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. Anonymous, Norfolk, VA



    "Decent Lady"? Thanks for this wife and I got a charge out of this one. Having friends that worked in the Clinton WH, we have heard stories about her that would stun folks. Anyway, thanks for the laugh.

    November 18, 2007 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  2. Macy Graves NV

    Obama is now running scared because his attacks on Clinton did not go over well, now he's crying when the tables turn...Too bad obama! More reasons why he is not leadership material..
    Stop whinning Obama and get out of the race

    November 18, 2007 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  3. Jerry Monroe IOWA

    GREAT! its time his dirty laundry be hung out like everyine else...


    November 18, 2007 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  4. Jamie Steward NV

    CNN is did a great job with the Las Vegas debate, the obama whiners are crying here because he lost and he clearly doesnt measure up next to CLINTON...
    He's out of this race

    CLINTON 08!

    November 18, 2007 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  5. Jim Chicago

    If there is not a shred of truth to Novak's assertion, then why has Hillary not gone ballistic with Novak? Is she content with having her campaign agents slandered, or was this her idea from the beginning?

    November 18, 2007 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  6. Dave, Cheverly, MD

    1. Hillary's Poll numbers continue to plummet after MSNBC Debate

    2. Hillary made it worst by staging the CNN Planted debacle of a Debate.

    3. Hillary continues to make maters worst by engaging in their usual Clinton ways. By using Bob Novak to try and get early Voters to worry about Obama being Swift Boated. Obama squashed this be reacting forcefully and quickly. Hillary has therefore helped Obama by giving Obama this early opportunity to show he will not be Swift Boated.

    4. Hillary by doing ALL these things are reminding people of ALL the things they did not like about her or the Clintons.

    5. Hillary is making it so that when she loses the Primary VOTERS will insist that she NOT be on the ticket as a VP.

    November 18, 2007 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  7. Kristen McCabe W. Norriton, Pa

    Seriusly – I CAN NOT handle Hiolary being president.

    You are telling me her camp did not put this out there at a perfect time when she is tied with Barack and Edwards in IOWA...She is despicable and I promise it will be four years of the same with her in office.

    Anyone who has to refer to Barack as Osama or somethig else should be ashamed at their ignorance. Have you not moved past 6th grade nominal scares me that you mindless idiots are able to vote..

    November 18, 2007 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  8. Dave - Nashville, TN

    "A Republican leaning journalist..." – hilarious; good one Phil Singer.

    November 18, 2007 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  9. mary ann

    Does this guy ever speak for himself, he appears to need constant help talking and using other candidate’s words as his own...

    The fact he is listening to Rove is the last straw, he so unworthy of leading a great country, he cant even run a campaign???

    November 18, 2007 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  10. Ben Richter

    There was a time when Barak Obama referred to Clinton as Bush/Cheney light. It seems she's putting on some weight these days. The scales are definitely showing her true nature. But in the end, Hillary hate will defeat her, and then watch the moaning and whining from the HRC camp.

    November 18, 2007 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  11. Mark Columbus, Ohio


    Enough said.

    November 18, 2007 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  12. Terry, El Paso, TX

    "'Decent Lady?' Thanks for this post…my wife and I got a charge out of this one. Having friends that worked in the Clinton WH [White House], we have heard stories about her that would stun folks. Anyway, thanks for the laugh." Posted By Anonymous, Norfolk, VA

    Here we have a slur on the character of two leading Democratic candidates posted by an anonymous person who heard it from anonymous people who allegedly worked in the White House during the Clinton years. His anonymous wife corroborates these stories.

    What IS the story printed by that cranky old rascal Novak? It is this:

    Hillary is aware of information about Obama that could potentially ruin him, shame him, or cause him scandal. What could the story be? Perhaps Obama wears lingerie under his business suit? Maybe Obama is secretly a Muslim who goes to a mosque in Chicago wearing a false beard where he exchanges text messages with Osama bin Ladin? Could it be that Obama was video taped robbing a 7-11 in Cicero? Could it be possible that Obama was caught cheating on his bar exam? The imagination runs wild with possibilities – all of them false, of course – but they say where there's smoke there's fire don't they.

    And that devil Hillary! She obviously believes in dirty politics and the Politics of Personal Destruction or she wouldn't be collecting this stuff. She WOULD use this information if it benefited her, so she is obviously scum. The only reason she is NOT using it is because it doesn't suit her purposes at the moment. However, if Obama has such dark secrets – whatever they are – then he must be scum too.

    Well, that settles it for me. I'm voting Republican. At least you can trust them to tell the truth. Thank God for Robert Novak.

    November 18, 2007 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  13. larry fort wayne. indiana

    Obama did not do well in the debate. He is just not a good debater so what...that does not make him a bad candidate or it has nothing to do with how good a president he will be. Hillary is more practiced than Obama and that will not make her a good's all about ideas and Hillary has some slimy ideas with alot of slimy people that will be back in the White House...We really don't want that again..we need to move on..The president does not debate world leaders and as the world leader we do need more slime in the white house.

    November 18, 2007 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  14. ST from JC

    Instead of Wolfson attacking Obama for falling for Republican tactics, why doesn't he address Novak for even starting such a smear tactic against Hillary's campaign? Maybe because there might be some truth to what Novak has written.

    November 18, 2007 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  15. Brian Tampa

    Thank God most of you are either to young or to lazy to vote. I wonder why we continue spending so much on education if this is the continued outcome. Novack is a journalist who wrote a story. Hillary and her husband Bill are KNOWN for being godparents to the politics of personal destruction. They employed these tactics throughout Bill's presidency and now that they are feeling some heat they have broken them out again. I know for most of you history started about five minutes after GWB was sworn in but if you look back on the Clinton era it is full of scandal and embarrassment to the country. Hillary makes Bush look like Einstein. If you want real change vote for Gravel or Paul but since most of you are just pawns on the board then do your country a favor and stay home on election day.

    I will be voting for Paul in the primary but once he drops out I will support Rudy. He is the only one on either side who has tangible accomplishments that point to real leadership and you can spare me all the personal attack BS because they aren't running for Pope and none of these people are clean outside of Paul who won't win because he is to dangerous to the establishment most of you decry but then support.

    November 18, 2007 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  16. A Soldier, Fort Drum, NY

    I am a lifelong democrat. I supported Bill Clinton for president twice.

    I have grown to really appreciate the different campaign Obama is running. He has my full support- he is what the country needs right now: an man so new to Washington that no one has their hands in his pockets yet, he isn't in anyone else's pockets, is beholden only to his own judgement, and has the capacity to change the game just enough to instigate more change.

    Hillary Clinton is the choice of the media (CNN- diamonds or pearls? It's so OBVIOUS now that you're doing her bidding) and the establishment. This country has a visceral distate for royalty- it's why we threw the Brits out 200+ years ago.

    Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton? No more.

    Hillary Clinton will go to any depth for personal ambition- she's in this for herself and her legacy. Obama and his family are running for US.

    She's shameless. If she is the nominee, it will mark the first time in my life I refuse to vote. I could not in good conscience vote for such a lying, ruthless, deceitful candidate. Enough is enough.

    Mr. Obama, I sincerely hope you win.

    November 18, 2007 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  17. Eric Palmieri

    The Clinton camp has something big on Obama...and they are going to wait until the election gets closer to expose it.

    -Eric Palmieri

    November 18, 2007 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  18. thomas, Westchester Co, NY

    Oh..Barack. Please, tell me u didn't fall for the republican Bob Novak, c'mom the guy is a complete scum-bag with no conscious. Why on earth would any democratic campaign reach out to that monster.

    November 18, 2007 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  19. Andrew, Atlanta, GA

    Oh, and the Hillary haters (Democrats and Republicans alike) cling desperately to her prior "scandals" without being able to cite ONE – and I mean ONE – where she has been found guilty. I mean, seriously. ONE. Give me ONE. You can't. And then when you realize you can't it's all about consipiracy WHY she hasn't been found guilty. Unbelievable. I'm waiting to hear of the "Clinton Crime Family" where the Clinton cronies boil family pets and cut off the fingers of those who cross them. Honestly, wait and see. This kind of crap will come out soon if she's the Democratic candidate. What's scary is that some Democrats are getting close to this already. Just wait and see what the Republicans will come up with. The unjustifiable hate is unbelievable.

    November 18, 2007 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  20. Clara

    Hilary is experienced.

    She's got tonnes and tonnes of experience in dodging the issues, has a track record of not having any major success to back her credibility and flees behind a conveneient "female victim" facade when the heat gets too close.

    November 18, 2007 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  21. Ann, Canada

    To those asking why Clinton hasn't denied it as if she is already guilty of it.....
    ""We have no idea what Mr. Novak's item is about and reject it totally," Clinton campaign spokesman Phil Singer told CNN Saturday."

    What part of that statement don't you understand?

    November 18, 2007 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  22. Brad, Stockton, CA

    Hillary is just as dirty as Bill.

    November 18, 2007 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  23. James, Boston, MA

    It is technically correct that neither of the Clinton's has been found guilty of anything. However, neither was Al Capone until the IRS got him for tax evasion. Guess he didn't do anything else, huh?

    November 18, 2007 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  24. Jaki, Tamarac, Florida

    It sounds to me that Obama is worry about his past catching up with him. Who knows "what individual" in his past knows some things about him. I, presently, felt that his interview with Tim Russell indicating that he did not speak to his friend due to the federal investigation problem of his friend was something he should not have stated. People that are considered "friends" should be left as that, "friends". I felt that he turned his back on this so call friend. People in politics should be careful in denouncing "money friends" in the media. I don't know if this could be the damaging problem, but if it is, Obama should be worried about it. If he is worried about his muslim upbring, I think the whole world knows his is half-muslim. I am sure the old Republican Major of New York after denouncing his friend, is pretty worried by now. I just think is just "spin" and blaming our beautiful CNN for his bad debate. Pity! is what he is seeking for!

    November 18, 2007 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  25. Rebecca, St. Louis, MO

    Does anyone really think that if the Clinton campaign actually DID have damaging information about Obama, they would keep it quiet? Not on your life. This is clearly a pathetic attempt by the threatened Clinton campaign to pretend that she is the candidate of change, which has been Obama's message from the start. Stop the mudslinging, indeed.

    November 18, 2007 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
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