Clinton Campaign Strategy for Decades: ‘ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK’

Adviser from 1992 campaign laid out ‘relentless,’ ‘coordinated’ oppo strategy

Hillary and Bill Clinton
Hillary and Bill Clinton / AP
October 18, 2016

Clinton campaigns throughout the decades have delivered "coordinated" opposition research strategies to the press and engaged in "relentless" attacks against their opponents, according to a memo obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The 1992 Clinton presidential campaign was not about promoting Bill Clinton’s accomplishments or vision but about tarnishing President George H.W. Bush, according to a close aide of the campaign.

A memo written by Derek Shearer to Bill, Hillary Clinton, and senior campaign aides in April 1992 laid out the "ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK" strategy.

"[It] is my firm belief that in order to win we must ATTACK," wrote Shearer, an adviser to the campaign. "Elections are not contests between cool, rational decision-making, as you all know."

Shearer, who later became ambassador to Finland under the Clinton administration after telling Bill and Hillary a "political debt" was owed, described Bush as the Clintons’ "enemy."

"The only strategy that I know that has a chance of success is: ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK—at all levels, relentlessly, without let-up, from now until election day," he said.

"The election has to be turned into a referendum on George Bush, not on Bill Clinton as the primary has been all too frequently," Shearer continued. "Of course, we will do everything we can to make voters comfortable with Bill, to trust and admire him and Hillary, to have confidence in his ideas and abilities, etc.—but the bottom line is that voters who give us victory will be voting against [four] more years of George Bush more than they are voting for Bill Clinton."

"Everyone should view the general as a War," he added. "In war, the goal is to defeat your enemy and you marshall [sic] all your resources at hand to do this in a variety of ways."

The strategy was deployed in 1992, as Clinton confidantes Sidney Blumenthal and Cody Shearer, Derek’s brother, worked to dig up dirt and place attack pieces in the press on Bush and independent candidate Ross Perot. Blumenthal was behind an attack that suggested Perot was anti-Semitic and had hired a private eye to investigate his daughter’s fiancée.

The Clintons hired a private investigator themselves to attack Bill Clinton’s sexual accusers. Jack Palladino was paid $100,000 in 1992 by the campaign to investigate two-dozen Clinton accusers. Palladino informed the campaign that he would attack Gennifer Flowers, who Clinton later admitted to having an affair with, by "impeach[ing] her character and veracity until she is destroyed beyond all recognition."

Hillary Clinton’s Democratic primary campaign also utilized negative strategies against Barack Obama in 2008.

Clinton’s campaign strategists recommended attacking Obama for his "lack of American roots." The campaign circulated a "smear photo" of Obama dressed in traditional Muslim garb, and Blumenthal urged a reporter to investigate whether Obama was born in Kenya, according to a former McClatchy Washington Bureau Chief.

Clinton’s current White House run has engaged in a similar attack strategy against Donald Trump. Following the first debate, the Clinton campaign "orchestrated" a "flurry of positive press" about a former Miss Universe said Trump called her fat after she gained 60 pounds in the 1990s.

With just weeks to go before Election Day, the race has been taken over by a series of sexual assault accusations against Trump, after an anonymous source leaked a lewd tape of Trump bragging about kissing and groping women, saying "when you’re a star they let you do it."

In 1992, Shearer discussed a "coordinated" opposition research strategy headed by James Carville, the campaign’s chief strategist.

Shearer said Carville should "come up with a list of 20 or so tactical actions that are designed to upset George Bush in June, July, and August … encouraging certain press hits to subtle to not-so-subtle psych war."

He added the campaign needed to "recruit members of the House and Senate who will be part of the relentless ATTACK."

Though he trusted Carville with the opposition research strategy, Shearer did not want him on television as a surrogate for Clinton because Carville "looks like Dr. Death on TV."

Shearer also had tough love for Bill Clinton about his weight, which he said was contributing to perceptions that he was a "fat politician."

"Bill needs to agree to lose 20 lbs., by convention time, and the campaign needs to help him do it by scheduling a run every day, by providing healthier food on the plane (more salads, etc.)," Shearer said in the memo. "This is not a trivial issue."

"When Bill opens his coat and is seen on TV, the visual is that of a fat politician," he said. "It’s the image of a fat, good ole boy Southerner. It sends a message."

"Bill’s failure to lose weight will not only be noticed by voters; it will also become, as it already has, the subject of jokes on Late Night Talk Shows, and a metaphor in the press for his inability to discipline himself, make hard choices, etc.," Shearer added. "This is important politically, and I think that Bill will feel better with a regular exercise regimen, and be in better mental shape as the pressure builds in the general."