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. Jacob, Des Moines, Iowa

    wow you liberals are blind even when referring to your own party

    anyone who isnt following the carrot hillary dangles in front of them can clearly tell that obama will be the democratic nominee

    all the non-commited experts, republican, independent, and democratic, can tell that hillary is about to peak in december

    if dems are smart they will not choose clinton as their candidate..if they do, they loose in november

    if republicans are smart, they will realize they NEED to choose Rudy as our candidate, if we don't we loose in november

    November 17, 2007 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  2. Hawk,Texas

    Any one that would believe anything that comes from robert novac, is either a fool or a republican. let it go obama. you haven't been a angel on this either. not telling the people about your agenda. just bashing hillary.

    November 17, 2007 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  3. Reggie, Germany

    You know when I read these comments scolding Obama I have to ask myself, have you all gone brain dead. This is a situation where someone, somewhere is attempting to performing character assassination agianst him.

    Now this can only stem from one of two places. Either Novack is a liar and this is his or a republican concoction, or there is truth to this story. Either way Obama rightly needs to take a stand and say basically what he said today.

    Now if Hillary is innocent of this SHE not Mr. Singer needs to respond and say catgorically that this is not true. Obama is her peer and running for the same position she is. He posed a direct request to her personally and deserves a direct response from HER not a surrogate. None of use would expect any less in the same situation.

    If in fact there is no truth to this then BOTH!!! Hillary and Obama need to decend on Novack like a ton of bricks and demand answers and let it be know in bno uncertain terms that THEY as Democrates will not tolarate such acts.

    I don't see how anyone Hillary supporter or not can see even the slightest bit of justification for what Mr Singer wrote. I would advise you all to read his statement again and see if you don't find it insulting and I must say a bit opportunistic on his part. Mr Obama has just been blind sided and slandered by innuendo and he accuses him of echoing Rebublican talking points and (here's the kicker) uses the moment to try and score political points by implying and I qoute,

    "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."

    This is to me the lowest form of opportunismus and above that its disingenuous. If the shoe were on the other foot Hillary would not only be all over Obama she and Bill would be crying conspiracy and Swift Boat attack. After all Bill warned us only a few days ago about that didn't he. Are did he only mean in Hillary's case??
    It really makes me wonder if maybe there is something to this story. Even if it was just to bait him into defending himself in order to issue this statement. And where's Hillary????

    I'm sorry people but if you can tell me with a straight face that you agree that it would be right to attack you yourself this way if you were in Obama's situation and issued his statement ......

    Then I guess I'll have to start praying for you immediately.

    November 17, 2007 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  4. Scott, Bethlehem, PA

    CNN and Hillary Clinton rigged the Las Vegas debate. The audience was purposely filled with Clinton supported and all audience questions were planted.

    November 17, 2007 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  5. stan pitts p.a

    hillary when asked diamonds or pearls what do you prefer? both she answered i thought that was very greedy of her, most diamonds are blood diamonds, a vast majority of americans cannot afford to pay their bills talk less of owning diamonds or pearls, worth less question by CNN, hillary will lose the nomination, americans dont want a leader who plants questions and allows the booing of other candidates when she is simply being asked to clarify her stand...hillary is the classic picture of a politian america doesnt need and cant afford!!!

    November 17, 2007 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  6. fair,washington,dc

    Agree or disagree, the Swift Boat folks were above board, specific in who they were and what they alleged. Clintonian smear tactics are well recognized all by themselves. They don't come any more two-faced than Hillary.

    Did someone complain about "mud" earlier this week … LOL

    Posted By Jim in Orlando, FL : November 17, 2007 2:23 pm

    You know I just needed to respond to this. Quickly, for clarification lets look at what the SwiftBoarding of John Kerry was . Seven Republican veterans just prior to the general election came out twenty plus years after serving with Kerry and made accusations that what he said he did in Viet Nam was false. Their only facts were I was there I was an eye witness. I am a military Vet and this incident in my opinion is a dark day in military history. If this had been a Republican candidate that this crap was pulled on there would have been such an uproar in the military community it would have still been resounding today. This is not a Democrat/Republican issue this is some folk taking a mans military record and smearing it for political purposes and the only reason there wasn't outrage from the military community is because the military is a Republican block. Don't know what aboveboard you are talking about, but I would love you to show me the facts and not some vicious old Republican veterans playing dirty politics. The only fact in their whole story was they were there serving with Kerry and there were folk that were also there that defended Kerry's claims so now this just becomes a baseless accusation.

    November 17, 2007 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  7. TheInsider

    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;

    The moderator was biased, the crowd was pro-Clinton (Clinton is polling around 60% of the vote in Nevada) and was, "hand-picked".
    Where do you get these Facts?

    "The protagonist, a fox, upon failing to find a way to reach grapes hanging high up on a vine, retreated and said: "The grapes are sour anyway!" The moral is stated at the end of the fable as:

    It is easy to despise what you cannot get."

    The fact is that Clinton did what she needed to do, Obama was laughed at for his (190 word) driver's license flummoxing and Obama supporters are like the fox in Aesop's fable.

    November 17, 2007 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  8. stan pitts p.a

    Americans will vote no to hillary no, no to divisive politics, no to lies, the office of president will not be given to someone who doesnt want to be questioned on what their stand is regarding issues,(asking hillary to clarify her positions is not attacking her) she doesnt want to be attacked but she has called obama "naive and inexperienced" what a hypocrite she is!!!

    November 17, 2007 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  9. Dan, Columbus, OH

    "These punks are underestimating Sen. Obama's toughness to fight back. He is not your text book politician!"

    DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF THE DARK SIDE... er, um, I mean, don't underestimate the power of the Clintons. But I'm repeating myself.

    November 17, 2007 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  10. John Z., Mt. Pleasant, IA

    Remember that the madrassa story, that FOX News picked up, actually came from an Insight magazine story based on rumors they said the Clinton campaign was spreading:

    November 17, 2007 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  11. Brenda,Newton,Iowa

    It is sad to see that not only the front-runner, Clinton, but also major media outlets like CNN, are scripting questions in what is supposed to be an open democratic process. This sort of disingenuousness is what makes me cynical about the political process. Why do we accept this sort of behavior, let alone reward it?

    November 17, 2007 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  12. Jim, Connecticut

    Gee if only Wolf Blitzer had this information before the debate he could have . . . Oh, that's right the Clinton campaign wouldn't let him ask about it..

    Good doggie, Wolf.

    November 17, 2007 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  13. Ruth,VA

    The press controls what people hear and read. They love HC and Bill, most voters are pretty uninformed about the issues. Hence they can make decisions based on very superficial facts. It is no wonder the other good candidates can’t get any traction. Just think of the headlines if HC wins. Sells a lot of news. Now that Obama has stood up to this, lets see what will play out in the next few months.

    November 17, 2007 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  14. Bernard, Scotch Plains, NJ

    Obama shouldn't worry about Hillary, he should be more concerned with the Swift Boating The Clinton News Network has been doing since he entered the race. Like their so called unbias panel they had after the debate, come on CNN even a blind man could see what you're full of, the Hillary LOVEFEST was so sickening, I had to swith to FOX (of all channels) for a little relief.

    November 17, 2007 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  15. Manuel Gonzales, Artesia, NM


    November 17, 2007 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  16. R. A. Conway, Issaquah, WA

    I do not trust Mr. Obama and I never will. I am a lifelong Democrat and I find the general atmosphere surrounding the Obama campaign to be filled with half-truths, mud-slinging and attempts to make other candidates look bad through planting and propegating rumors meant to generate sympathy for Mr. Obama.

    The candidates positions on issues and their demeanor, character, and ability to defeat Republican candidates at the ballot box drive my vote – not innuendo or rumor. Mr. Obama falls well behind Mrs. Clinton in all of those areas. Whiner crybabies looking for sympathy are signs of a weak candidate and inexperienced (even self-destructive) political organization. So sad that Mr. Obama – knowing he can't win on issues – will stoop to this – and to use the repulsive Mr. Novak as a source, disgusting.

    November 17, 2007 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  17. jb

    OBAMA: 'It will only serve to steel our resolve' wow

    November 17, 2007 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  18. jacob,boston,ma

    Is CNN waiting to go down with Hillary? Either that or distance themselves from her.
    I can smell a rat!

    November 17, 2007 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  19. Susan Cusson, Mohave Valley, Arizona 86440

    Will OBama give it up. He lacks the maturity, experience, and in tegrity to pull this off for the country. He is the one who does not get it. I am a baby boomer and I get the problems. And, oh by the way, I am not over the hill yet. Go Hillary!!!!!Let's hope thay all try to keep it clean. P.S. When I got my license to drive, I had to show my birth certificate.

    November 17, 2007 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  20. Carol, Pittsburgh, PA

    Ah, things were so much more peaceful when Novak was quietly waiting to see if he would be among the indicted for outing Valerie Plame. It's way past time for him to hang it up and for us to stop giving him any credence! And I certainly hope the Democratic bickering ends soon - enough already!

    November 17, 2007 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  21. George, Texas

    The vast majority of the "obama" supporters on this blog are republicans in disguise. Its funny taht republicans are so scared that thay resort to these levels. Any true democrat wants Hillary to win. We love and enjoy the level of rage and discomfort it will cause to republicans.

    November 17, 2007 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  22. William

    Obama has been swift boating Clinton and helpiong GOP for weekks. What he is talking about?

    November 17, 2007 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  23. SD, NY, NY

    Wooh, these Obama supporters are sooo desperate. I almost feel sorry for them

    November 17, 2007 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  24. cicilia,nashua,nh

    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.

    Posted By TheInsider : November 17, 2007 4:21 pm

    First, personally I think Obama didn't ask for that coverage.

    Second, I think supporting her in the Network center is ok but not in the debate. I found that to have gone too far from question planting to making the debate to best suit her strong points and get Obama at his weak points.
    I watched the debate and all what I said was 'wow'

    November 17, 2007 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  25. John Smith, Austin, TX

    It has gotten to the point now that if Obama or Edwards win the nomination, I'll vote Democrat. But if Clinton wins it, I may just have to vote Republican next November for the first time.

    November 17, 2007 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
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