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 H, Glendale, CA

    I've got to say, Obama seems to have gone off the rails. I have some hooks into the Clinton campaign, and I haven't heard a thing. I probably wouldn't care. But for Obama to react to a shapeless smear - of the Clinton campaign - by the Prince of Darkness, the outer of Valerie Plame, just shows how much he's gone off the rails. He's just not disciplined. (Psst - even if a Clinton source was whispering things, you don't react to it. You prepare your response in case it ever surfaces. And you clobber everybody in the field with facts; and you certainly don't dance on Bob Novak's string. Jeez, Obama, what a disappointment you are.)

    November 17, 2007 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  2. Karen,ny

    They should put their money where their mouth is because Hillary isn't afraid of the punks, so name a time she knows the place. What do you think she is a pushover? I'll kick your ***. She is not going to take being "attacked" all the time. Got it!!!

    November 17, 2007 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  3. TheInsider

    Clinton has a 20 point lead nationally and a double digit lead in EVERY state except Iowa. Obama has NEVER reached the 30% percent mark in the nationals.
    There is no logic to Clinton's camp leaking anything to Novak. Axelrod and company may wind up shooting themselves in the foot for taking Novak's bait and impugning Clinton based on his story.
    What do they say it it turns out that Novak has nothing?
    What do they say if there is something, and their public statements MAKE it surface without any CONNECTION to Clinton?
    The one thing that they have accomplished is to keep this story filling the newshole for the next cycle or two. How that benefits their candidate is anyone's guess.

    November 17, 2007 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  4. Kenny, South Carolina

    Notice instead of just saying these allegations are untrue clinton uses every single thing she can to make Obama look bad. She is spewing so much garbage from her lips that I feel like I need to wash my monitor after reading it. Disgusting.

    November 17, 2007 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  5. Jed in Texas

    The "Orange Jumpsuit Party" want Osama to win because they know he doesnt have a chance to win in the RED NECK RED STATES.Believe me ,I live among these Morons!

    November 17, 2007 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |

    Oooooooooooh, just like I thought you big bad chump. Go jump in the resevoir! CNN..don't forget to moderate this comment! O TAY.

    November 17, 2007 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  7. stan pitts p.a

    The American people are gonna get what they deserve in hillary, more of the republican style, from someone who wants to be commander in chief this is really low, if you think you have some thing the public should know by all means expose it, if you dont shut up and dont try to ruin our political process, folks a vote for clinton is a vote for divisive politics and further polarization of our country, she cant hope to re-unite this country by playing this type of games!!!

    November 17, 2007 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  8. Dave, Cheverly, MD

    Obama did right by replying to this Clinton/Novak mess. He should reply to any and all lying attacks.

    This is yet another example of Hillary's TRUE poll numbers in Iowa. This is a desperate act that will back fire. Iowa voters are smarter then that.

    This is an insult to Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina voters. Make any candidate that stoups this low pay fo this at the polls. Clinton/ Novak up or shut up!

    November 17, 2007 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  9. nevadamuley Las Vegas, Nevada

    Someone Swift Boating Barak Hussein Obama?
    First of all you gotta do something before you can be Swift Boated. Good Bad or Indifferent, you gotta do something.
    This guy doesn't have the gut to be the leader of the free world.
    199 words to say yes to immigrants getting drivers licenses. Come on Barak, you sure hammered HRC at the last debate on the same issue.
    Makes me wonder why in the world you were not prepared for a question that was soooo predictable.
    Presidential, I think NOT!

    November 17, 2007 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  10. BajanLuv, Newport News, VA

    Amir, CA Anaheim:
    What the hell are you talking about? This is not about Obama, this is about Clinton tactics. We have seen them all before. Did you read the substance or just the stupid CNN headline. Go to another news source and read the substance. Please vote for Hillary, it's what you deserve. Hope the rest of us don't have to love through it. I hope Obama also contacted Novak. He is a sleeze, but he hasn't been wrong about the substance. Hil, be like John Mccain, come out and deny you had anything to do with it. You protest too much. Why go into the Repubs playbook etc–jeez.

    November 17, 2007 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  11. Matt Sutton, Central Point Oregon

    Thanks Hillary for showing us once again the contrast between the dirty politics of the past, and the politics of hope for the future.

    We will all be donating lots of money today at Thanks again for the inspiration Hillary.

    November 17, 2007 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  12. TheInsider

    Of course, instead of just "renouncing" the claims, the Clinton campaign goes negative and uses it as an excuse to personally attack Obama.
    Posted By Ron, TX : November 17, 2007 2:43 pm

    Wrong again;

    "Clinton spokesman Jay Carson said “we have absolutely no idea what he’s talking about. … We have no contact with Bob Novak; we have no idea what this column is based on.”

    Asked if the campaign had any secret information about Obama, he said, “No. No, we don’t.”

    Carson also scolded Obama for “walking right into a Republican trap,” after Obama personally challenged Clinton to come forward with any scandalous information she has about him — or admit she has nothing."

    Another rookie mistake.

    November 17, 2007 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  13. stan pitts p.a

    All i know is in politics when you are attcked you respond very quickly so as not to lose credibility, the obama campaign responded well, the american people will see hillary for wht she really is callous and miscalculating and grossly inexperienced, America is all about change and the American people will choose change in obama,its time for honest change that is all about the American people, that hillary cannot provide, she is corrupt and defends a corrupt system that doesnt work for middle class America,she attended a meeting on nafta and said in the debates all she could remember were a bunch of charts??? i dont think the American people want a president that doesnt pay attention when American jobs get lost to questionable trade agreements... hillary go home and be a good wife to bill before he does something stupid again, the more i think of bill, the less and less i like him.....obama 08!!!

    November 17, 2007 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  14. Nate, Denver Colorado

    One must wonder whether the politics of getting elected are really what we desire to be the politics of our President. The way campaigns are run, do we really get to see the characteristics of candidates that will make them great leaders? Or are we making choices based on petty popularity? I fear it is the latter, and that is a kind of politics not worthy of candidates running for the office of President of the United states, it is a brand of politics better left to High School elections.
    This being said, not only should rumors of rumored scandal not be newsworthy, but any response to such hearsay should elevate the candidates above it. Pointing fingers as Obama just has and pointing a disparaging finger right back at her opponent for lack of experience as Hillary has is petty, unneeded, unwanted, and cnn, it is not newsworthy. Tell me about Healthcare, Wellfare, Pension reform, foreign policy, and meaningful issues.

    November 17, 2007 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  15. RuthieM

    "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."

    To the Clinton people: Your quote above is pure BS and you know it. Since Novak supposedly started this, and he is indeed saying the 'Clinton Agents' then if the 'Clinton Agents' have nothing to do with this or know nothing about it, instead of putting out the above jerkish and typical and 'experience' garbage Clinton response why doesn't Clinton and Clinton Agents go to Novak and ask him what is this, what are you talking about.? Just the fact that Clinton people are responding directly to Obama says that this is coming from Clinton. And the fact they have not sought out from Novak what this is if they say they know nothing about it. Otherwise, they would not be responding like this, they would go directly to Novak and say STOP IT, IT IS UNTRUE, where did this come from! So I believe Clinton is guilty as charged, whether they really have something or not, and I tend to think 'or not'.

    November 17, 2007 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  16. fair,washington,dc

    All I know is when you get past weather there is negative stuff, if the Clinton camp had anything to do with it or whatever what I am looking at is how Obama who is trying to be the next President of the US handled it...and my conclusion is badly. I'm not paying attention to you Clinton bashers cause theres no point. What I do know that if the Republicans and Novak did leak this to cause a clash in the Democratic party it worked like a charm because of the way Obama responded. I mean come on the article said they had something , but they were not going to release it because they didn't want to cause exactly what is happening. I don't get into conspiracy theories. but the few times I've watched Obama what I've come away with is how smart he comes across, I'm not too sure he didn't fly off the wall on this innuendo, he said/ she said item to bring some kinda rally to his campaign. I thought is was an experience thing at first, but Obama's a smart guy and I don't think this got past him that this could be a Republican ploy,I think he's playing politics.

    November 17, 2007 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  17. TheInsider

    Obama supporters blaming Clinton for a story by NOVAK that the Clinton camp says they have no knowledge of and no, "dirt", to spread. Novak is probably laughing hysterically.

    Those praising the Obama campaign's handling of this story so far should re-think their pre-conceptions, about both blaming Clinton, and not seeing if the story had legs (and attribution) before coming out swinging.

    November 17, 2007 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  18. Phil, Evans, Georgia

    Why are they so ready to talk about obama's inexperience. Being in the white-house while your husband is president is not presidential experience. And nobody is as inexperienced as Bush.

    November 17, 2007 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  19. Rex, Houghton, MI

    Bob Novak an opinionist, not a journalist so America and the Obama campaign is wise to ignore him.

    What I would like to hear is CNN's justification for planting questions in the Democrat debate the other night to ensure Clinton received soft girly questions.

    November 17, 2007 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  20. Jack

    I heeby challenge the CLinton supporters to prove even just one example of Obama resorting to perosnal attacks. It can't be done, because he hasn't.

    Calling her on her policy is not personal, it's appropriate. Asking her to denounce or stand by Novak's lame attempt at a smear is exactly appropriate, and her response, as usual, smacks of opportunism and smallness.

    Come on CNN. We realize you are just protecting your coprorate interests, but we are not fooled, and you are thereby damaging your reputation. "Most Trusted"? Trusted by who?

    November 17, 2007 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  21. Patrick Lincoln, NE

    I'm no fan of Novak, but his info is usually good...

    This is dirty tricks by the Clintons. Classic tactic; they are known for it. Start a whispering smear campaign, all the while claiming to be above it because "while you know the scandal info is there, you won't use it." Of course, if you weren't going to use it, you would have stayed quiet, right? So, the whispers, the rationale, the entire thing is a dirty political move to try to raise the sense that Obama is tainted without actual evidence.

    Yo, Hillary. Have some integrity. If you've got the goods on Obama, bring 'em forth. If not, you need to step up NOW and refute Novaks claims.

    November 17, 2007 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  22. amir

    Hey, do not call me stupid, you idiot. Look at the facts and argue in sensible way. Stop name calling. I am not a supporter of Clinton and am undecided and independent. Just stick to issues. Do not be personal, other wise you would be a scumbag like Novak.
    Obama has potential but he does to have to resort to this dirty game and play into republican trap.

    Again, do not call people stupid in public form. Learn some manners before you participate. Your name sound like a Hindu and go and do sing Bajans to God and cleanse your heart. Then make some sensible comments so that other can learn and help this politics to be not so dirty.
    I wont reply to you any more and thus bring some sanity to this forum.

    November 17, 2007 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  23. Richard, West Palm Beach, FL

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

    Posted By Booger, Bear, DE. : November 17, 2007 2:58 pm
    Three independent investigations concluded the Vince Foster committed suicide. The United States Park Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a coroner, Independent Counsel Robert Fiske and a 3-year investigation by independent counsel Kenneth Starr ALL AGREE IT WAS A SUICIDE.

    "Shut you're (sic) fat face" when you don't know what you are talking about.

    November 17, 2007 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  24. michael, nyc, ny

    It doesn’t take a genius to identify the bias of some of the major news networks in covering the presidential election. Democrats are heavily covered compared to the Republicans. However this is not the point I want to make here. I want to focus on the democratic side.When you look at time allocated to the individual candidates on the democratic side, there is a wide difference. For anyone who has been following the residential race, like I have been, you must have noticed that Sen. Hillary Clinton gets the most coverage on many major networks notably CNN MSNBC and ABCNEWS. This comes in two forms. They either talk about Hillary Clinton or they talk about Bill Clinton.
    More so, even on stories that are highly negative about her or him it is spun to look good. The headlines are either confusing or worded to create doubt in the minds of the reader. Top negative stories about the Clintons particularly Hillary Clinton are not readily available for their readers or viewers. For example let’s look back at the story of the Clinton camp planting questions in events. It took several hours for CNN to report on it on TV or on their heavily tracked page “Political Ticker” As a matter of fact it was buried within the website late in the evening (Actually, other candidates had to pressure CNN to report on it). Most negative comments about her were not posted or are juxtapose with comments that defend a despicable act in politics like lying to the American people. More so, they are not kept on the page for a long time. On the other hand positive stories about Hillary are often left on the main page of political ticker for a very long time. The opposite is always done when it concerns other candidates like Frm Senator John Edwards, or Senator. Barack Obama. I could go on and on but, I don't have time I can't provide the complete details. However, I challenge anyone who reads this story to prove me wrong. I am now in the process of collecting web data to back up my findings. I will publish it as soon as I complete it. After the scheme that CNN pulled in the last debate it is clear that they are out to choke Hillary Clinton down our throats. News networks are supposed to be neutral, fair and balance in their reporting. When they pick sides it becomes bad

    November 17, 2007 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  25. Zuki, Bloomingdale NJ

    Dear CNN – Your debate was a disaster to say the least. Whether Novak is telling the truth or not – Clinton still needs to issue a clear statement distancing herself from this smear. It's not like it's beneath her or her campaign to be involved in something like this.

    November 17, 2007 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
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