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. Robin, Montpelier, VT

    Responding to:

    CLINTON 08!

    Posted By hillarylover – sa tx : November 17, 2007 6:28 pm

    I am personally sorry and scared for you...and all the other hillraisers...

    oh yea "turn up the heat" everytime I hear this I think of a Junior high pep rally...

    November 17, 2007 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  2. will, studio city, CA

    Nobody should be surprised that Novak is eager to stir up dust. With Rove gone, Hillary and her crew are more than willing to step in and give Novak something to write about, as it is clear he has no original thoughts to express. Same old, same old. The Clintons playing dirty? Shocker. That they are begining to attack Obama only means that the polls are shifting, as they should, away from Hillary. Real change is needed, and it is Obama, not Hillary, who will bring it. At least the Clintons are smart, so they know this, which is why, like an animal caged, they are resorting to last-ditch dirty politics.

    November 17, 2007 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  3. Seth, San Francisco, CA

    This is silly. There is a rumor that there is a rumor........that both sides say does not exist..

    I never heard of this rumor till now... So is the rumor that there is scandalous information about Obama, or is the rumor that Clinton is spreading rumors???? And who is actually spreading the rumor??

    November 17, 2007 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  4. stan pitts p.a

    im a life long democrat and will vote for obama, hillary doesnt stand a chance against the neocons, one swiftboat ad from them and she is gone, her and her campaign cannot stand up to scrutiny!!!

    November 17, 2007 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  5. stan pitts p.a

    heres a loser, anyone who votes for hillary, if she gets the nomination she will lose the general election, wow imagine the republicans in power another 4 years, ouch!!!

    November 17, 2007 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  6. stan pitts p.a

    clinton is being coronated and forced down our throats this is a democracy and that will not work in america!!!

    November 17, 2007 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  7. Mike, Owosso, MI

    As an ex-die hard republican of forty years, I can not believe how easy the democrats in this comment section (and most other comment sections) give up instantly and start pointing fingers at each others candidates in their own party when things happen instead of looking at “republican dirty tricks”, which happen a lot more than you think. I think if you are a democrat, you have to be realistic at this point and realize that Clinton probably will be our candidate (if you like it or not), that’s just the way it’s going to be. Sure she may not win all of the states, but she is leading by double digits in enough to wrap it up now. The republicans have a similar problem with their religious right wing people and they have already basically said they will support whoever gets the nod, even if it is not exactly who they want. So Democrats, we can beat ourselves up some more and help the republicans make some future advertisements or we can be educated voters here (and not dreamers) and start uniting and not the republicans win the big one again.

    November 17, 2007 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  8. Jeremy, Petaluma,CA

    I am not surprised that something like this would come from the Clinton machine. Hillary has been a back stabber her entire career. Remember how much support they gave Gore when he ran for President? NONE. She was attending his fund raisers asking for money for her campaign. The lady has been a ruthless, classless politician her whole career. The Clintons are masters at appearing to be caring politicians, but the truth is they have always been about gaining power for themselves and nothing else.

    Kudos to Obama for calling her out. Obama was correct to comment direct to the Clinton party for this as they are the mudslingers here. Obama's character will come through in this election.

    November 17, 2007 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  9. Pepe Le Pue

    Even though Robert Novak is a partisan republican, and may be ill-intended in publishing this article, I believe him.

    Novak has too little to gain in fetching a story like this one.

    Barrack made the right move dealing with this issue before it gets people wondering and anticipating some sort big blow to his campaign. And Obama is showing a little too much class dealing with Billary, when he has her cornered. Just like Karl "satan" Rove suggested, he needs to punch her right where it hurts.

    Romney would have a field day with Billary, he is super aggressive.

    Obama 08

    November 17, 2007 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  10. Jennifer Godden, New York, New York

    What in God's name is Obama doing?

    Is he imbalanced?

    November 17, 2007 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  11. Jay, Northern Cambria, PA

    Sick of this type of politics????? Look at Huckabee. You might be surprized.

    November 17, 2007 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  12. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    Why isn't Novak in jail over the Plame incident?!

    November 17, 2007 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  13. Darrel, Iowa

    Hillarys true colrs are now shineing thru quite plane. Can't answer a question with out a political dance and the stage she is on won't be the same one when the sun comes up in the morning. Her experance for President?
    What would that be? I can't tell'
    If she ain't got anything positive to say and or give some straight answers on the campain trail/ Then I think we need to look some where out there for REAL LEADERSHIP! We need change/ the last 16 years were bad. Just hope and pray the right independant will come along. One that will level the playing field for All Americans.
    Huckabee maybe/wish he was independant!
    Independant Voter

    November 17, 2007 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  14. Kimmie, Yorba Linda, CA

    Obama is a very serious candidate that I am growing to like more and more. He will not let Hillary Clinton fool us again. She believes we owe her the Presidency and she is prepared to use and divide us by gender, generation and/or which ever way she must in order to get elected! This, coming from a WOMAN. Yes a WOMAN! All this wink and knod junk is rediculous. I am too intelligent to vote for my President just because the candidate is female. Hillary is crazy to pull that kind of stupidity out of her hat. We (women) think just like everybody else. The problem with Sen. Clinton is that she has not given us any answers to difficult issues about which to think. Come on, Hillary, stop this childish nonsense of spreading awful rumors.

    November 17, 2007 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  15. John, Milwaukee WI

    I can't imagine anyone voting for either her or Obama. They have both proven to be liars.

    November 17, 2007 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  16. Jose Card

    If Hillary were to be elected, the American history would have recorded her as the first American female president with a footnote that says she shares her presidential power with her husband so it doesn't count.

    I am an independent. If I must elect a female president, I would choose Dr. Condoleezza Rice with proven records of extensive public service. She is also a full professor in political science at Stanford.

    November 17, 2007 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  17. TheInsider

    I am really getting a kick out of the Obama supporters tonight. Between the debate denial and the Novak blunder it's like, "Saturday Night Live", here Thanks guys, for the entertainment.

    November 17, 2007 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  18. Wynter, Loudon, NH

    Another story related to the still "uncharged" journalist that brought us the Valerie Plame outing. Novak has gone downhill and is starting to fall into the area of scandal sheet writer. It's deplorable. Leaking rumor and innuendo as fact in the middle of a primary is incredibly stupid of Novak. If you have facts then tell them. If not, don't write about it. Isn't that considered libel?

    Telling it like I see it,

    When will Novak finally see the inside of a jail cell?

    November 17, 2007 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  19. Mark, Springfield, MO

    I can't believe how GULLIBLE people are in BELIEVING anything that comes from Novak. This guy would lie, cheat, steal and sell his mother to the devil to get headlines.

    Novak is following the Republican playbook to the letter. He is throwing out a smear that NO ONE could ever verify in the hopes of getting the democratic candidates to start feeding on each other. He is sitting back and laughing his butt off at all of the Obama supporters trashing Hillary for his, more than likely, fake story AND YOU RUBES FELL FOR IT!

    In this instance Obama completely fell for it hook, line and sinker and it shows how inexperienced he is at handling political mudslinging from the Republican Right. He should have directed all of his ire and questions, not to Hillary Clinton but to Robert Novak. He should have called Novak to task. He should have said that Novak should produce proof of what he wrote or he would be called a liar who makes up stories. Obama should have tossed the ball back into Novak's court and never addressed the Clinton Campaign.

    It shows way to little experience in dealing with smear tactics. It also indicates that if he is the nominee he will probably be brutalized by the Republican attack machine and never be able to effectively fight back. In other words the Democrats will lose the presidency.

    November 17, 2007 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  20. John Lewis Cincinatti, Ohio

    Straight out of the CLINTON playbook.

    November 17, 2007 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  21. Tere, FL

    I was wondering when you were going to emerge from you hole. Looks like the Hillary campaign indoctrination has a permanent effect on you

    November 17, 2007 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  22. Jim Bremer

    Barak Hussein Osama is deeply scared of something.

    Just the mere mention of "scandal" has him panicking and pleading with Hillary "pleasse don't attack me"

    Wonder what skeletons are in his closet to make him that sensitive...

    November 17, 2007 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  23. Jack, Fort Myers, FL

    He is really reaching for straws now! This is about as left field a comment as I've ever heard. The proof of his actions is in the pudding. His history in politics is recent, documented, and not an obscure group of people not heard from since the 1970's. He cannot blame anyone else when his words and actions blow off his on foot! Swift mind, swift foot, swift ideas, swift team mabye–but not swift boat. The smell of fear, defeat, desperation is in the air.

    November 17, 2007 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  24. True

    Good lord. I'm not even an American, but when I saw "Robert Novak" as the source of this information, I smelled the bait. Obama's done nothing to change my read of him as a good man, and an ideal candidate for when times are good. I feel that the US (and the Western world) cannot afford an American President who is this wet behind the ears at a time when we are all in such peril.

    November 17, 2007 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  25. Daniel, NY

    A new general election poll from Wisconsin has good news for both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as they look very strong in this usually tight state. Link

    November 17, 2007 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
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