May 9th, 2008
01:47 PM ET
10 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. Les

    To lose one's bearings is to be confused and sometimes to be senile is to be confused, and even other times being senile is to be confused about what losing one's bearings means. Enough said. Go politics!

    May 9, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    i believe they are attacking McCains age

    May 9, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  3. Michael Nordine

    Lifted out of context and stripped of its intended meaning. "Typical of the Obama style of campaigning"? Please.

    May 9, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  4. Marilynn, Wilmington, NC

    Honestly, I did NOT think that when I heard Obama make the comment. Others may have, but I did not... BUT, now I'll think about McCain's age since HIS camp brought it up.

    Not a smart move to bring the comment to light and put MORE focus on it..

    May 9, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  5. Deb from Iowa

    All Obama meant by his "losing his bearings" comment was that McCain's not "walking the talk" that he set for himself. He said he would not resort to negative attacks, and Obama considered his comments on Hamas to be just that. McCain's already "lost his marbles", so he better keep his bearings intact.

    May 9, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  6. Alta boy

    Listening to the interview, I think it is obvious that BO never meant the said statement to (remotely) relate to McCain's age. I think it is fair to say that they are just looking for ways to label BO as an "old style politician". I do not think that it will wash!

    May 9, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  7. Laura

    More of the same Republican tactics. I don't believe it was meant as a slam against John McCain's age. If his age is not a problem, why make it an issue.

    May 9, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  8. Rudy Rodriguez

    I find it interesting that the party that rails against "political correctness" would parse language more closely than its most dedicated practitioners on college campuses. Not for one second did I interpret "losing his bearings" as a reference to Sen. McCain's age, and I'm certain that Sen. Obama did not mean it that way at all, but as they say, when you have neither facts nor logic, pound the table!

    May 9, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  9. Good Grief

    I think McCain has literacy and comprehension problems.

    May 9, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  10. Steve

    Making a big deal about this is just a way for McCain's campaign to divert attention from the fact that in insinuating the supporting Obama was somehow supporting a terrorist agenda they were in fact enginging in "offensive" tactics that amounted to nothing but "a smear". Anyway, McCain *is* quite old and his age should be an issue.

    I have an idea for you Wolf, instead of just throwing raw meat like this to public to fight over and stir controversy, why don't you use your years of experience and insight to do some hard analysis and dissect this issue for the public so people don't get away with crap like this?

    People blame McCain, Hillary, Obama, etc for mud slinging but it is media ratings mongers like yourself that are really providing the fuel for this vitriol at the expense of all of Americans and, because of the things politicians get away with, at the expense of the entire world. Good job.

    May 9, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  11. Kathy Ferguson

    Hi, Wolf:
    For Heaven's Sake ... I don't think Senator Obama was referring to age at all. He was referring to the fact that Senator McCain is losing his bearings in this race - he is a war hero with a history of being independent and instead of sticking with that tradition, Senator McCain is moving toward George Bush and his failed policies. Obviously Senator McCain is just slinging mud and Senator Obama has to respond. This has a real feeling of deja vu ... guess Senator McCain hasn't learned the lesson that piling onto Senator Obama doesn't work. Perhaps he should talk with Senator Clinton. Everyone always attacks Senator Obama for the phrases he speaks ... hey, the guy is intelligent and uses a variety of references and terms. How refreshing to have a politician who has a command of the English language. Get over it, with all due respect, Senator McCain.

    May 9, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  12. obama08

    what mccain camp that didnt even make sense thinl of something better so you at least dont look stupid

    May 9, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  13. Rhonda-Missouri

    I think McCain's camp must be very very sensitive to McCain's age and they are really reaching on this one!!!

    May 9, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  14. st

    this was such an absurd reaction from McCain camp, but funny in a way it shows what is 'weakness' of their candidate – he is OLD, and yes that will hurt him. will he nap on the job like Bush senior did?

    May 9, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  15. Ben

    Republican thought process: Hamas leader supports Obama! Lets bring it up over and over again, because voters are small minded and fearful and they'll think that makes Obama either weak on terrorism, a terrorist, or both. (Nevermind that our policies in dealing with Hamas are identical to Obamas)

    Oh wait, he called us on it. Well lets take something Obama said and twist it to where he sounds like the bad guy!

    May 9, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  16. DJ, LA, CA

    McCain invited the criticism by the slanderous nature of his comment towards Obama regarding Hamas.

    Don't expect Obama to sit back and not respond to those type of insults and fear-mongering.

    The bigger picture is what McCain and Obama differ on policy-wise in regards to the Mid-East peace process between the Palestinians and Israel.

    Do we even know? Have they ever been asked? Obama already cleared addressed the issue regarding Hamas yet McCain conviently either ignores it or wants to exploit fear-mongering tactics.

    May 9, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  17. Marna Ibeabuchi

    The Republican spin machine is hard at work trying to tell us who Obama is, at least how they want us to interpret who he is. Fortunately, the American public doesn't just take this nonsense as truth anymore. Who are the "we all" who have become familiar with the "brand of politics" described in this article? These are spin words. Some people sat in a room and decided they would spin well.

    McCain and Obama are both good candidates. God Bless America, lets stick to the issues!!!

    May 9, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  18. Andrew

    I think he was making a jab at McCain's age. That's exactly what Obama does, he claims to run a "clean" campaign, but then the next minute he'll do something like taking McCain's 100 year remark completely out of context and lying about Clinton's stance on NAFTA. He's very subtle about his dirty tactics and it seems to be working fantastic for him because he has millions of voters convinced he's someone he really isn't.

    May 9, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  19. THE TRUTH!!!

    McCain is more worried that his age will play a factor than anyone else. Also, "Losing ones bearings" is a reference to direction, mainly used in naval verbage from years ago. So, when you are "losing your bearings" you are basically off on your direction (you intended to go North, but instead are headed NorthWest). This is a perfectly good arguement on Obama's part, because McCain is losing his bearings. He has said many times that he would run a clean campaign, but (change in bearings) has decided to try and smear Obama by somehow connecting Obama to Hamas.

    May 9, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  20. aqc

    Let's face it ...

    We all are better off with OBAMA as our president... Regardless of if you are a Republican or a Democrate or Independant ... He will unite this country and restore US respect and status aound the world ..

    This country has been different and great, becuase we had a continious supply of young leaders such as OBAMA, to lead us and give us new vision and hope ...

    We have always been better when a new generation of leadership has taken over .. it is about time ...

    OBAMA is as humble and down to earth politician, that I have seen ... He no way meant to refer to Maccain age, so for them to raise this issue is absurd

    I think the young population of America, people below 55 ... need to take more active role in voting, especially college students, it is the young people whose future it at stake the most, so they need to take responsibility and go out and vote ...


    May 9, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  21. prashant srivastava

    I was surprised by the McCain reaction. It never crossed my mind that it was in context of age. I thought it was about morals and principles. McCain has always opposed fearmongering and swiftboat type tactics and now he is indulging in those himself is what i thought Obama was referring to.

    May 9, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  22. chris

    Wolf, I am interested in what you have to say because you were there. And can you please stop letting people go on your show and get away with saying whatever they want. Whenever I watch you – you just let people say anything when you know that they are telling lies.

    May 9, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  23. Charlotte

    That is the GOOFIEST thing I have ever heard! When will they stop stretching a point to fit an 'unfittable' result??!!

    "losing his bearings" has absolutely NOTHING to do with age........ it's a TOTAL SENSE OF DIRECTION.

    Geesh, McCain can make a statment trying to link Obama to Hamas and THIS is how they twist the tale! Each day goes by and I discover I REALLY HAVEN'T heard or seen it all!

    May 9, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  24. Rona Smith

    The McCain response probably tells more about McCain than Obama. He must be pretty worried about how he looks next to one of the best and brighest 46 year olds around. That raises another funny issue. What if they were both 46? How would they compare even if they were the same age? Would McCain at 46 hold a candle to the judgement of Obama at 46?

    May 9, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  25. GW

    Well, Wolf, losing one's bearings happens to everyone, whether it's geographical or metaphorical. All kinds of people, politicians or no, have been said to "lose their way" or "bearings" all the time. To say that Obama was specifically targeting McCain's age is bizarre. As far as I can tell, he meant that McCain is either not practicing what he's preaching, or that his attempt to appeal to the traditional conservative base of the Republican Party, at which he's often been at odds, is forcing him to compromise or appear inconsistent in his otherwise "maverick" or "moderate" views. The GOP has got to come up with better than that.

    May 9, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
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