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. Sarah

    Mark from Springfield:

    Do the Clinton's pay you to carry their message? It may have been a little less obvious if you had actually used your own words.

    November 17, 2007 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  2. Silva,Derry,NH

    What a woman? I just think people see through and realize how much we need a real president.

    November 17, 2007 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  3. Ron Nebraska

    So let's see, we can continue on with the same kind of sleazy rumor and innuendo type of politics mastered by Bush/Rove/Cheney and apparently Clinton or we can actually elect someone with character, humanity and ethics that can begin to turn this great country into something we can be proud of again. Gee, I wonder who the brain dead American voter will go for this time?

    November 17, 2007 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  4. stan pitts p.a

    ok clinton worshipers take a deep breath and think instead of allowing your blind support for hillary to cloud your judgement, novak mentioned "hillary agents" specifically, hillary can either completely wash her hands off this scandal, and take on novak for spreading a lie, or she can admit that she and her agents planted the story with novak, either way obama did the right thing by responding its a campaign for president and its important that kerrys mistake not be repeated....

    November 17, 2007 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  5. Trang, Fremont, CA

    Another strategy used by Hillary for not answering the questions:

    'People know where I stand. I have 35 years of experience'.

    'They are mudslinging me from the Republican playbook'.

    Hillary, your issue is inability to answer the questions. Asking you stand on issues when you run for office is not mudslinging.

    As for Obama, he is not whining. When someone put out the rumor that the other camp has something 'scandalous' about you, and they are not releasing it, you have to confront it. Rumors create suspicions. He wants to shed the light on the issues. Either they have something on him or they don't. If they do, let the issues come out so he can respond to it. If they don't, then say – they don't have anything. He is for transparency, which is more than I can say for Hillary.

    Someone above says a true Democrats will vote for Hillary, and those who vote of others are Republicans in disguise. That's a sure way of driving people out of the Democratic party.

    November 17, 2007 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  6. Rosario, Iowa City, IA

    During the debate in Nevada, using body language, and code words, Clinton and Biden sent the message to media and followers (democrats and republicans) about stopping Obama now; if he is allowed to continue on trail, then Clinton and potential vice president Biden are in real trouble of getting the nomination. So it is not strange that Novak publishes his column at this moment.
    Obama knows better though, and he will respond as a serious president would do it: using reason, and facts. No through intimidation.

    November 17, 2007 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  7. Linda Bailey Green Forest Arkansas

    There sure is a lot of paranoia in the political camps.

    November 17, 2007 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  8. Pete, Washington

    Bravo Barack !!! Great response to the Clinton attack machine. They were expecting you to sit by and wring your hands while they 'swiftboat' you. Isn't funny that they complained about 'mudslinging' the other night.
    Let's not forget their famous line of the "Politics of Personal Destruction", when that 'vast right-wing conspiracy' was questioning Bill's affair with Monica. How ironic, now that Cintons are engaging in the same style of 'dirty politics'. Does it surprise anyone?

    November 17, 2007 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  9. Travis O Medford,Oregon

    All the democratic candidates are ok but the only one I see as Presidential is BIDEN. I read all these political comments and I noticed alot are saying Biden is good but to bad he doesn't have a chance. I hope everyone in IOWA will give them there votes, so we can get a chance to vote for him when it's our States turn to vote.

    November 17, 2007 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  10. blogger,Ny

    Here in New York, we are puzzled how saying "no," puts you on your game and wins a debate. We are interested in thoughtful, considered answers, and I would be interested in knowing if those of you in Iowa are actually getting that. Shame on the Nevada Dems for booing anyone who has dedicated his or her life to public service, regardless of how you feel about their positions. CNN and Wolf Blitzer should have explained to these neophites that booing is just plain bad manners. Is there a race going on in Iowa?

    November 18, 2007 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  11. Alex

    If Obama is the saint we think he is what is he afraid of then, If there is something scandalous about him then maybe america needs to know.

    November 18, 2007 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  12. Dan Sersen Indianapolis, Indiana

    Isn't this story about 3 or 4 months old? If my memory serves me, it was reported months ago that a "media virus" emerged attributing the Clinton camp for the story about Obama's Muslim grade school and implications of possible fundamentalist teachings. The story was researched and shown to be false, Obama's school was mainstream and not extremist. But the point was that the
    story really didn't come from the Clinton camp after all. It probably was Republican dirty tricks after all. Anyway, leave it to Robert Novak for more of the same.

    November 18, 2007 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  13. john, NY,NY

    Obama just showed his lack of experience and maturity who started bashing clinton agoin based on rumor.

    Is he going to start making decision based on rumors if he ever gets to white house.

    why would clinton do that anyway when Obama is so far behind.

    November 18, 2007 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  14. PollM, Dallas Tx

    Hmm. ratings or a Republican agenda.

    Is Robert Novak acting as an "agent" for the Republican Party, in the attempt of creating a feud within the Democratic Pary?


    November 18, 2007 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  15. Axel, RKDA, California

    This is just more of the same from Barack "Owhiner" Obama. The other day I turned on the debate and what was the very first sound I heard? Obama saying "That isn't what you can expect from Hillary." And every time he spoke it was "Hillary said this" or "Hillary did that".

    He refers to the other candidates as "Gov. Richards", "Senator Biden", "Congressman Kucinich", etc. What does he call Senator Clinton? Hillary. He's a gentlemen to the gentlemen, but not to a lady? Come on, Obama. I know your Momma raised you better than that!

    I personally don't think he has what it takes to be President, and every time he opens his mouth he confirms it as far as I am concerned. John Edwards at least throws in a few good ideas between attacks on her. But he too should learn how to address a lady.

    When do you think these guys will figure it out? When it's too late? Senator Clinton is the front runner by a huge percentage for one simple reason... She is the one that most Democrats want. And considering how people are feeling about Republicans lately, after 7 years of lies, corruption, and scandals, I don't think any Republican stands a chance this time around.

    November 18, 2007 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  16. J., Chicago, IL

    All the republicans have to do is find someone who is against the war. They still have an edge to win the presidency. The Democrats will need Hiliary to win. Obama just will not tip the scale in what will invariably be another close race. The red states are just too red. Hiliary can turn them Blue, just like Bill did.
    Go Hilary

    November 18, 2007 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  17. True Observer, IL

    novak says the Clinton people have scandalous information on Obama and are spreading it by word of mouth.

    The article presumes that the information is correct.

    What exactly is wrong with the Clinton campaign doing this?

    If someone is spreading correct information about their opponent what is so wrong with that?

    November 18, 2007 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  18. Lance in Monrovia CA

    Obama will never, ever get swiftboated the way Kerry did. Obama speaks swiftly, confidently, and logically and he doesn't take flak from anyone, especially Hillary Clinton. He's a tough dude and he's right to confront false info head on, its the only way to win.

    They can't find anything good to get him on so they just make stuff up. Its a testament to how honest and how transparent and how clean the dude really is.

    November 18, 2007 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  19. charles, texas

    To yorba Linda, you are right and I can say that you are a very intelligent lady. I was wondering myself on what issue HRC stands for, I can find none. The people who are supporting HRC are not very well educated because a very intelligent person and educated one will never vote for HRC. It has been reported that the support for HRC comes from high school drop-out. But college educated people never will vote for HRC. That is why Obama is doing fine among that group. A poll from NYU has just confirmed that.

    November 18, 2007 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  20. Ann, Canada

    Only the true Clinton haters would believe anything from Bob Novak's mouth, and somehow if he referenced someone else, they would get it around to it being Hillary's fault anyway. Does it hurt much to be so hateful to someone because of their last name? Dredging up old rumours and innuendos that have been proven false really shows not much more than desperation. Obama should have seen this for what it was – another Rovian Novak plot to get one democrat pitted against another. It just goes to show that people will fall for anything no matter how unreliable the source.

    November 18, 2007 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  21. Juanito, Washington, DC

    To TheInsider:

    Get a have several posts in this one blog topic. Then you copy and paste the same nonsense in other blogs. How much is the Clinton campaign paying you?

    November 18, 2007 01:27 am at 1:27 am |
  22. nquotes

    At this point I don't think Obama is relevant enough to be Swift Boated...I'm sure Hillary has run checked Obama's record extensively at this point.

    November 18, 2007 01:53 am at 1:53 am |
  23. MCD, San Francisco

    Novak sold his soul to Rove years ago when Rove was working for Bush Sr. Just look at all the heated comments here... he puts a few words to paper and everybody starts spewing hate! No wonder he thinks he is important. IGNORE the man.. he deserves nothing less.

    November 18, 2007 02:09 am at 2:09 am |
  24. Clide

    AL GORE '08

    November 18, 2007 02:09 am at 2:09 am |
  25. Travis, Brooklyn, NY

    I wonder how many of these comments on this "ticker" are plants from the campaigns... Probably more than we think. Our "political process" is pretty much a sham at this point. Corporations, the media and politicians are all in bed with one another. It's becoming difficult to know where one entity ends and the next begins... What happened to America?

    November 18, 2007 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
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