May 9th, 2008
01:47 PM ET
7 years ago

Blitzer: Was Obama taking aim at McCain's age?

Blitzer: McCain's camp said Obama was making a dig at the Republican's age; Obama denies the charge.
Blitzer: McCain's camp said Obama was making a dig at the Republican's age; Obama denies the charge.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Whenever I interview a major newsmaker, I always marvel at the pickup of the interview by other news organizations and the reaction from interested parties. The latest case in point is my interview this week with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

During the interview, I asked Obama to react to a suggestion from Republican presidential candidate John McCain that the Democrat was the preferred candidate of the militant Palestinian group Hamas. Obama replied that that assertion was “offensive” and “a smear.” He then added: “And so for him to toss out comments like that I think is an example of him losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination.”

It didn’t take very long for the McCain campaign to respond. “First,” McCain’s senior adviser Mark Salter wrote in a memo, “let us be clear about the nature of Senator Obama’s attack today. He used the words ‘losing his bearings’ intentionally, a not particularly clever way of raising John McCain’s age as an issue. This is typical of the Obama style of campaigning.”

Salter continued: “We have all become familiar with Senator Obama’s new brand of politics. First, you demand civility from your opponent, then you attack him, distort his record and send out surrogates to question his integrity. It is called hypocrisy, and it is the oldest kind of politics there is.”

That’s pretty strong stuff.

Obama’s campaign, by the way, replied that his use of the words “losing his bearings” had nothing to do with McCain’s age.

I am interested in what you think.


Filed under: Wolf Blitzer
soundoff (452 Responses)
  1. Danny

    Wolf, it simply comes down to direction or purpose. It's clear to me as I am an outsider. I've watched the interview, and the way I see it through Obama's body language and the way he speak, it's clearly that he has no intention of undermining or targeting Sen. McCain's age.

    To me, during a campaign, people will always find anything that to them seems wrong. If they can't, they would try to twist what they heard into something, in order to make it a case.

    I believe neither Obama nor McCain wants to run the a negative campaign. But that I guess that would'nt be the case as it get closer to the GE.

    May 9, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  2. Brad

    Any one with a brain knew that Obama was not talking about McCain's age, but you can expect that logic from the Mc Bush Team.

    May 9, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  3. Jeanette

    I agree with Mc Cain campaign , Obama's knew what he said, just like the remarks he made about typical white people, and people turning to religion and guns.His wife saying that this is the first time that she was proud to be an American. Obama staying at that church for 20 years that is racist. I do not trust Obama , he does not have good judgement or character and is not honest. I am a democrat but will never vote for him in the general election. Hillary is the best person for president. The media and the DNC is going to nom a losing candidate with Obama.

    May 9, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  4. Wayne Bomgaars

    McCain's comment about Obama making reference to his age reiterated what Obama was saying in the first place. McCain is losing his bearings. And let me be clear that my comment has nothing to do with age.
    It seems McCain himself has brought more attention to his age than Obama ever could have.

    May 9, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  5. Heather

    I think the McCain camp is 100% right about Obama's tactics. His new politics are far from new.

    May 9, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  6. Jake in Chicago

    Whether or not it was a dig at McCain's age is irrelevant. The fact is, McCain's age IS an issue and it needs to be considered. It shouldn't be the central issue in the campaign, but American's need to consider if they want to put the oldest President in history in office, with the very real possibility that his health could start rapidly deteriorating at any moment. It also makes his choice for VP all that more important.

    May 9, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  7. Jack Coffey

    I have a high regard for both Senator McCain and Senator Obama. However, this is just ludicrous. I have never heard anyone use the expression "lose his bearings" to imply advanced age or diminished capacity. In my experience the phrase means exactly what it suggests on first impression– to lose one's direction.

    More importantly, Wolf, I would be interested in what you think. You were the guy who asked the question and had the opportunity to observe Senator Obama, from a few feet away, as he responded. Was there any thing about his tone, emphasis or demeanor as he spoke those words that suggested to you that this was a clever play on words as now suggested by Senator McCain's people? Or did you, at the time and in the context of the moment, take those words at their common meaning?

    May 9, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  8. Seth Berkowitz

    No more so than so many veiled comments about Obama's race. The difference is that Obama lets it flow like water off a duck's back, whereas McCain jumps on the inference with his response supporting his image as old and grumpy.

    May 9, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  9. TC - Laurel, MD

    Wolf-
    I don't understand why McCain is so super sensitive to this topic. I took Obama's comment no different than when he has said "the wheels have come off the straight-talk express" in the past....Why are they taking it so negative???

    May 9, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  10. Kayla

    It is a smear, what McCain said. How is it fair to suggest that militant Palestinian's would vote for Obama? That is absolutely ridiculous, and something perfect for Fox News. Give me a break. Furthermore, Obama's response was not putting down his age, it was speaking the truth about how awful what McCain said was.
    The Republican's know the only way they can win is if they put out some outlandish lies about Obama...they don't have a chance in 08. Finally we can get our country back.
    Obama 08

    May 9, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  11. Terri Wood

    I really don't believe that Senator Obama was referring to Senator McClain's age when he responded. It is very hard to keep up with McCain because he is always flip-flopping on issues. Salter is just trying to find something to argue about because he knows McCain will have a hard time against Obama in the fall.

    May 9, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  12. EMILIO SCHLABITZ

    It would appear that Mr. Salter himself is self conscious of McCain's age.
    It never occurred to me that comment had anything to do with that. After all, one can lose his or her bearings at any age. Mr. Salter took the opportunity to launch his own attack, far more venomous than Obama's.

    May 9, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  13. ok

    Wolf, tell McCain and his crew, the tactic won't work.

    May 9, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  14. Alan Belknap

    You article is entitled: Was Obama taking aim at McCain's age?
    I find that in most cases, news storys that end in questions marks are usually not news but gossip which seems to be the niche that cable news has carved out for itself, especially in this political season...most of the stories about the Rev. Wright ended in question marks...I'm not that old, but I can remember when the National Enquirer was one thing and "the news" was something else...now there is little difference, except you might want to do more stories about how "I Had Elvis' Extraterrestrial Love Child" and whatnot...just so we know who we're dealing with...P.S. I dare you to print this.

    May 9, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    'Losing your bearings' does not have anything specifically to do with being old. It is more a synonym to the phrase 'out of touch' (sound familiar?). Obama simply meant that McCain's offensive comment indicated that he is out of touch with what is really going on. That he is 'losing his bearings' on the reality of the situation, choosing instead to perpetuate the right winged propaganda that Obama is Muslim, and therefore in this same warped reality, a terrorist. This is a continuation of the paranoia politics that have for the past 8 years destroyed the USA's global credibility and economic stability. McCain's attempt to play on the fears of the American people is despicable. Obama simply called him out on it. So in realizing his blunder, McCain quickly attempted to turn the tables on Obama hoping to distract voters from his own ignorant statement. Anyone with a brain can see Obama was not insinuating that McCain is old. Which by the way, he is.

    May 9, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  16. Kollo

    Mcain has lost his bearings in quite a number of way and its about time someone called it for what it is. He talks about openness and accountability, yet his wife ( a potential 1st lady) won't open up her tax returns. He talks against accepting money from lobbists, yet uses private jets provided by the same folks. He talks about understanding why we wanting to bring the war in Iraq to an end, yet says he is willing to stay there for 100 years. If that is not loosing his bearings, then I don't know what is

    May 9, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  17. Abe Schenck

    I think that is a little far-fetched. it's not as if Obama said "He is senile". I reckon the McCain camp are just trying to score some early blows.

    May 9, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  18. Ashley, PA

    As unfortunate as I feel it is to agree with McCain, Obama has shown time and time again that he is a hypocrite. He plays all the political games while touting he isn't the normal politician. He claims Clinton panders while drinking at a bar, when he did the same thing weeks before. He wants everyone to see he is a change from the Old Washington – the only thing that seems to have changed is now we nominate candidates without experience who leverage blatantly hypocritcal attacks on others while claiming innocence.

    May 9, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  19. VJmem

    My thought only, but, when I heard it, I took it to mean that McCain was playing a type of "silly politics" and not being serious about the candidacy. It seems like McCain's camp wants so badly for Obama to play into the "age" thing that they are trying to plant the seed.
    Enough is enough....

    May 9, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  20. Matt

    I think that John McCain is out of touch.

    Obama's statement has nothing to do with age. I think Obama is stating that John McCain said that he was not going to run a smear campaign, and with the Hamas statement he has done just that.

    So "losing his bearings" refers to the fact that he is going back on his promises to run a "clean and just" campaign. Thus John McCain is the same old politics and the same old Bush ideas.

    May 9, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  21. fire wolf

    he seem worthless lately. Is he a journalist?

    May 9, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  22. Diane Panama City Fl

    Having viewed this interview twice, I came away with the understanding that Senator Obama was making reference to Senator McCain's'"flip-flopping", rather than his age. Senator Obama has referred to Senator McCain's change of position on several major issues numerous times during this campaign, and I believed that's what he was saying in this instance as well.

    May 9, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  23. Dennis

    When I heard the comment I wasn't thinking about his age.
    Sounds like the McCain camp is sensitive about his age, maybe we should be worried.

    May 9, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  24. WAR VET

    Mr.Blitzer,
    I am a Viet Nam vet and no Mr McCain is not lost his bearings regarding the Question on Hammas and Obama.Me my vet friends my IBEW friends and my friends from Alaska,Colorado,California,Washington State,Las Vegas,Nevada and Arizona doubt very serious that this man is not only connected to the Chicago mob as well as Muslim extremist ,this man is dirty and McCain is not wrong.

    The Traveling Telphone War Vet

    May 9, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  25. Tim in Arkansas

    "Loosing Your Bearings" is in no way related to age. It's the same as saying "You're Off Track", and that's not related to age either. It's the same as saying "You Aren't Focused, and still not related to age.

    Anyone in their "Right Mind" could see that Obama simply meant that McCain's political views are "Off Track".

    McCain "Is Going Nuts" or just "Playing Political Games" by "Spinning" things around!!!

    Sounds like McCain is the one that has issues and concerns about his age, because he seems "Overly Sensitive" over nothing.

    May 9, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
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