"The Swiftboating of Hillary Clinton" (The Moderate Voice)

John-Kerry (2)
Peter Daou, has been a longtime advisor to the Clinton Global Initiative, and also was digital advisor to Hillary Clinton on her campaigns, and is a veteran internet pundit. The New York Times once called him ” “one of the most prominent political bloggers in the nation” and the Washington Post labelled him the “Yoda of the blogosphere.” He makes the case made by many: that much of what is now happening to Hillary Clinton has a sense of deja vu – Karl Rove’s old maxim about undermining a candidate’s perceived positives. He argues in a post titled “The Swiftboating of Hillary Clinton” that Ms. Clinton is being “swiftboated” in an almost texbook example. Here are some chunks of his post:

In the early months of 2004, I sent an alert to the senior staff of John Kerry’s presidential campaign. I was alarmed about a growing online movement questioning his Vietnam service. Sites like Winter Soldier, Free Republic, and others were buzzing with anti-Kerry activity and I sensed a storm heading Kerry’s way. My role as the campaign’s online communications advisor was hazy to some of the old-school strategists. Blogs were a novelty to them and if it wasn’t on the evening news, it wasn’t news.

Since my alert was about a threat to Kerry’s military career, I was directed to the leadership of his Veterans team. I informed them that trouble lay ahead and that we should begin to fight back immediately on the forums where the attacks were happening. The response was that we should monitor the situation carefully. By August it was too late – the attack that later entered the political lexicon was about to explode into the public consciousness and deal a gut-wrenching blow to Kerry’s image.

Part of the reason I joined Kerry’s team was my respect for a man who volunteered to serve his country when others were scrambling for deferments. Having grown up in a war zone in Beirut and been conscripted into the Lebanese Forces militia at 15, I was keenly aware of what it was like to be in the line of fire. The fact that Kerry was being savaged for his time in the military – a time that he chose to place himself in harm’s way – was despicable to me. It was painful to be working in his war room for the duration of the swift boat attacks and to see the aftermath.

And now he sees political history (and tactics) repeating themselves:

Fast forward to 2015 and I’m watching a similar process unfold, this time with Hillary Clinton. And just as I did in 2004, I have a personal stake in the outcome. The crux of my professional career has been my work with the Clintons. I’ve been a long-time advisor to the Clinton Global Initiative and was Hillary’s digital media strategist for several years….


The point of this post is simple: The 2016 election is not a replay of 2012 (the data election); it is not a replay of 2008 (the dueling histories election); it is a replay of 2004 (the swift boat election). The well-coordinated assault on the Clinton Foundation, the pillar of the Clintons’ many achievements, is analogous to the brazen assault on the pillar of John Kerry’s career, his decorated military service.

A superficial reading of swiftboating is that it is an attack on a candidate’s strength. The truism that emerged from the 2004 campaign, and that Democrats are always eager to trumpet, is that you should never leave an attack unanswered for fear of magnifying it. Hit back early and hit back hard to protect your reputation.

And now he sees this happening to Hillary Clinton:

Similarly, the full-scale barrage hitting the Clinton Foundation is the result of a complicated interplay among conservative oppo shops, rightwing authors, GOP politicians and the mainstream media, with the latter acting, once again, as a legitimating force. I am not impugning the integrity or motives of reporters. What I am saying is that they are playing a central role in the anti-Clinton attacks.

The unacknowledged hallmark of true swiftboating is that we fail to recognize the damage before it is too late, primarily because of our natural human tendency toward denial. We simply cannot fathom that a foundational element of our self-worth is being dismantled before our eyes. Unlike previous Clinton faux-scandals, this is about the very core of Hillary’s positive impact in the world.

He adds this:

The Clinton Foundation and CGI have saved millions of lives. The Clinton family are rightfully proud of the immense good they’ve done in the world through their foundation. Despite mountains of digital ink, not a shred of wrongdoing has been demonstrated on the part of the Clintons or their staff. As it was with John Kerry, this is all about the so-called “appearance of impropriety,” not any actual impropriety. It is a partisan political attack designed to hobble Hillary’s election prospects.

The playbook to deal with this attack is not from the data-driven 2012 Obama campaign nor from the grassroots movement-building of 2008. It is from the long summer of 2004.

Go to the link to read it in its entirety.

Some thoughts:

1. I’ve personally spent a day covering the Clinton Global Initiative when it met in New York City in September 2010 and the way it is being defined in “high concept” phrases and conversation on conservative talk shows, Fox News and at times on conservative websites is a bunch of baloney. What I saw when I was there were people as serious as the professors who taught my classes at Colgate University or the journalism profs who taught my graduate school classes at the Medill School of Journalism. Or the people who ran the seminars on India that I attended in my preparation to go over to India. Or the people who ran the extremely thoughtful, forward looking, data-crammed seminars at the Institute of the Americas in La Jolla when I covered the border for the San Diego Union.

2. It was non partisan and bipartisan. One speaker? Laura Bush.

3. The only “nonserious” person that day that I saw was in a very serious and thoughtful incarnation: actor Jim Carey giving a detailed report on a low cost high yield rice his foundation had developed to try and lower cost food costs for poorer nations. Bill Clinton wasn’t there as the “star” of week’s proceedings. It wasn’t political show biz or glorification. It was people from business and politics focusing on extremely serious issues. (This is apart from a separate issue of journalists donating to it and failing to disclose it if they did stories on the group.)


The image of what it does doesn’t fit with the image those trying to use it against Hillary Clinton are now trying to suggest.

In 2004 it was clear what was going on and it was stunning that John Kerry was not prepared for it and ready to answer faster than he did.

4. Hillary Clinton & Co should have see this one coming for months. Our politics is now almost formulated on the principle that if someone has something that can be a positive, it’s either neutralized or turned into a negative.

5. Controversies over speaking fees, donations etc can be politically litigated separately. The danger for Bill and Hillary Clinton is that the very REAL good work that this group has done will be lost amid the political scrambing.

5. Our political coverage is now totally predictable. In so many ways, we’re seeing how social media and the conservative talk political culture can take a controversy (not necessarily one created out of thin air by a conservative, but any controversy) and then generate a multi-platform, multi-fronted clamor so the mainstream media by its training and its longstanding definition of what is news is (quite correctly) required to cover it. Also: increasingly, the mainstream media can’t ignore these big online controversies that are also carried over onto conservative talk and Fox Newes because of the grave blow online media and social networking have delivered – coupled with other factors – to the newspaper industry.

6. Our political scene has become soooooooooooooo predictable. I get emails every day for people submitting links to posts and articles. As soon as I see their name I can virtually guess the headline and if I look at the link it says what I thought it would say with the partisan or ideological slant I expected to see.

Presumably, Hillary Clinton is prepared for what is to come.

We saw this week an example of someone shockingly unprepared for the obvious question: Jeb Bush for questions about his brother and the Iraq War. It was a “given” he was going to have to deal with it. His inept performance on addressing the question even shocked Republicans.

It isn’t yet a “given” that a Jeb Bush or a Hillary Clinton is sufficiently prepared for what they should know is about to come if the understand how our politics now operates.

The tragedy here is that the CGI has done some excellent work and, no, it is not a junket or abig party or a platform for Bill Clinton to go on and on and just make speeches. It has been about serious content and see how that could be translated into non-partisan action to ease some problems in the world.

Or should I disbelieve what I saw and heard in 2010 in NYC with my own lying eyes and ears?