November 18th, 2007
09:47 AM ET
7 years ago

Obama to Clinton: Don't 'Swift Boat' me

Obama reacted Saturday to reports that a smear from the Clinton campaign may be coming.

(CNN)–Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama called on his rival for the nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, to put to rest a report that agents of her campaign are spreading word of an alleged scandal involving Obama.

"She of all people, having complained so often about 'the politics of personal destruction,' should move quickly to either stand by or renounce these tactics," Obama said in a statement released by his campaign on Saturday.

Obama's comments stem from a newspaper column by the journalist Robert Novak published Saturday. Novak claimed that surrogates for Clinton have mounted a word of mouth campaign among Democratic circles regarding scandalous information the Clinton campaign has about Obama. Novak said that experienced veterans of Democratic politics believe the Clinton campaign is withholding the release of the information because it wants to avoid a re-play of the 2004 nomination fight, when attacks on each other by Richard Gephardt, and Howard Dean were credited with assisting the rise, and eventual nomination of another candidate, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry.

" The cause of change in this country will not be deterred or sidetracked by the old 'Swift Boat' politics," the Illinois senator went on to say in the statement. "But in the interest of our party, and her own reputation, Senator Clinton should either make public any and all information referred to in the item, or concede the truth: that there is none."

"We have no idea what Mr. Novak's item is about and reject it totally," Clinton campaign spokesman Phil Singer told CNN Saturday. "Instead of pointing fingers at us, Senator Obama should get back to the issues and focus on what this election is really about."

"Once again Senator Obama is echoing Republican talking points, this time from Bob Novak. This is how Republicans work," Singer went on to say. "A Republican leaning journalist runs a blind item designed to set Democrats against one another. Experienced Democrats see this for what it is. Others get distracted and thrown off their games. Voters should be concerned about the readiness of any Democrat inexperienced enough to fall for this. There is a campaign in this race that has engaged in the very practice that Senator Obama is decrying, and it's his."

"The Clinton campaign has admitted that they do not possess the ‘scandalous information’ in question and we take them at their word," said David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager in a statement on Saturday. "But what we don’t accept is their assertion that this is somehow falling for Republican tricks. This is exactly the kind of smear politics, Democrats need to fight back on, regardless of the source or the party. Democrats should know that when Barack Obama is their nominee, he will not allow the ‘Swift boat’ politics of fear and diversion to prevail in this campaign."

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– CNN Political Desk Editor Jamie Crawford

soundoff (337 Responses)
  1. Ken, San Diego, CA

    What in the world is Obama thinking??

    From Bob Novak no less....

    November 17, 2007 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  2. Hank,baltimore,md

    What an articulate and eloquent response.

    That's our guy!

    GO OBAMA!!

    November 17, 2007 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  3. Naomi,charleston,s.c

    Thank you, Senator Obama for coming out with a strong condemnation of these tactics and for challenging HRC to come clean with info or refute this story.

    This will not reflect well on HRC in Iowa where they respect a fair fight but despise dirty politics.. if HRC is found to have spread unfounded rumors.. she should be banished from democratic politics forever.......
    Go Barack!

    November 17, 2007 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  4. Marko Dezdri, Portland, OR

    That goes to show how inexperience this little boy is. Osama has no regards for the truth, and it's so desperate due to his stalled campaign, that anything that can be use to try to hurt Clinton, he grabs it.

    Maybe when he grows up he might want to try again and run for President. But he will lose twice!

    Hillary '08!!

    November 17, 2007 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  5. rita,florida

    here's a positive take on Obama's response:
    wow, this man defeats me.

    November 17, 2007 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  6. Zou,des moines,Iowa

    If Hillary's people are suggesting something against Obama that they won't reveal, this is a mighty dirty way to win an election and I hope it will work against her.

    I think this is even worse then the John/Mitt robo-calling fiasco in NH.

    If this can be found and revealed quickly that's the end of Hillary. PERIOD!

    November 17, 2007 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  7. SilverB, Lilburn, GA

    Wao, it takes a genius not only to plant questions but scandals too!!!!

    Lets put this Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton scandal ridden family tree politics to a complete END

    November 17, 2007 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  8. w19 CA

    the special interests are coming together against Obama, helped by CNN e.g. by bringing into the ticker headline what Rove of all people has to say about Obama.

    November 17, 2007 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  9. Joeley Reno, Nevada

    This shows that Obama will do anything to take the bumbling, stumbling image of him in the Vegas debate away.

    Clinton doesn't have to swift boat Obama, he does a fine job of making himself look less than presidential.

    ANY of the other candidates would make a better leader than Obama, yes, even Kucinich.

    Clinton has the strength, skill, character and ability to get this country back on track and that's what we need right now.

    November 17, 2007 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  10. David,tennessee

    There has been much information and polls regarding Clintons electability problems, especially amongst republicans. She and her "Agents"(what is this James Bond?)are lieing. Hilary is saying this to smear Obama again, for the hundreth or more so times. She knows she can't keep fighting even the scientific polls showing her 50%+ of our own democratic party will not ever nominate her no matter what. Wish that poll was given much more attention. Also, there have been rumors that the republians have inforamtion on Ms. Clinton but are using it for the genreal election. It's my guess that because of that, Hilary is now turning this to make it look like Obama is unelectable. She has sealed her records, right there repubs and even dems think that is a sign she's hiding stuff. Her refusal to release those records and Obamas constant referrence to it, has put Hilary & Co. in attack mode against Obama.
    I'm glad Obama made the statement and we need to put pressure on for her to stop this rediculous dirt smearing tactics. I believe whole heartedly they never expected Obama to make it this far and threaten her so called inevitable win. IMO he is most likely ahead in Iowa based on the campaigns doing their own inside polling. This is Clinton Machine smears and detroy anyone in their way. If they had something she would have used it by now because she wouldn't want Obama to even win Iowa where it will count most, much less worrying about general election. Hope we can all find ways to counter yet again this nasty dirty rotten attempts to take Obama down. I know we'll not let it happen without a fight. They are lieing plain and simple. She is loosing by all accounts except in the national polls, controlled mostly by media and Mark Penn. And of course her name.
    Now hope arise again in the midst of all evil that went on in Nevada..

    November 17, 2007 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  11. jim,boston,ma

    Are there no depths to which this woman will not sink?

    November 17, 2007 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  12. Shel, Seattle, WA

    I agree with Mr. Singer; it is slightly hypocritical for Obama to be criticizing Hillary Clinton for supporting personally critical attacks when he himself has been doing it for months now. Let's get back to the issues, and have the candidates talk about what they themselves will do for America, and not just trash the other candidates.

    November 17, 2007 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  13. Tracy, New York City

    Obama is once again admirable qualities of a brave and honest leader. I trust this guy to be President and I know he would be a great one.

    Hilary on the other hand just baffles me. She gets a tough question at a town hall and she runs for cover claiming the questioner is a plant.

    Her fellow candidates justifiably ask her to decalre her stance and address criticism that she is has a tendency to flip-flop on issues and plays politics for the sake of politics rather than tackle the real problems and she ducks under the cover of being attacked and accuses the others of dirty politics.

    I just can't bring myself to trust her. She may talk well on prepared lines, but the issue of deep down trust just isn't there.

    November 17, 2007 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  14. Benard,Derry,NH

    This is what bothers me, and I'm glad Obama referred to this in his statement: Hillary has complained and accused him and Edwards of mudslinging. Yet, Obama, time and time again, says nothing but positive things about Hillary personally...like she's capable, intelligent, etc. When he has something personal to say about her, it's positive.

    However, she called him "naive and inexperienced" and continues to do so. THAT is mudslinging. THAT is a personal attack.

    Her hypocricy blows me away
    Hope for America is Barack!

    November 17, 2007 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  15. Kellie, Albuquerque, NM

    Clinton is just plain scary. How can anyone run a normal campaign with her in the race? Arrogance, manipulation, and power-thirst are all that comes to mind with a Clinton.

    November 17, 2007 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  16. cn

    Great response Barack!!! I'm really proud of you for defending your good name!This is the perfect response by Obama here. He shows toughness and integrity. He will fight for his good name and yet he does this without making the same kind of attack against hillary. Toughness and integrity put together. Isn't that what our Presidency is suppose to be about? And as a member of the American media (once the most unbiased media in the world) shouldn't you CNN be fighting for the same?

    And why didn't you post Axlerod's response to Singer that they are once again deflecting and ignoring the question?

    November 17, 2007 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  17. Muthoni,boston,ma

    My dad once told me, Truth will come from every corner and never bend any low if you still have truth in you--–Here is what it is.

    November 17, 2007 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  18. Ron, TX

    Of course, instead of just "renouncing" the claims, the Clinton campaign goes negative and uses it as an excuse to personally attack Obama.

    November 17, 2007 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  19. Joe Mathews, Manchester, VT

    Once again Novak's involved in a sleaze attack. Not content with "outing" Valerie Plame and ending her CIA career, he now does someone's dirty work here. Perhaps he wants Clinton as the Democratic nominee in the hope any GOP candidate will swamp her.

    Clinton and her campaign aren't off the hook either. Witness John Mc Cain's quick denouncement of the "push poll" attempt on Mitt Romeny candidacy via his Mormon faith. Mc Cain also rightfully called for the New Hampshire Attorney General's office to investigate.

    Clinton campaign's response sounds like they may indeed know something and are hiding it. Again, the proper response it call for an investigation of whomever is responsible for this and full cooperation to stop it. Obama's perfectly right to come out early and forcefully against Novak's garbage. It's past time he's put out to pasture.

    Incidents such as these have no place in our political process from any source and involving any candidate. Clinton, above all, should know this based on her history of the past 15 years. Enough!

    November 17, 2007 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  20. Bethany, St. Louis MO

    I am so proud of Obama for taking the stand of integrity in this pathetic debacle produced by Clinton's people.

    November 17, 2007 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  21. Vik N

    Who are you going to believe – Obama or the Clintons?

    November 17, 2007 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  22. 4 O Redding CA

    The special interests are getting together against Obama, helped by CNN e.g. by bringing Rove's expert analysis into the ticker.

    November 17, 2007 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  23. Jason Welch, Atlanta, GA

    I don't believe Robert Novak one bit. It would insane for the Clinton campaign to try to pull a trick like this. After all, look at what she and Bill have been through with scandal. This is just an old dirty trick by an old dirty Republican journalist to create divides within the Democratic Party. Hell, look what he did in helping to out an undercover CIA agent. TREASON!!!

    November 17, 2007 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  24. Peterson,des moines Iowa

    Howard Wolfson, Clinton's campaign communications director, said she has "no idea" what the item is about. "Once again Senator Obama is echoing Republican talking points, this time from Bob Novak," he said in an e-mailed statement. "This is how Republicans work. A Republican leaning journalist runs a blind item designed to set Democrats against one another. Experienced Democrats see this for what it is. Others get distracted and thrown off their games. Voters should be concerned about the readiness of any Democrat inexperienced enough to fall for this. There is only one campaign in this race that has actually engaged in the very practice that Senator Obama is decrying, and it's his. We have no idea what Mr. Novak's item is about and reject it totally. Instead of pointing fingers at us, Senator Obama should get back to the issues and focus on what this election is really about."

    OMG!!! Howard Wolfson is the devil incarnate. This is really low...even for Hillary. She's outdone herself this time. It will be a cold day in hell before I'd EVER vote for this woman. I pray to God that people finally open their eyes and see her and her minons for what they really are. This is really disgusting. God Bless Barack Obama.

    November 17, 2007 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  25. virginia in tucson, arizona

    I'm amused at the self-righteousness of the statements from the Clinton campaign. Is this the same campaign that accuses people of mudslinging when they challenge one of Hillary's positions? Is this the campaign that calls another candidate "naive" and "lacking the experience to be president" in response to a policy statement from another candidate? Is this the campaign that insinuates that other candidates disagreeing with Hillary are ganging up on her? I agree, Hillary, let's get back to the issues and run a fair campaign. If your people are being accused of scurrilous rumors, then issue a statement reassuring Obama that never would you engage in those tactics since you, of all people, know how unfair they are.

    November 17, 2007 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
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