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. Debby

    Wolf, not his age but his judgement thats how we took it anyway.

    May 9, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  2. Whining Obama

    Simply an arrogant comment.

    Typical Obama snobbinish.

    I am tired of when you question Obama you are either racist or offensive. America will tire of this attitude in the next few months as well.

    May 9, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  3. Dani

    Why not? He only TALKS of change, but isn't really about change. A good reason for him to walk the walk and play the political game, what a cheap shot.

    May 9, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  4. Mat

    Way to go CNN –

    That's a good way to read between the lines Wolf, and asume that the word bearing was being used to describe an eldely person forgetting their name- the actual defintion for 'bearing' in the context of relevance in a conversation is ' This has no bearing on the matter under discussion.' – But spin it all you like –

    but lets not forget the context of that argument – McCain was the one saying that Obama would be a bad choice as Hamas had endoursed him (Obama) yeah, that's a good argument and by no way playing the 'fear' card – Wake up people – CNN, you should just have a Hillary banner in the corner of your screen.

    May 9, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  5. Desperation

    I interpreted it more as "desperation" over "age"... either way, he's a desperate old man who is ready to give us more of the same. I think it's intriguing from a foreign policy perspective. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Go Obama. Let's take this to the finish line!

    From a White Liberal Woman!

    May 9, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  6. Carlos

    That's forcing it beyond your own convenience. McCain camp said it, not Obama.

    May 9, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  7. Damian Salter

    Was Obama taking aim at McCain's age?

    I hope so. McCain IS too old.
    it's not just his years, but his ideas and attitude that are too old.
    And I think that that is what Barak is getting at.

    (from one Salter to another)

    May 9, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  8. Kevin in DC


    In the military, when we are presenting ourselves, we are told to "not lose your bearing."

    That is, keep yourself composed. It has nothing to do with age, it has to do with how you present yourself.

    Obama's comment was spot on, and fools in the media are going to love trying to tie it to ageism. Are you one of them??

    May 9, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  9. Todd

    This is silly.

    May 9, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  10. Bill Beschorner

    This tactic is now very familiar in US politics. When guilty or vulnerable, just blame your opponent with your problem -
    George W. Bush questions John Kerry's military service, while Bush avoided active duty.
    Hillary Clinton calls Obama an elite after reporting their $100M income.
    John McCain accuses Obama of unfair charges of being old after McCain slams Obama for being a favorite of terrorist groups.
    Good grief!

    May 9, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  11. charles

    McCain is a baby, going to cry about everything, whats he going to do when the viet nam vets against MacCain start bombing him, oh lord, I can hardly wait for him to get so mad and shows everyone what a baby he really is, oh, by the way, he is NO hero, a hero saves lives, a hero does not kill women and children.

    May 9, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  12. Emeka, Florida

    "Losing one's bearing" in my little understanding meant Mcain has lost who he is in order to appear acceptable to the conservative base of his party. It means Mcain is now for the tax cuts he himself deemed as being against his conscience. It means that Mcain who openly stated he knew nothing about the economy will now turn around and offer quickly thought out solutions. It means that Mcain who did not believe in any aid to the people suffering from the mortgage crises deserves any help because some people were speculators. What happened to our core belief in the rule of law which states that it is better to let 100 guilty persons free than to allow one Innocent man get punished for a crime.
    Why must hardworking Americans be allowed to suffer because some of those suffering where speculators?

    May 9, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  13. tda

    I think McCains camp may be feeling a bit insecure Wolf. My interpretation was that he is losing his bearings as far as running a clean campaign. I never thought of age in the comment. Only dirty politics. I do have an opinion about his age though. He should retire gracefully and let a worthy young man take on the job! One who can keep a straight thought in his head!

    May 9, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  14. AA

    Obama didn't say anything out of the ordinary. McCain is def up there in age and has made several slips. From a medical perspective, this is the normally part of aging. Sometimes things become confabulated in the mind.......

    Obama should continue to make voters aware that McCain is getting up there and we a president that is not only vital but sharp as well.

    May 9, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  15. Erik

    Bearings as in heading, as in McCain was losing his direction!

    I think McCain is trying to spin this to say that Obama meant bearings as in mechanical bearings, IE, McCain is getting old and senile. That's not what Obama meant at all. Come on,'s obvious you're just spoiling for a fight with Obama.

    Don't worry, you'll have your chance soon enough.

    May 9, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  16. foo,AZ

    It's unfortunate that the Mccain campaign is diverting from the question by raising issues that may seem to demonize the other candidate.This campaign preached things they do not and can't stand for.Senator Obama has been through out this campaign, the most civil of the three candidates.To suggest that his response was an attck to Senator Mccain's age is ridiculous and vain.

    May 9, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  17. True Independent, MD

    The days when the GoP deceived us and behaved as if they were god are over.

    If you throw dirt, make sure you are wearing a protective suit. The American people, via a Democrat, will throw a bigger pile straight back at you.

    May 9, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  18. Rob

    As an ex-Navy man (surface Navy not the air Navy) losing ones bearings refers to being off-track. His bearings here would be his principles. I think the McCain campaign is a little oversensitive about his age. The comment Obama made several weeks ago about McCain's 5o years of experience was a snide comment about his age, but I think the McCain camp is overreaching here. Reagan certainly would have handled it better.

    May 9, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  19. Fed up

    Not that he was referring to the man's age, but the truth is that McCain is a fossil. What's the big deal?

    May 9, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  20. Terrence (Winston Salem, NC)

    What is your opinion, Wolf? You were there.

    Obama did not call him "an old fart". He said he was losing his bearings.

    This was just a man sensitive about his age, finding something to cast a fit about.

    May 9, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  21. Jacob

    I was there and watched the interview and he didn't seem to be bringing up McCain's age at all. If Mitt Romney had said those moronic comments about Hamas, I'm sure that Obama would have responded in the same way. The only one bring up age here is McCain to get off the real issue – his comments about Hamas. Maybe someone should ask the McCain camp why they're bringing up his age rather than focusing on the issue at hand?

    May 9, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  22. mnetarver

    The McCain campaign appears to be overly sensitive to the age issue. Wonder if they are protesting to loudly on this? Look at him now, he will look 120 after 8 years in the White house.

    May 9, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  23. Bunzo

    Wasn't it McCain who started with the Hamas comment first all is fair in love and war.


    May 9, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  24. Obama supporter

    Wolf he lose his bearings because he was to remain above this type of talk. Or maybe he is so old, he forgot he was not going to say those things. Never the less, he is way too old!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 9, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  25. Nikki

    I'm sure that McCain has surrounded himself with educated people that know how to draw logical inferences from statements. That being said, there is absolutely no reason as to why McCain's camp interpreted Obama's statement as a low blow reference to McCain's age. McCain's camp introduced the "age factor" and knew that the media would jump all over it. It was an opportunity for McCain and company to CONTINUE to throw mud while playing the victim. What should have been addressed is McCain's far stretch that Hamas endorsed Obama. Even if Hamas indeed endorsed Obama, McCain and Obama's stance on Hamas is virtually the same. I thought McCain is supposed to be a TOUGH war hero. Why is he playing the role of the victim?

    May 9, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
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