Smear Politics Reaches A New Low

Robert Novak reports that

Agents of Sen. Hillary Clinton are spreading the word in Democratic circles that she has scandalous information about her principal opponent for the party’s presidential nomination, Sen. Barack Obama, but has decided not to use it. The nature of the alleged scandal was not disclosed.

He goes on to say that “word-of-mouth among Democrats makes Obama look vulnerable and Clinton look prudent.” That strikes me as a rather odd response. To me, this is the worst sort of gutter politics. If her campaign has something on the man, it should just release it or shut up about it. Having operatives whisper about it quasi-off-the-record is the same as using it outright, just sleazier.

This tactic also raises the question of just how “scandalous” the alleged story really is. A truly titillating ‘scandal’ might be newsworthy, but if her opposition research team only found a minor skeleton in Obama’s closet, they could easily have decided that purveying it this way was the best way to get mileage out of it, undermining Obama’s clean-as-a-whistle image while keeping the candidate’s hands clean.

In this, I must perforce agree with HuffPo: Obama should either just ignore the story altogether or tell Novak to “Put up of STFU!”

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, US Politics, , , ,
Dodd Harris
About Dodd Harris
Dodd, who used to run a blog named ipse dixit, is an attorney, a veteran of the United States Navy, and a fairly good poker player. He contributed over 650 pieces to OTB between May 2007 and September 2013. Follow him on Twitter @Amuk3.


  1. Presumably, such “scandalous” information would utterly preclude Senator Obama from being on Hillary’s ticket next year as a candidate for vice president. Oh, I’m sorry, were you expecting consistency from political operatives?

  2. Scott Swank says:

    I’ll believe this when I hear it from someone other than Novak. It’s sad to say, but I believe him capable of exaggerating or entirely constructing almost anything to make a Democratic candidate look bad.

  3. Scott_T says:

    This sucks if this becomes status-quo for politicians.

    This reaks of the Mark Foley humiliation in Florida, and it being kept quiet/secret until too late in the political season for a suitable replacement to be put on the ballot and a Democrat running practically unopposed.

  4. Steven Donegal says:

    I’m not sure why you think this is a new low. JJ reported the other day receiving a “I have a dirt on another candidate” email from the campaign of a Republican “first tier” candidate (as JJ characterized the mongering party). JJ chose to show some ethics and not publicize it. With Novak, ethics went out the window a long time ago.

  5. Bret says:

    I’m rather inclined to disbelief on this story. The PoD has become rather detached from his usual “inside” Republican sources and I highly, highly doubt anyone with a tangential attachment to Hillary! would be speaking to him. My guess is his source is someone with, at maximum, 4 degrees of separation from the Clinton camp, and therefore a not-too-reliable source.

    I’m back.

  6. Grewgills says:

    Novak has now admitted on Fox “News” that he did not get it from someone in the Clinton campaign rather he says that someone told him that they got it from someone in the Clinton campaign. And on a related note a friend of a friend of mine is a nurse and she said…

  7. Anjin-san says:

    To me, this is the worst sort of gutter politics

    This is certainly gutter stuff, but if you want “the worst sort”, I refer you to Bush’s slime job on Vietnam Vet Sen. McCain, yet another slime job on triple amputee combat vet Sen. Cleland, or the swiftboating of Vietnam Vet John Kerry.

  8. Dodd says:

    Even accepting, arguendo, that all of those are legitimate examples of “gutter politics,” this is still a new low. Those, at least, were formally done by identified people who could be directly challenged rather than via a backdoor whispering campaign.

  9. Grewgills says:

    Those, at least, were formally done by identified people who could be directly challenged rather than via a backdoor whispering campaign.

    It sounds like you are accepting as true the contention that this is being done by the Clinton campaign. What reason do you have for taking anything Novak says at face value, particularly about someone he considers a political opponent?
    Once again the gutter politics are being played by Novak. He is the one who should be called on this rather than the 2 campaigns he is smearing.
    As far as new lows go, he has gone lower before and likely will again.