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. MMM

    McCain's age is a FACT. it sounds like the Republicans are whining. We can't afford another 4 years with a whiner in the White House. Remember the first Bush-Kerry debate? Bush repeated over and over again how "hard it is to be President." Thanks, George. I guess it was too hard to figure out whether Iraq had weapons before you invaded, or how to avoid the economic mess we are in now, or how to actually put strong health care reforms in place. I guess it was too hard for you to do the job well. Another whiner we do not need. A strong, energetic, vibrant agent of change, who is willing to LISTEN, we do need.

    May 9, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  2. T Geewiz

    sure your interested blitzer, just like your interested in "fair and balanced reporting". ha thats a joke

    grow up blitzer

    May 9, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    I'm guessing the phrase has been focus-group-tested. On the surface, there is nothing intrinsically ageist about that phrase, but I'd doubt if it's a coincidence that "Losing his bearings" sounds close to "losing his marbles" and connotes senility. On the other hand, the republicans have been making these kinds of veiled attacks for years, it's high time the democrats became savvy about them, too.

    May 9, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  4. Tom

    Another ridiculous & weak accusation to try & hide from the outrageous Hamas comments made by McCain. Thats what Obama was reacting too.
    Bring on the general election, Obama will wipe the floor with McCain during the debates. This guy is past his sell by date. There is a reason why people are supposed to retire by 65, even menial jobs, let alone the most important job in the world. I would also be concerned about the psychological effect Vietnam must have had on McCain. Not sure I would want a 72 year old former Viet Cong prisoner having access to Nuclear weapons.

    May 9, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  5. Joe - Wilmington, DE

    How was he "taking aim at McCain's age?"

    Get a grip.

    May 9, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  6. Elijah

    It's a typical Republican strategy – twist opponents words to their advantage. In this instant, it is overreaching and apparently petty. McCain's campaign knows Obama is not polarizing as Clinton, so they have to jump on anything he says to make him look less sincere than he truly is. The problem for them is, it's just the fact. Obama is genuine, and there's not way around it. My advice to the McCain strategists, focus on your candidate’s positive, and stop digging for Obama's negatives or you may risk hitting a gas line that will blow up in your faces.

    May 9, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  7. Terry

    come on. People have really NOTHING to put on Obama and so try to make a storm out of a tea cup. Bt clearly it has not worked b4, ain wrkn now & nt in e future. We knw Obama, he is an ordinary man, born to be a leader and has what it takes. Its the COMPOSURE he has that freaks them out-hillary & Maccain. they wonder hw can a simple man the underdog b sooo moving & powerful and yet we have decades of experience. Guess wot folks no man can close doors that the Lord has opened & e presidency is 4 Obama.

    May 9, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  8. Patrick, GA

    You always know how to stir up controversy. You are really good.

    May 9, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  9. Ed G

    i may have lost my bearings, but my only reaction is.... huh?

    May 9, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  10. Brian

    Since when does "losing his bearings" mean "old"? Is that any different than saying, "McCain's losing the direction of his campaign from regular towards negative"? We're talking about a guy who in 2000 was a cross-the-aisle candidate, a maverick, who over eight years completely reversed course and decided to appeal to the conservative base and take up the usual trumpeting of Republicans in lieu of his own voice. That sure sounds like he's losing his bearings...

    May 9, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  11. IJ

    In this age of super sensitivity and ultra political correctness it is no wonder that a seemingly innocuous statement by Mr. Obama was (mis)construed as something more sinister. I am an independent and until now, was excited to listen to substantive debates with McCain and Obama in the fall. My question is, is this what America needs more of in the fall when there is so much at stake? Come on guys, GROW UP!!

    May 9, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  12. Paul Dobro

    I would say Geoff Davis's comment about Barack Obama ( "that boy's finger does not need to be on the button" ) was a clear reference to a real issue in this race.

    I have never heard losing his bearings as a reference to anyones's age.

    Does McCain even talk with his own staff?

    BTW, reading the complete statement by Ahmed Yousef, it does not seem so bad. Comparing Obama to JFK and hoping the USA can again become a world leader "but not with domination and arrogance".

    May 9, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  13. Ryan

    I think these back and forth attacks are tiring the way it is tiring to listen to two young children tattling on each other. Of course if you look hard enough you can be offended by just about anything another person says. However, McCain stating that Obama is the candidate Hamas wants to be president is far more obvious, for more heavy-handed, and far more offensive than Obama's comment about McCain's bearings. In my view, it is very likely that Obama's comment was not an intended reference to McCain's age. McCain's comment, on the other hand, was most definitely deliberate. It is the type of low-brow political tactic I would not usually attribute to McCain. Perhaps he is losing his bearings. It may be related to his age, but more likely, it is related to his desperate compromise of character for political victory.

    May 9, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  14. Sidney Alonso

    Indeed, it is a bellow the waiste shot, as the one thrown by McCain. To me this is the sneak preview of what is yet to come, but says a lot about a way of dealing with adversity that might be seen at the presidency in 2009: despite being affable and gentle Obama has a personality and don't leave aggressions without an answer, and judging by his following crowd, this is what most people really want.

    May 9, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  15. Scott

    Senator McCain's response to Senator Obama's remarks shows just how desperate the Republicans are to make this contest about anything other than substance.

    The remark about Senator McCain's "losing his bearings" had nothing to do with age. "Losing one's bearings" is a reference to losing one's sense of direction. In this case, it was perfectly appropriate and accurate to use the phrase to describe McCain's conduct. While he professes disdain for personal attacks and claims to believe that elections should be based on issues, McCain strayed from these professed beliefs by attempting to link Obama with Hamas.

    Either McCain temporarily lost his bearings, he has fundamentally changed his beliefs about how elections should be run, or he is an outright liar. These are the only options.

    May 9, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  16. ek

    I think it's a case of being a little paranoid on the part of the McCain campaign... I don't think Obama was referencing his age just his intellect suggest that Hamas endorses one candidate over another and that the American people should actually take this seriously is ridiculous ... everyone knows that the radical extremists benefit when there is someone like McCain (or Bush before him) around

    May 9, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  17. Zee

    I honestly do not think so.

    I did not even realize how old McCain was until his own campaign started talking about it.

    May 9, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  18. TWaid

    To say someone had lost their bearings means they've lost their way. How do you get age out of that? Mark Salter must be senile.

    May 9, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  19. Madison

    "Loosing his bearing" very well could mean his political bearings ... which reads very easily. Anyone with 1/2 a brain knows that Obama hasn't taken the low road in attacking his opponents. And for those who disagree, just look at how many times he could have gone on the offensive and ended not only Hillary's run, but also her political career.

    McCain and the far right are in for a real shock come November ... (just ask Hillary).

    May 9, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  20. Darren

    This is just another example of the media and opponents seizing on and trying to decipher the hidden meaning of a candidate's statements. I believe Sen. Obama used the word "bearings" in a nautical sense – a clever allusion to Sen. McCain's naval background, as another way of saying "he's lost his direction" or "he's lost his way"...

    May 9, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    I did not take Barack's comment as referring to age.

    Also, Barack was responding to the initial insult by John McCain.

    It was a terrible thing to infer some type of relationship between Barack and Hamas. I also thought McCain was not going to take the low road.

    Surprise Surprise

    May 9, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  22. David Goldman for OBAMA




    May 9, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  23. Michelle

    I do not think that Obama was referring to McCain age. Even If he was, it is true, he is a bit old to be running for first term president.

    May 9, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  24. Julie mn

    I think Mark Salter said it best, and sadly its the truth
    Obama has played the best of the dirtiest campaigns. Just because he has friends? in high places to rig the polls, hide the truth with crooked newspapers and television supporters. when the DNC itself is as crooked as they come. Obama has been arrogant , cocky and acts like he can say or do antthing because he knows its been fixed from the beginning. NOTHING he does or says surprises me anymore.
    And I hope he does win the nomination, at least his followers will find

    out a little more about their great hitler, SORRY, I mean leader!

    May 9, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  25. Enough already!

    First off, there really isn't much out there for us constituents to vote for, yet somehow we must endeavor to make a choice between the bunch. Secondly, McCain's staff needs to get a grip, I for one did not interpret Obama's statement as referring to age, but rather that of a candidate implying that his rival is confused as to who he will be running against. Lastly, I will throw age out there and state that all of the candidates should start acting their age. Each one of them has lost their "bearings" and are acting like a bunch of junior high school girls; the name calling, personal attacts, and innuendo, all slanderous. If this sort of campaigning doesn't end soon, we are likely to see the scratching, hair pulling, and pushing, but I am sure one of them will seize an opportunity to post in on You Tube. -- Enough already!

    May 9, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
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