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. Kathy O., Bethlehem, PA

    ROBERT NOVAK is still considered a journalist and is on someone's payroll??? How is he still employable... I thought he was at the bottom of the media barrel after what he did to Valerie Plame.

    November 17, 2007 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  2. Shoshiru Takemitsu

    Not many people are surprised by these allegations against Hillary Clinton. She is the "Queen of Mean" when it comes to politics. She was pompous and obnoxious at the latest Presidential debates. It showed even in her face.
    The scandals and corruption coming out of her campaign is a disgrace. The planted questions at Clinton rallies, and now the smears against Obama are despicable. But not surprising.
    Many think Hillary thinks She is invulnerable. But I think She will have the shock of her life when, in light of this latest allegation (regardless if true or false) She sees her polls and support come crashing thru the floor.
    Whether the Obama allegations are true or false, Hillary is ruined because :
    1) Just the fact that She and her campaign would be suspected is damage enough.
    2). If true, She'd be wise to quit the campaign tomorrow !!!

    November 17, 2007 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  3. J. Nicholson

    The repulsive Bob Novak just can't keep his mouth shut. We know he is just a Republican mouthpiece. Why do we pay attention to him?

    November 17, 2007 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  4. Lee, Boston, MA

    Almost every supporter of Sen. Obama that posts here sounds like a crazed lunatic. Seriously. I see so few rational takes on Obama's actions and his campaign's remarks that I find it hard to take his candidacy seriously.

    Makes me sad, too, because I really wish there were rational people out there supporting him with rational rationales.


    November 17, 2007 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  5. RightyTighty

    "A Republican leaning journalist runs a blind item designed to set Democrats against one another."

    Funny that's not how Hillary described Novak when he quoted Bush sources about Valerie Plame. He was king then. But of course, dems will follow along, everything must come from the great and powerful "vast right-wing conspiracy"..

    Ha Ha!!

    November 17, 2007 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  6. therealist

    Hillary lies with the ease of a 3 yr old and a rehash of her old vast right-wing conspiracy smoke screen stmt is just more proof that Novak is really the one telling the truth..

    November 17, 2007 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  7. Independent in IA

    Public To Obama.....grow up and stop whining...

    November 17, 2007 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |

    It's funny how almost everybody on this board is spreading lies about Hillary. How in the world can she make CNN plant a question, also all the candidates had the same number of tickets. Before the debate in Las Vegas the polls showed her leading the state with 51%. I'm just sick and tired of people hating this women for being independant and smart. Accusing her of all these lies with no facts that she did any of these things. She has my vote no matter what anybody says about her.

    November 17, 2007 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  9. democrat

    How sad that my beloved Dems and my favorite news station are engaging in the “bushie” dance. It pains me to see this behavior as being the same old political high jinks, it appears that the voters are viewed as dumded down and will accept such theatrics. Based on what I heard last night I will change my party affiliation to Independent on Monday. This pronouncement from a baby boomer who marched in the sixties for civil rights, protested in the seventies and became mainstream in the eighties and always felt that I had a duty to help those less fortunate in America….
    I can no longer distinguish between the two political parties.

    — Posted by emsie

    November 17, 2007 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  10. Bob -Browns Mills, NJ

    If Obama is so upset with Clinton because of a Bob Novak piece then he better hope he is not the nominee. Forget about Swift Boating, the Republican machine will sink him like the Titanic!

    November 17, 2007 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  11. a.thomas, ny, ny

    Novak is not a credible journalist, after his involvement in the Valerie Plame affairs.

    Considering Novak's relationship with Karl Rove, it does not suprised me that this is another trick by Rove, or the republicans to create in fighting within the dems party or to perusade the independents not supporting Hillary, after Rove's earlier suggestion to Obama to go after Hillary.

    I think that, as this is just a rumour originated from Novak, Obama's anger should be towards Novak, instead of towards Hillary.

    On the other hand, it would not surprise me that there is scandalous info dug up by the republicans, as they spent millions and millions in finding scandalous info about the Clintons during Bill Clinton's election and administration in 1990's. Not many new candidates can be subject to this scrutiny like the clintons.

    This is just another dirty trick right out of the republican playbook.

    November 17, 2007 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  12. Bob Novak, Washington DC

    CNN planted everything: the moderator, the audience, each and every question! They even planted the background color to make Hillary look good. What else, oh yes, CNN raised the temperature to make the men feel the heat and make the cold Hillary warm.

    November 17, 2007 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  13. american

    Yes! This is what we need to do... Respond in a positive way. Donate to the campaign, buy yourself some Obama-gear, make that call to volunteer in you Congressional District.

    HRC knows she is going to lose Iowa. This little ploy of the Clinton Campaign will and is backfiring on them. It is only making us Obama supporters stronger and more fervent to insure Obama gets elected President of the United States of America.

    I, too, would NEVER vote for Hillary if she had gotten the nomination. I would write in Obama's name!




    November 17, 2007 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  14. jz,Iowa

    Fired up, ready to go and just DONATED again. "Steel our resolve"...heck yeah, it will. You want to see "heat", Hillary, you got it.

    November 17, 2007 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  15. obama supporter

    Better hope Hillary doesn't get the nomination then. If she does, it's all over. She's the LEAST electable candidate, by far. And that's putting it nicely.

    November 17, 2007 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  16. regvoter

    Taking Hillary at her word is the equivalent of taking the word of a known liar and terrorist. Obviously, Obama is not ready for the presidency.

    November 17, 2007 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  17. Rich Orl, FL

    First Karl Rove and now Robert Novak?? Come on people. Their actions continue to do a great disservice to our nation IMO. Do you not recognize this is another dirty trick to divert attention? "Divide and conquer" has become the right wing strategy, when we have a chance to "unite and win" next year.

    The primaries have not even been held, yet. Yes, Clinton did well in the debate the other night but not guaranteed the nomination, so please put away the wide speculation. I have a lot of respect for both Clinton AND Obama. In fact, it may surprise some that I’m trying to decide between Biden and Obama for the primary, but I will back Clinton if she gets the nod. My spouse loves her, and I see why by the other night. That’s all. Peace.

    November 17, 2007 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  18. hillarylover - sa tx

    CLINTON 08!

    November 17, 2007 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  19. Zeus Racine, WI

    Gee, folks, and the ISSUE here is WHAT?

    Let me see: Novak, a proven liar and fruit-loop, writes something nebulous, presumably coming from a Clinton “Contact” intimating something “Negative” about Mr. Obama…

    And, the response from my thoughtful, intelligent and mature Democrats is for them to go completely bonkers and either attack the credibility of Clinton or come to the rescue of Mr. Obama.

    Isn’t it just marvelous what (1) lying, fruit-loop [i.e. Mr. Novak] can accomplish within the Democratic Party?

    I sincerely hope, for the sake of both America and what appears to be an extremely out-of-control, overly emotional, Democratic Party, that you folks find your meds B/4 the actual election.

    It’s bad enough, sad enough, to have to live with an insane president who wants to kill everything brown in the Mid-East, bankrupt America, while turning it into a subsidiary of Mexico; we really can’t afford all of this sheer nonsense from Democrats too…at least if you seriously want to put a Democrat in the White House!

    November 17, 2007 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  20. pam

    This country will never heal with Hillary at the helm. She is a very scary woman. I can not understand the people who support her. Can they not see how truly horrible this woman is or do her "fans" just want to see a first in the WH so badly that they will be blind to all she is? She is evil, corrupt and power hungry.
    Obama is hope and light in the dimness of the Hillary political machine. I will never vote for her. If she is the choice of my party I will vote for the other side just to stop her. Bush-Clinton-Bush...look where it has gotten us! We are

    November 17, 2007 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  21. Bill,wellesly,ma

    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

    November 17, 2007 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  22. Steve, Aurora CO

    Wow... It's not that he can't take criticism, it's that he can't even take the suggestion of potential hypothetical future criticism. What a loser.

    November 17, 2007 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  23. zak,boston,ma

    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.

    Posted By Dazed and Confused in DC : November 17, 2007 4:09 pm

    You are another plant, right?

    November 17, 2007 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  24. a.thomas, ny, ny

    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
    Obama 46.7 positive, 15.8 negative
    Clinton 26.9 positive 37.8 negative

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


    Hillary receives 50 percent plus of Democrats citing her as their choice for the nomination. She has a favorable rating from 82 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners, while only 16 percent have an unfavorable view of her. Obama has a favorable rating of 70 percent. Also, 64 percent of Democrats say they would vote for Clinton enthusiastically in the presidential election, while 49 percent feel this way about voting for Obama. Democrats also perceive Clinton as being most likely among the Democratic candidates to defeat the Republican in the 2008 election (56 for Hillary vs 16 for Obama).

    November 17, 2007 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  25. ss,chicago,Illinois

    This is a Republican trick to keep Democrats divided so they can win.
    Obama should have asked Bob Novak to reveal all he knows. Clinton is way ahead in the polls, and she just had a very good debate so it makes no sense that her campaign would engage in this. Could it be that the Obama camp planted the story to get back on track since losing the Thursday night debate? Obama is no saint. He accuses Hillary of not providing straight answers but he himself does not give straight answers to the same questions. Let's bring civility back to campaigning.

    November 17, 2007 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
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