to sow doubts in the minds of voters as to whether or not Obama was a Muslim.
"We saw on 60 Minutes when Sen. Clinton was asked if she thought Sen. Obama was a Muslim, rather than say flat out no she says, as far as I know," Plouffe said. "This, despite the fact, that she's been at prayer breakfast with Sen. Obama."
The call, which represented perhaps the most emotional attack the Obama campaign has made against Clinton, signifies just how heated the race has become and how much public anger each side is beginning to have for the other.
It also has the potential to backfire. When Obama has gone on offensive in the past, Clinton aides have responded by saying both he and his campaign have abandoned their pledge to run a different, positive race. And certainly, on Friday's call, all pretexts of positivity where thrown from the window.
Indeed, it was the Obama camp who seemed to be throwing the kitchen sink at the Clintons and not the other way around. Greg Craig, who served in the Clinton White House and is closed to the former president and first lady, hit Sen. Clinton repeatedly for resume embellishment. Citing the recently released White House schedules he proclaimed it established that, "she did not attend security briefings... she did not receive a copy or routinely get briefed by the intelligence committee... and there is no evidence that she part took in any of the crises that took place during the eight years of her husband's presidency."
There were, to be sure, lines that neither Craig nor Plouffe would cross, despite being prodded to do so. Craig, for instance, declined to provide a personal anecdote of Sen. Clinton's "untrustworthiness," saying he would only speak to the public record. And Plouffe did not take the bait when asked if he thought these issues would submarine Clinton in a general election. But not without taking another dig:
"Obviously she needs to make some progress on these character traits," he said. "To enter into the general election with over half the electorate not thinking you are trustworthy is a real problem area."