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. Jim Calumet City, Illinois

    More garbage from Novak, a mean and spiteful old man and confidant of Karl Rove. A red flag that both are trying to steer the upcoming election and stick us with another incompetent to run the White House.

    November 17, 2007 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  2. Nelly,manchester,NH

    Way to go, David Plouffe! Take no prisoners....

    Here is Plouffe's statement:

    “The ‘experience’ America’s looking for today is not the practiced Washington art of evasion and deflection. Once again, the Clinton campaign refuses to answer two simple, direct questions:

    Are “agents” of their campaign spreading these rumors? And do they have “scandalous” information that they are not releasing?

    “Yes or no?”

    November 17, 2007 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  3. Martin, Sicklerville NJ

    Mr. out the CIA agent hack Robert Novack is at it again. It's high time the American people, Dems & Republicans reject this kind of sleaze and slime. Mr. Novack and all who employ him should be rejected and bannished from the politcal conscience of American sentiment. Albeit a competition both candidates should have ignored this filth from such a vile human being. We "are" a much more decent people than this.

    November 17, 2007 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  4. Isabel,charlestown,boston

    Way to go, David!

    In case they can't tell (maybe they should ask Blitzer), these are simple "yes" or "no" questions!

    November 17, 2007 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  5. vicky,nashua,NH

    Good reply.

    Now if they could just let this die?!? Clearly Hillary's little plan didn't work out

    November 17, 2007 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  6. mountain man

    So whats the attack I'm dieing to know now?

    November 17, 2007 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  7. Anon Berkeley, CA

    Wonderful. I read another headline about Obama and what is it? Instead of talking about his platform and what he'd do as President, it's something about Clinton. This is why I'm really turned off by this guy and Edwards. It seems that everytime they say something, their response will include a reference to Clinton. He talks about how he's different from those in Washington and how he will unite the country, but he still uses old tactics, i.e. attacking the one who is leading the national polls for the sake of winning the nomination. Not the best way of uniting people, in my opinion.

    Well, I ought to give him credit. His attacks are not anywhere near as blatant as Edwards'. Nevertheless, Obama needs to focus on what's important: promote your platform and stop making these kinds of statements because it is "in the interest of our party" as he said himself.

    And no, I'm not some Clinton fan who foams at the mouth when I read these kinds of things. I also like Biden and Dodd. It's also worth noting how these two guys hardly ever go out of their ways to say things about Clinton and how Edwards and Obama almost never make statements like this about Biden and Dodd. And Biden and Dodd are nowhere near the front of the pack. What a coincidence.

    November 17, 2007 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  8. James, Boston, MA

    Has anyone else had enough of this negativity? This country is in desperate need of leadership and guidance, not the petty bickering and backdoor politics that have put the country in the shape it is in. None of the front three contenders have been upfront, honest or POSITIVE. If you step back from party lines, backing dollars, gender and race you really have to ask yourself would you actually trust these people with the fate of our future? They argue with themselves, how are they going to unite all of Congress or the nation? Please think carefully on these people before we get stuck with another 4 years of arrogant presidential governing.

    November 17, 2007 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  9. Rebbeca,townsend,PA

    Senator Obama just KILLED a dirty plan by his fast personal statement. That is the way he will govern. Straight forward, fast and smart.

    November 17, 2007 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  10. Gail,Fresno,Ca

    Bring it on witchy woman.........every time you pull this kind of stunt you show your true Clinton colors and us Obama supporters donate to him every time you cackle.

    November 17, 2007 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  11. leo, atlanta ga

    down with CLINTON !!!!!!

    November 17, 2007 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  12. charles,Newton,Iowa

    This Wolfson response is nothing more than another slam on Obama.. Wolfson and HRC are out-doing Karl Rove..which I did not think was possible.

    Novak has to be put on the spot to clarify and confirm this .. he is a jerk but usually does not tell outright lies...

    I am donating again to obama to assauge my anger a little. I am more determined than ever to work for an Obama victory Iowa and beyond.

    This will backfire on HRC in Iowa and beyond.. every fairminded voter out there is going to realize that they do not want the Clinton team back in power when tactics like this are standard operating procedure.

    Obama to victory in 08...Rally around our guy.

    November 17, 2007 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  13. PollM, Dallas Tx

    Seven Democratic presidential hopefuls went head-to-head on the issues Thursday night, with the biggest pressure likely on front-runner Sen. Hillary Clinton.

    Who do you think won the CNN News Las Vegas Democratic Debate at the University of Nevada?



    November 17, 2007 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  14. Ray, Rochester

    Must be that "vast right-wing conspiracy" right??? When all else fails, let's blame Republicans for our own idiotic campaigning.

    What a bunch of morons. Congrats Dems, your congress approval rating is 11%, your nominees are void of any ideas that will actually work, you kill the progress being made in Iraq, you ridicule the surge that is paying off, and now you point fingers at each other. What a bunch of clowns.

    Good luck in 2008.

    November 17, 2007 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  15. Booger, Bear, DE.

    Shut you're fat face Hilary....What about Vince Foster? Tell us.

    November 17, 2007 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  16. Michael, NYC, NY

    CNN, give it up, you are not going to put Clinton in the white house.

    What you are risking at best is loosing the credibility of your company and at worst, a boycot.

    I wonder how your employees can go to sleep at night and not think about all their daily dishonesty.

    Stop your sneaky little tricks and come back to professional integrity. Treat all the candidates fairly.

    November 17, 2007 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  17. Ev Hyattsville, MD

    So the Clinton campaign has "no idea what Mr. Novak's item is about". I guess it all depends on how you define the term "no idea". Is this "no idea" , the same as "no idea" the campaign was planting questions in townhall meetings??? Or is this "no idea", like the "no idea" concerning the $850,000 in contributions from Mr. Hse??

    November 17, 2007 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  18. Mary, Maryville, TN

    I can not believe a nominee for the Democrats would stoop so low as to take a page out of Karl Rove's play book. But then that shouldn't suprise me – Hillary would just be another extension of the way Bush has govern the past 7 years – "Brownie, you are doing a good job", "hello K Street, open your wallets".

    Glad to see that Obama will not stand still and take the 'mud slinging' by Clinton. Barack is getting to look better and better to this Independent voter – and – Hillary continues to CONFIRM why I could not bring myself to give her my vote. The job of our President is going to be a BIG one after the mess Bush/Cheney have left and playing 'cute' and hiding behind being a 'woman' just will not wash in the world's turmoil of today.

    There's going to more to worry about on Jan. 20, 2009 than "who stole the 'W' on the White House computers'.

    November 17, 2007 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  19. David Mackey,Portland Oregon

    Once again the short, ugly troll has emerged from his dank and odorous cave to do mischief. Polititians need to stand up and demand truth and accuracy in reporting. Rumors and Inuendos make for Lousy Journalism. Obama is probably a little raw after thursdays debate. They should concentrate more on re-enforcing his political adequacy than creating a "possible" swift boating scenario based on a questionable story by a Republican politial hack. Has anything good or progessive ever come out of this idiot's reporting?

    "Don't Swift Boat Me Bro!"

    November 17, 2007 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  20. nameless

    I knew it'd be good! Wow, her campaign must be mighty scared to pull this kind of stunt. As I've said before, the lady of the kitchen is going to need more than an asbestos pant suit if she tries this Karl Rove/Mark Penn stuff with Obama!

    November 17, 2007 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  21. Bonnie O., Raleigh, NC

    Hillary Clinton would use whatever tactics necessary to discredit a rival-especially a rival who is getting so much positive attention from the masses. For Hillary, like Bill, it's politics as usual.
    Obama '08!

    November 17, 2007 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  22. James Newark NJ

    Phil Singer? Could this be the new Karl Rove or a combination of Mr Rove and Scooter Libby? Democrats beware! Correction: America beware!

    November 17, 2007 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  23. Amir, CA Anaheim

    Obama could be desperate as he fumbled on drivers' license issue. He is using every opportunity and venues available from the republicans to paint the other candidates of "swift boating".

    Obama, when you think from your heart , you look cool and very convincing. By resorting to this pre-mediated and pre-calculated “swift boating” accusation is only going to destroy further down. No one becomes noble at expense of degrading another fellow human. Politics is a dirty game but you got to play your card right when you have the proof of “swift boating” by others but not on a republican columnist.

    Please for the country sake keep it cool -the anger against fellow democrats; maintain some civility in this whole campaign

    November 17, 2007 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  24. John, Detroit, Michigan

    okay, first he was talking about being swift-boated with e-mails, now he's talking about getting swift-boated with republican suspicions of a suspected Clinton secret about himself? All after he criticized President Clinton for even bringing up swift-boating.

    This guy is getting more and more ridiculous with every post on the ticker. He showed his true incompetent colors during the debate when Hillary beat him in just 5 minutes. Just drop out now Obama.

    November 17, 2007 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  25. Daniel, NY

    Obama can also start drumming up his electability argument with a new general election poll from Iowa that has him crushing all Republicans when Hillary is struggling.

    November 17, 2007 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
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