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. TheInsider

    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

    Posted By Bill,wellesly,ma : November 17, 2007 6:36 pm

    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?"
    Posted By michael, nyc ny : November 17, 2007 4:32 pm

    Couple of Obama operatives with EXACTLY the same post. Is there a place on his website to copy that from?

    In answer to the question, How gullible are Americans anyway?", Not as gullible as some seem to think.

    November 17, 2007 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  2. mountain man

    What a baby! Obama sounds like he is begging for mercy "Please Hillary don't attack me!" Obama is a wimp. He's also stupid because if the Novack story is true then it is saying that Hillary has dirt on Obama but they aren't using it. So acording to Obama Hillary is taking the high road and he is whining about it.

    November 17, 2007 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  3. Leo, VA

    You are another plant, right?
    Posted By zak,boston,ma : November 17, 2007 6:42 pm

    No Mr. Zak, you are subjective and incapable to admit that Obama, otherwise an interesting character, was often lost and rigid at the debate , and now is jumping on whatever stupid thing a Republican said trying to divert the attention from his very poor performance. No matter how much you support your candidate (if you really do) show some respect for the people posting here.

    November 17, 2007 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  4. jack,tx

    I think Hillary will flock to Giuliani and you know what, what the republicans wanted and another republican will be back in power...Just continue this Hillary.

    November 17, 2007 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  5. Toronto, Ontario

    I'm so ashamed, as a woman, a progressive and a feminist, of Hillary Clinton.

    And as much as it drives me nuts when I hear idiots like Chris Matthews and his ilk blathering on with his old school sexist crap about "the grating sound of Hillary's voice" to the point that I want to stand up, defend her and remind him that he'd NEVER consider making a disparaging comment about a male candidate's "grating voice", I still cannot bear the thought that deep down in my bones, I have no doubt that Hillary Clinton would, will be and is, playing the dirtiest game and wouldn't think twice to step on the Constitution - just like Bush & Cheney once she's in the WH. What's equally frightening is that on the Republican side, undoubtedly Rudy Giuliani is capable of doing the exact same rotten thing and would have no respect for the Constitution.

    I have no stake in this game. I'm a Canadian, but it's so very depressing to watch the debate the other day and realize that it was no accident that those's boo's and jeers were solely aimed at the only 2 top opponents of Hillary Clinton: Edwards & Obama. Everyone on that stage challenged each other as well as Clinton, but only when Obama and Edwards challenged Hillary Clinton, did those boo's dependably appear, as if on cue. For shame. For shame.

    November 17, 2007 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  6. John, Stamford, CT

    Robert Novak belongs in a jail cell. What credibility does he have and why would anyone believe anything this creep says? Hey Clinton haters: BUSH is destroying the country and the WORLD! Wake up!! We need him and his party out of power. Hillary is one million times smarter than this hideously ignorant tool of every special interest that is against OUR interests. Vote for a winner. Vote for Hillary.

    November 17, 2007 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  7. Reggie, Germany

    So Lee from Boston and all the others I guess all of you are saying if this article read Obama or even better John Edwards had the dirt on Hillary etc. That she and all of you would not react? Or is it only in her case that reaction is legitamate?

    I would think in eiither case she would
    be jumping to defend Obama and herself from the OBVIOUS "in the view of her campaign" Republican smear tactic. After all she accoring to Singer's response, is being used by them!!

    What happened to the best qualified person to take on the Republican attack machine??? Where is our great defender?? Where is her outrage that the would use her in this manner??

    No she'd rather chide Obama for being their toll when she and "her agents" not he was there chosen weapon!

    That is of course assuming all that was written there is not true.

    As for rational Lee, where is the rational in that???

    November 17, 2007 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  8. Jim L., Irmo, SC

    His response was reasonable and well directed. He asked her to meet the story with a vigorous response if she, or her campaign, did not plant the story.

    November 17, 2007 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  9. Sumiko Honda

    Boo for Hillary!!! She and her camp is guilty!!! It's exactly like something She would do.
    I hope her polls fall as fast as America's trust for her.
    She won't be President. That's good for America, even if that means 4-8 more years of Republican leadership.

    November 17, 2007 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  10. JFK, PHX, AZ

    Great response by the Clinton team! Kudos for them calling this what it is! Diversion and distractions from the election and issues at hand. Obama needs to get back into the campaign and stop worrying about 'gossip' columnist Novak. Maybe then Obama can change some voters minds... or not...

    November 17, 2007 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  11. Robin, Montpelier, VT

    Of course I expected the Clinton campaign to come back as if this is Barack Obama's fault or to try to tout his inexperience. I yes would check out the facts, but if once it got out into the media – which it did, I would expect Barack to question it and assertively move forward. And Barack Obama did that with the inner strength he possesses when dealing with, to the point and clarity of what needs to be done, as a President might have to. Barack quoted saying "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,"" 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." So basically, Barack Obama asks did you or did you not?... So what does Hillary and her people say...."Once again Senator Obama is echoing Republican talking points" The Clinton campaign also says they have no idea...Again, the Clinton campaign on the defense and in fact are they throwing the "mud" now???ummm. I'm more inclined to believe Novak at this point.

    November 17, 2007 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  12. Sandy Johnson, Anchorage, Alaska

    Bob Novak. Who would believe anything he says regarding an opposition party. Look at the turmoil he created with Valerie Plame. Forget about it. Obama does not need to make this a public outcry and he needs to just move on with his campaign. Enough already.

    November 17, 2007 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  13. julianbook, NY, NY

    Hillary's husband was the worst president ever by a long streak. Note that the first World Trade Center attempt happened under Clinton's watch in 1993. When you try to bring down 2 buildings with 50,000 people in them, it's the equivalent of trying to set off a nuclear bomb in the financial center of the world. A serious and competent president would have seen and treated it as such. Clinton had ample opportunity to nail Bin Laden as his whereabouts were quite known. He was sleeping on the job literally and figuratively (with interns like Monica and the others). The next , successful attempt in bringing down the WTC was planned while Clinton was sleeping, and Hillary was helping to put out lies to the public ("vast right wing conspiracy and all that crap). Bush inherited the Clinton failure. As a result, we've had over 3000 people lost in WTC, almost had the Pentagon destroyed, etc. This has brought us into the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, with possibly a million people killed or maimed, all types of suffering, another 4000 Americans dead, and a practically bankrupt economy. And we're still in the mess, with more people hating us worldwide than ever conceivable. What we need is an intelligent president – someone actually committed to the public interest – to lead us out of the mess, before we wake up under a mushroom – which would probably lead to the end of the planet earth, as the US would have to react, or just wait to be hit with more nuclear bombs. It's that serious. You can be certain that Bin Laden, who's net worth is estimated at 300 million, is working with his associates on how to make a nuclear strike on the US. Hillary is even more incompetent and self-oriented than her husband, who would be the shadow president in her administration anyway. Nice lie she tries by saying that she would send him around the world as a goodwill ambassador – but then again, as William Safire said years ago, she's a "congenital liar". Obama is the only hope.

    November 17, 2007 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  14. J. McKinney SW MO

    I believe the Obama group messed up big time. Clinton didn't make the claim–Novak did. If Obama doesn't have anything in his past to hide, then he should have just kept quiet. But obviously he was worried about what it is, so wanted it out in the open, so he could try to straighten it out.
    The Clinton camp is correct–this was inexperience.
    We need Hillary.

    November 17, 2007 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  15. Barb, NN, VA


    November 17, 2007 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  16. Eric, Edmonds WA

    The people blasting Obama so hard for this seem nuts to me. What should he do in the face of potential character assassination or the insinuation that he has skeletons in his closet? Ignore it?

    Yeah, that worked really well for John Kerry.

    Who's being naive now?

    November 17, 2007 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  17. AN, Fairfax, VA



    November 17, 2007 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  18. Grace, Washington, Iowa

    Senator Clinton, you hear the man – PUT UP OR SHUT UP. It's that simple.

    You've been campaigning for President your entire life and you're being beat in Iowa by a guy, you're OLD enough to be his mother. Now you're resorting to the OLD triangulation tricks and trying to hide your own scandal that is about to explode in December. YOU'RE GOING TO FAIL!!

    The truth is – you can't win squarely "without plants" and you're NOT going to win. Hang your OLD suit and shut up !!

    November 17, 2007 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  19. Brian, Columbia, SC

    Obama is a man of good moral character and professionalism. He calls it like it is. Sounds like another third party (Novak) throwing sand between the gears. Its sad seeing canidates waste time and hard earned American money (donations/tax...etc) to set up smear campaigns on other credible and legit canidates.

    November 17, 2007 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  20. QUENTEN A. Moore TX

    Anyone with an ounce of brains should know that Novak is a republican con man and he gives his soul to the republican party to distract the people from the truth.
    He is worse than the fox opinion network and that is about as low as anyone can go in my book. I believe nothing that comes out of fox and only see it by accident, I do not click on anything that says fox up front or pay any attention to what they say for it has been SLANTED AS THE HEAD MAN SAYS AND SLANTED NEWS IS LIES AND WE HAVE THEM EVERY DAY WITHOUT A NETWORK THAT SAYS IT IS FINE TO SLANT WHAT THEY CALL NEWS.

    November 17, 2007 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  21. Jen, Gainesville, FL

    To Zak,

    This is how I view the question and answer regarding driver's license in the Thursday debate. I was surprised that Obama was asked the question again after he gave a clear answer without any hesitation in a debate two weeks ago.

    The people who deserved this question should be those who did not get a chance to answer it or did not answer it clearly. An appropriate question could be raised to Hillary, "Why happened in the past two weeks have helped you finally make up your mind about the driver's license issue?"

    It was a poorly managed debate indeed.

    November 17, 2007 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  22. Ben

    I applaud Senator Obama for his quick and direct response to this story. The Clinton camp has been using surrogates for weeks now in an effort to diminish the candidates who are going to cause her a third place showing in Iowa.

    The Clinton campaign knew that if Senator Obama did not call for her to denounce the article, the rumors would grow and spread throughout the media. And now that he has done so, they want to make this issue about experience. Wolfson and Penn represent the worst in American politics.

    The Clinton campaign is deplorable. They will lose badly because the American public has had it with Clintonista politics. Hillary can join Karl Rove under his rock when this election is over.

    November 17, 2007 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  23. Robin, Montpelier, VT

    Replying to: 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.

    I got to hear Senator Obama respond to this question and as much flack Obama got for his answer, I was very surprised. The important points Obama was making clear were the why's and how's of illegal licenses and explaining the details and his reason why they are important. And in fact Obama did say yes, but with an explanation. But Hillary..."no" with no explanation why she changed her mind on that 5th and final answer and on top of that she was given a big pass on that – why??? Hillary could not even truthfully answer the "Gender card" issue that was given to her at the debate. After she dodged the truth with a rambling women's rights type of answer, she said "no I have not played the gender card in Las Vegas"...ummm, nice usage on words but she (and knows it) has used it, as the moderator explained. Time after Time she ducks, lies, denies..she is smart,so why does she and her campaign go to stupid?

    November 17, 2007 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  24. Anonymous, Hickory, NC

    "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."


    OMG! The blind allegiance is nauseating. It is always someone other than the Clintons.

    November 17, 2007 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  25. TheInsider

    Posted By Scott, Bethlehem, PA : November 17, 2007 5:07 pm

    Iceberg Slim is an OBAMA blogger. If you were bright enough to be insulted by it, I would accuse you of circular reasoning...

    November 17, 2007 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
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