Podesta emails show top Clinton allies fretting over preparedness to smear Trump in February
The Hillary Clinton campaign plotted to build an arsenal of “swift boat” attacks on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as far back as February.
That’s according to the latest email dump from WikiLeaks, which managed to obtain thousands of emails from Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta’s Gmail account.
“Who is in charge of the Trump swift boat project? Needs to be ready, funded and unleashed when we decide.”
In an email to Podesta dumped by WikiLeaks Monday, a former communications aide to President Bill Clinton fretted that work had to begin immediately on opposition research on Trump. And not just the standard stuff — the real dirty stuff.
The email arrived in Podesta’s email inbox on Feb. 26 — after primary contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada — as it was becoming more clear Democrat Hillary Clinton would face off with Republican Donald Trump in November.
“Know you can’t look past Bernie and March primaries — but who is in charge of the Trump swift boat project?” asked Johnson, the managing director of Glover Park Group, where he works on advertising and crisis management teams as a managing director. “Needs to be ready, funded and unleashed when we decide — but not a half-assed scramble.”
To which Clinton Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri replied: “Gee. Thanks, Joel. We thought we could half-ass it. Let’s discuss.”
But Johnson seemed to want to delegate the research, and not get his hands dirty.
“Sorry. I’ve been behind too many curtains in my day,” Johnson said.
Johnson was senior adviser for policy and communications for President Bill Clinton. In 1994, he was appointed staff director for the Senate Democratic leadership, serving as Sen. Tom Daschle’s chief legislative and communications adviser for five years, according to his company’s website.
The use of “swift boat” is shorthand for Democrats for the kind of dirty opposition research that can severely damage a candidate in the last few months of a major campaign. The term stems from an independent Republican group’s attacks, made in 2004 independently of the re-election campaign of President George W. Bush, on Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.
Kerry was a decorated Vietnam War veteran, but his fellow veterans on swift boat patrols didn’t like him. Kerry had also come home and become an anti-war activist, angering his fellow vets.
Many of these vets suggested Kerry had exaggerated his Vietnam experiences. They ran ads bashing Kerry through an independent committee.
Democrats wailed in response to the ads, and resented the fact they may have helped Bush win re-election. Thus — the term’s use as a verb today.