November 18th, 2007
09:47 AM ET
14 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. Mavis Hill, Scottsdale, AZ

    i see you link a story about a republican hypocrisy to a negative democratic story. Don't you think this is a bit hypocritical of you, CNN? I thought you might be above this sort of politics in presenting true "journalism", but I guess not. Pretty disappointed in you, CNN.

    November 17, 2007 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  2. Laura - Tulsa OK

    Why don't these people just get up and tell voters what their record is and let us decide in the polling booth.

    This campaign has been one person after another talking trash and not telling voters about their records but being arrogant and testy with one another- both parties are guilty of playing politics before they're even elected. If this is any indication, we can expect four yrs. of drama.

    NOTHING is going to 'change'.

    November 17, 2007 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  3. SD, NY, NY

    Come on Obama boy – stop crying.

    November 17, 2007 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  4. Susan, Burbank, CA

    This woman is cut from the same cloth as the Republicans she charges with smearing her. The is so devious. America cannot afford another President like her.

    November 17, 2007 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  5. Shardule, Boston, MA

    In my opinion, this is a total meh.

    Novak's credibility is questionable. So, quite simply, if he is 'correct' in his statement, then Obama has made a powerful but courteous response.

    If Novak is simply trying to pit Dems against each other with unsubstantiated claims, then Clinton's campaign is correct.

    This is a situation in which both the Clinton and Obama camps have each made the correct response. Now, it's up to the truth to actually prove one of these candidates' camps correct.

    November 17, 2007 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  6. BajanLuv, Newport News, VA

    This is so Hillary!!! Well done!!! Polls must be looking bad in IOWA. Put out a rumor, pretend innocence, play victim. If you vote for this, this is what you deserve. We should stop blaming the republicans. She is definitely using their playbook. Obama had to respond to this because the rumor is out there. I agree, put up or shut up. Speaking of closets, have you opened yours lately Hillary? We have to give it to her, she is a good politician. Is this what we really want? Do we want to be divided for four more years? More hate? I can go ahead and give this one to Carvelle(sp). I am beginning to believe that the Dems really don't want diversity in this party, they want the same old establishment. How did that work out for ya last time?

    November 17, 2007 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  7. Jen, Gainesville, FL

    I have not read the Novak report. But my gut feeling tells me that Obama is an noble man and I trust him. I believe that Obamas are going through this for the country, but the Clintons are doing so for their power and her personal ambition. I do not trusted anything the Clintons say. They are crooks.

    November 17, 2007 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  8. Jed in Texas

    Ahhh Good old Robert Novak,another guy thats going to be wearing an Orange jump suit soon.They can start a new party from Prison, lets just call them the "Orange Party".

    November 17, 2007 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  9. EE

    I would really doubt if the Clinton campaign isnt behind this.I hate dirty politics. I neither support Clinton nor Obama but things have happened in this campaigns that make me wonder why the Clinton campign would do this

    They sent emails to people alleging a senator of the United States(obama) is a muslim plant, then same campaign people circulated a picture of senator obama with his hands down claiming it was during singing of the anthem(thereby questioning his patriotism).

    This is silly to me. It shows how they feel so insecured about thier chief rival

    November 17, 2007 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  10. fair,washington,dc

    Wow fell right for it too...if they didn't release the so called damaging evidence what are you out here crying about being swiftboated.Even
    if they do have it you just made yourself look bad by jumpig out there like about playing your hold card too early...the only ones that are gonna be with you on this one is your supporters and the Republicans cause they do indeed want to cause kaos in our party...theres that experience thing.

    November 17, 2007 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  11. Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca

    Obama – not only should you be worried about Hillary, but you should also be worried about CNN.

    CNN – why haven't you come clean about how you PLANTED the question for Hillary in the last debate? The UNLV student said publically she was going to ask about the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Facility – but that CNN forced her to change her question into the "Diamond and Pearls" question.

    ADMIT THE TRUTH... or are you too ashamed to be honest with your viewers?

    November 17, 2007 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |


    November 17, 2007 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  13. LinnieFB, Corona,CA

    So is this an attempt to deflect from CNN'S shameless handling of the debate, your 'Clinton cronies' commentators, or the slant you have shown the Clinnton's from the beginning of the campaign? That is the REAL story that is spreading like wildfire around the web!

    There is little difference between the tactics of Novak and the tactics of the Clinton's and We the People are tired of it!!!! The sooner all of these folk are off the national stage, the better for our country!

    CNN are you going to let your network go down the drain with them?

    November 17, 2007 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  14. Hillary is a joke - Mira Mesa

    The response from Clinton cronies is not surprising. Clinton started with saying Edwards was using tactics from the "Republican playbook", now this underling, Singer, is saying that Obama is echoing "Republican talking points". Hillary seems to think that anything is better than a republican when that is only partially true. Any democrat EXCEPT HILLARY is better than any republican. But ANY republican is better than Hillary.

    November 17, 2007 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  15. Micah, Atlanta, GA

    Clinton campaign is a smear machine. They operate by intimidation. When you have to resort to smears this late in a campaign, it signals one thing: A sinking campaign. The Clinton campaign is in deep trouble.

    November 17, 2007 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  16. Jim in Orlando, FL

    Agree or disagree, the Swift Boat folks were above board, specific in who they were and what they alleged. Clintonian smear tactics are well recognized all by themselves. They don't come any more two-faced than Hillary.

    Did someone complain about "mud" earlier this week ... LOL

    November 17, 2007 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  17. jana, Iowa

    this is scare tactic it will fail and it is officially dead this is how you deal with rumors you chalange those who spend there time in dark to come out in to the light, SHOW US OR SHUT UP

    November 17, 2007 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  18. Micah, Atlanta, GA

    Clinton campaign is a smear machine. They operate by intimidation. When you have to resort to smears this late in a campaign, it signals one thing: A sinking campaign. The Clinton campaign is in deep trouble.

    November 17, 2007 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  19. bill t., omaha, ne.

    Oh brother, two spoiled, overpaid politicians accusing each other of using talking points. What else is new?

    November 17, 2007 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  20. TheInsider

    Obama’s advisors have made a real blunder by responding to Clinton instead of Novak, and Clinton’s camp has already seized on tying his response to, “inexperience”. If Novak has nothing, Obama looks like a fool. If there really is dirt on Obama and Clinton HAS been holding it back and this forces it into the open, Clinton can blame Novak for his role (and tie it to the outing of Plame.) and Obama can blame HIMSELF for insisting that the info be released.

    November 17, 2007 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  21. SUSSY

    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 be fighting for the same?

    Please everybody, call out these guys for not giving Obama credit where credit is due for responding toughly for his good name.

    November 17, 2007 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  22. pl. at the UN for a while.

    Mr Obama is harping for candor once again.
    But if everything about hismself really was cadid, why would he so terrified by the "truth"?

    November 17, 2007 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  23. Zackary,Newton,Iowa

    These punks are underestimating Sen. Obama's toughness to fight back. He is not your text book politician!

    It is sad but it is what it is. To clean this we have to have the right person with principles and conviction as the POTUS.

    November 17, 2007 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  24. Hillarylover - SATX

    Whatever Obama! You're beginning to sound like Edwards.

    November 17, 2007 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  25. sally,nashua,nh

    Bravo Barack!.This will backfire to HRC bigtime and now the ball is on her.
    Barack 08! I want this guy as my president!

    November 17, 2007 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
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