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."

Click here to see CNN's new political portal:

- CNN Political Desk Editor Jamie Crawford

soundoff (337 Responses)
  1. Jason, Capin , Iowa

    Novack is a republican–he is just trying to create a distraction for democrats. Obama is getting desparate if he is grasping at this story. Even a cursory review of Novack's record will show that he is a conservative. For goodness sake the story appeared in the NY Post–which is owned by FOX.

    November 17, 2007 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  2. Dazed and Confused in DC

    A transparent and clumsy "politics-of-hope-I-can-change-the-subject" attempt to get beyond Sen. Obama's abysmal showing on Thursday night. Why do I say abysmal: in what has to rank as the single most embarassing (and revealing) moment in presidential debate history, Sen. Obama, only momements after assailing Sen. Clinton for not giving a straight answer to the drivers' license question at the previous debate, gave an even more rambling and imprecise response to the exact same question. And this after more than two weeks to prepare a response to a question everyone in America knew would be asked. It was so bad, the audience actually laughed at him. Obamaphiles: when your candidate has to grasp at a life raft thrown into the water by Bob Nofacts to try and save his candidacy, its over.

    November 17, 2007 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  3. NP, NY, NY

    I am not surprised that Mark Penn, Hillary's campaign manager, is stooping to this level. After all, he also does PR work for Blackwater, the mercenery firm that has killed dozens of Iraqis w/o provocation. While I don't like Bob Novak, he has never published lies in his columns.

    November 17, 2007 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  4. Ydnar, Chicago, Illinois

    Hillary's campaign continues to prove their scandalous behavior and their affinity to Rovian tactics. The latest scandal demonstrates that they are completely out of touch with the majority of Americans (democrats, independents, and republicans) in thinking that this “win at all cost” is what people want.

    Barack Obama is one of the greatest political counter-punchers that have come on the scene since JFK. Consequently, everything the HRC campaign does against Barack will backfire and expose your true colors. My advise to you Hillary, if you want to be able to walk away with some dignity after you lose the primary, you need to start running a much cleaner campaign. I know that’s asking you a lot.

    November 17, 2007 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  5. TheInsider

    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.


    Obama Campaign Tactics

    11/17/2007 2:43:50 PM

    Today, Sen. Barack Obama echoed Republican talking points by repeating a totally false claim by Republican Bob Novak about the tactics of the Clinton campaign.

    It might be a good time for Sen. Obama to take a look at the tactics of his own campaign.

    The Obama campaign pedaled an opposition research document, titled Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Punjab), attacking Hillary for her ties to the Indian-American community:

    Senator Barack Obama disavowed the document his campaign aimed at Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton last week, saying today that it was "stupid and caustic." The headline of one of the documents, which referred to Mrs. Clinton as 'D-Punjab,' touched off a furor among Indian-American groups that called on Mr. Obama to apologize for the remarks. [New York Times, 6/18/07]

    That FactHub site is a MUST read

    November 17, 2007 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  6. Mike, VA

    Sure everybody is corrupt and shows lack of integrity in this country except Obama and his supporters. The guy looked incompetent in the last debate and now is trying to play the victim card. Yeah, don't Swift Boat! so pathetic.

    November 17, 2007 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  7. Joanna Harman

    I was an undecided voter before the Democratic debate in Las Vegas, but now I know I will not support Hillary Clinton. She planted questions at the debate, she intimidated the moderator beforehand, she stacked the audience with her stalwarts, and now she is covering up her so-so performance at the sham debate with a whisper campaign against Barack Obama. How hypocritical! Would she like it if the press dug into Bill Clinton’s post presidential sex life? How about using presidential pardons to raise funds? How about the illegal bundling by Norman Hsu? And she has the nerve to accuse John Edwards of throwing mud for talking about fixing health care? God, what is wrong with the news media? Clinton News Network indeed.

    November 17, 2007 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  8. V.C. Novosad

    I just heard a long-time Democratic party commentator tell Brian Wilson on Fox News that Bob Novak's so-called "leak" is an old Republican play-book strategy to divide and conquer. Hillary and her campaign handlers have denied the Novak story, and considering Novak's journalistic dirty tricks, looks like he's trying to stir up another Valerie Plame controversy to prop up his twilight fledging career.

    Barak Obama should have gone straight to Novak and demanded that he either explain or shut up. Common sense asks why Hillary would engage in Novak's
    little "dirty tricks" when she is ahead in the race.

    I really feel bad that Senator Obama is being treated this way, and I hope everyone, including him, will realize who is to blame for this.

    November 17, 2007 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  9. stan pitts p.a

    novak specifically said "clinton agents" if this is not a planted story by the clinton team, let them deny it vehemently, refute it and go after novak to stop incriminating them, the clinton team have to come clean as this will surely backfire!!!

    November 17, 2007 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  10. TheInsider

    News networks are supposed to be neutral, fair and balance in their reporting. When they pick sides it becomes bad
    Posted By michael, nyc, ny : November 17, 2007 4:06 pm

    You are so right, but this isn't what you expected to see.

    "The press also gave some candidates measurably more favorable coverage than others. Democrat Barack Obama, the junior Senator from Illinois, enjoyed by far the most positive treatment of the major candidates during the first five months of the year—followed closely by Fred Thompson, the actor who at the time was only considering running. Arizona Senator John McCain received the most negative coverage—much worse than his main GOP rivals."

    Obama 46.7 positive, 15.8 negative
    Clinton 26.9 positive 37.8 negative

    Obama has been getting fawning coverage from the press and it hasn't enabled him to overtake Clinton.

    November 17, 2007 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  11. BajanLuv, Newport News, VA

    Amir, CA Annaheim:

    I nerver once called you stupid or an idiot in my post. You did call me a name in response but hey, who is counting? Follow your own advice.
    Obama did the right thing by responding because it would have been worse Monday morning, if the tactic had worked. Get some rest, Amir.

    November 17, 2007 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  12. Mitchel, Newport News, VA

    Hillary Clinton in three words: liar, liar, liar.

    November 17, 2007 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  13. Tired of Corruption LV

    Typically when someone is guilty and they are called on it – they usually scream louder than an innocent person. Just like Clinton is doing right now. She is attacking Obama personally by calling him inexperienced becaused he had the audacity to question Clinton concerning this report from Novak.

    It's amazing how little Clinton knows. She had no idea there were planted questioners in her audience, or that Mr Hsu was a crook, or that Peter Paul was raising money for her, or that mr. Bush was going to invade Iraq, or that the Iran vote can give Bush the go ahead to invade Iran and to keep troups in Iraq indefinitely, and the list goes on.

    How can anyone want a person so out of touch with her surroundings not to mention her bad judgement in the highest office of the nation.

    I am praying the people in Iowa are seeing through all of this. And are sick of the Clinton games.

    November 17, 2007 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  14. Ruth Bethinger, NYC

    I have respect for the Clintons as masterful politians, but I find it rings false when they imply that they would never smear an opponent. It has been reported on in hundreds of articles for a decade the lengths that they go to take down opponents by any means necessary.

    The Clinton camp also knows to plan things several steps in advance, and knows that by leaking to Novak, they get political cover because they can pretend to dismiss Novak as a conservative that nobody trusts, while keeping the smear alive.

    November 17, 2007 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  15. michael, nyc ny

    Couple of facts:

    It seemed obvious that the network and “moderator” were pro-HRC. Now, as facts emerge, it appears that:
    1. a question to HRC was planted; 2. the audience consisted of HRC supporters hand-picked at the last minute; 3. Carville engaged in post-debate commentary supporting HRC without disclosing that he is a current HRC advisor.
    I’m sure HRC will say she wasn’t aware of and doesn’t support such actions. Again? How gullible are Americans anyway?

    Here is a link in the new york times proving that CNN planted the 'Diamond' question.

    November 17, 2007 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  16. Mark, Long Beach, California

    The more fool Obama for believing Robert Novak. This incident certainly argues against his judgement.

    Novak has a proven track record among republican operatives for planting political "disinformation".

    November 17, 2007 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  17. Peggy, McLean, VA

    This tactic matches Hillary's ice-cold eyes. As a woman, I cannot understand what women see in her. CNN's debate implementation and coverage was dreadful. James Carville as objective commentator?? Please...

    November 17, 2007 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  18. Lee, Ann Arbor, Michigan

    Hillary-lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, lies.

    Her (and Bill) are just ruthless liars. They do not know how to tell the truth.

    They're just selfish, hypocritical, self-serving individuals and THE AMERICAN PEOPLE DESERVE BETTER.

    November 17, 2007 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  19. Peter,PA

    I always knew Senator Obama was a very intelligent person and a comment like these demonstrate that he is more than brilliant. Huge brain power but very humble – just the combination for a descent human being.

    Just read Speeches from Senator Obama and clearly demonstrate that President Obama is what the country needs right now and for the future prosperity of our world.

    Her Royal Highness Queen Inevitable is definitely looking backwards and trying to leave the country fighting the controversy of the past.

    Obama, we are ready to follow your leadership.

    November 17, 2007 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  20. J Edwards, Rio Rancho, NM


    You have the self-proclaimed "best poltical team in Washington. Tell them to get to the bottom of the story.

    But we all know you won't because that would undermine your cushy status in the Clinton regime.

    Prove to those of us who believe wholeheartedly that CNN is now an arm of the Clinton Campaign (aka Clinton News Network) that you are not.

    If Mrs. Clinton thinks she can play "swiftboat politics" with Senator Obama, she has another thing coming. She's got more dirty laundry in her closet than a Little Rock Laundro-Mat.

    And rest assured, if CNN won't cover the story, we voters will. Wanna play dirty politics, Bill and Hill? Bring it on!

    November 17, 2007 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  21. Jaik , chicago, IL

    Novak has terrible politics, but he doesn't make things up out of the air, Clinton does however. All Hillary has to do is make the hint of something wrong with Obama, she knows she just needs a couple points here and there

    November 17, 2007 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  22. Tony, Enterprise, Alabama

    What a load of crap!

    Senator Obama's campaign can't make legitimate news so they come up with this?

    What a load of crap!

    November 17, 2007 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  23. TheInsider

    "I was an undecided voter before the Democratic debate in Las Vegas, but now I know I will not support Hillary Clinton. She planted questions at the debate, she intimidated the moderator beforehand, she stacked the audience with her stalwarts, and now she is covering up her so-so performance at the sham debate with a whisper campaign against Barack Obama. How hypocritical!"

    Posted By Joanna Harman : November 17, 2007 4:18 pm

    Ms. Harman,

    Your POST is an obvious plant. Your anti-Clinton rhetoric could not have been honed since the CNN debate that you seem to be in the extreme fringe minority in interpreting. Every spurious claim and half-truth comes RIGHT from the Obama camp!
    Indeed, I suspect that you have often posted here before in support of Obama.
    For an undecided voter, you seem to have decided to hate Hillary quite a while ago.
    To question a candidate, to dispute a candidate, even to disparage a candidate is what the current process is about, but to misrepresent yourself in the service of a candidate disguised as an, undecided", truly is hypocrisy

    November 17, 2007 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  24. Jason, Rockford IL


    Just to let you know if you read either "Audacity of Hope" or even moreso "Dreams from my Father" you can read quite a bit about Obama's "record" that you are calling for. Obama reveals quite a bit in the book that might interest you if you are looking for that.

    November 17, 2007 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  25. BajanLuv, Newport News, VA

    I am bothered by one thing: A republican hack, used Clinton's name in vain (according to her), she comes out swinging at Obama but says nothing about NOVAK–I thought she knew how to handle the repubs. If she does, now is the time to show us. I am glad that Obama ran his campaign the way he did. Can you really win at politics with an issues only campaign? You still have to respond to attacks like these or you will not win any way. We are in deep trouble. I don't like Novak, he is a lot of things, but liar? far from it–he likes to leak info to see the blood after. If he is pressed, he will tell us that it's carville and I would be very disappointed.

    My advice to Obama: Answer them all swiftly and forcefully. Clinton does have political "experience" not all good. BTW: If she does win the nomination(I hope not), she will expect you to go out and help her get the Black vote.–I wish you would--

    November 17, 2007 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14