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)

    I have viewed McCain's speaches and actually felt he was "losing his bearings" and I felt worried that this person could possibly be our next leader.

    May 9, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  2. raf

    I think it's sort of funny that the McCain campaign is that incredibly sensitive. "Losing your bearings" has never been an age-specific saying.

    Getting ultra-defensive about harmless comments is just as annoying with the age issue as it is with the race issue. No need to be that uptight, McCain.

    May 9, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  3. Daniel W Stuempfig

    When I hear othe words "losing one's bearings" I think of a person being off course or departing from a previously held position. However, when I checked with my wife, she said the words might also imply that the person was getting old. So, perhaps the meaning could be somewhat ambiguous. McCain's camp obviously tried to take words that were critical of their candidate and twisted them to make them fodder for a clear negative attack on Obama. If Obama was trying to sneak a negative message under the radar, then shame on him, but it's just as, or more, likely that no reference to McCain's age was intended or perhaps preceived by the listeners. So, are McCain backers simply taking offense in order to have ammunition to fire at Obama? Will this campaign ugliness ever cease?! Probably not.

    May 9, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  4. Martin Doyle

    Hyperbole and reactionary commentary at its most idiotic It would seem to me that Salter’s response only helps to emphasize the “senior” status of the Senior Senator from Arizona..

    May 9, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  5. Evan

    what? I never knew "losing his bearings" could have anything to do with being old.
    Oh by the way, he is old!

    May 9, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  6. Matt

    It was definitely a swipe at McCain's age. I have never heard that term used in any other sense besides referring to an elderly person.

    May 9, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  7. John P. Vaughan

    How can McCain lose what he never had? At any age? Just check out his political flip flops on abortion, etc.

    May 9, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  8. Tim Mathews

    Wolf Blitzer, Is that a "soft" drink?

    May 9, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  9. John Bechen

    It is time for politicians to grow up. Picking apart grammar is for teachers. Pointing fingers at each other and making accusations should be left on the playground.

    I urge all politicians, from all parties, at all levels, to focus on what they going to do for our country and people. The American People are fed up with divisive rhetoric and petty partisanship from both parties.

    Voters are adults (for the most part), and most Americans want to know where the politicians stand on the issues and are ready to vote the person who acts like an adult and will be a "true" leader.

    May 9, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  10. Eddie

    Can someone tell me how McCain's senior advisor would glean that McCain "losing his bearings" is talking about McCain's age? Doesn't he have anything else to dredge up besides something as stupid as that, unless that is a concern of his campaign?

    May 9, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  11. Ranjana Khan

    It is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. It is McCain who made offensive and outrageous comments about Barack Obama. Instead of apologizing, Mark Salter is further making irresponsible statements which should be publicly denounced. It is because of such low-level politics that Barack Obama holds such an appeal for so many of us. Mark Salter is not hurting Obama – he is hurting his own candidate McCain.

    May 9, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  12. Kela

    McCain needs to chill out – nobody is concerned with his age but him – I for one dont care what age he is I still wont vote for him

    May 9, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  13. Adriana (Ontario, Canada)

    I think McCain's statements did not reflect the kind of campaigning that he stated that he wanted. I am convinced that he says one thing and do another. Let me go on the "age" factor and say " for a man of his age, he should do better and I expect to see better".

    I look forward of seeing a stately campaign between himself and Obama, I know Obama will stand on his words, he has proven it and when tempted by Hillary with her kitchen sink strategies, he upheld his morals.

    American needs a "change" and you should all embrace it.
    The whole world is watching America!

    May 9, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  14. Unshrub

    There is an old saying, "The mouth starts talking before the brian gets in gear." I think McCain is in such a hurry to jump on Obama they forget to think about what was said. Or one could say if one was in a hurry, "It is hard to tell if McCain is senile or if it is just republican rhetoric."

    May 9, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  15. Mike, Iowa

    How about instead of asking everyone else what he ment why dont you ask the man himself what he ment. Why give everyone else a chance to take what he said out of context and to fabricate their own meaning of what he said. Seems to be the popular thing to do these days no one speaks for themselves or are allowed to speak for themselves.

    May 9, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  16. Tom in Desoto, Tx

    Only McCain will point out his age...everyone else knows.

    May 9, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  17. MT

    reading a lot of blogs today I realized disturbing trends:

    in theese blogs:

    Young are attacking olders with hate.
    Racist remarks.
    No tolerance to other people opinions.
    Forcing for their candidate.
    Nasty comments.
    Verbal attacks.
    Names calling.
    Ridiculing other candidates and their supporters.

    What in Earth is happening to people?

    May 9, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  18. sanger, tx

    obamas true colors are starting to show, and its not red, white and blue.

    May 9, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    Sen. McCains age must on his mind all the time, because I honestly don't thing Obama meant that statement to refer to McCain's age.
    Even young people lose their bearings. McCain should keep quiet about Hamas. If he knows Obama does not feel that way, then why keep mentioning it. It's a shame the McCain camp thinks that only the other candidates say ugly things. He needs to start acting his age and showing some wisdom and stop saying things he knows he should not. How would he like it if Obama said the same about him and Hamas? Not at all!

    May 9, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  20. Cindy Harkin

    Makes me wonder if Salter is being paid under the table by the democrats. If Obama's intent truly was to subtly take a jab at McCain's age, Salter seems to not want any of us to have missed it. So far, the McCain campaign has been the only one to bring up age as an issue.

    May 9, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  21. Lisa

    No he didn't...he meant exactly what the word "bearings" is defined as: direction or position relative to a fixed point. He's grasping at straws to try to hurt Obama, which does tend to leave one believing he has lost sight of what is important in this election. Then to respond as though McCain was being insulted about his age is just another example of the same.

    May 9, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  22. rd dallas

    The problem is created by the 24/7 media coverage of this election. Every comment gets spinned. If coverage was limited to the truly important issues, we would'nt even hear about this. Every comment gets a spin from the other side and every spin gets reported ad nauseum. It is becoming a tiresome game by all sides fueled by a media too focused on non-stories.

    Likewise, CNN/fox etc is already hyping the WVA mini-primary as a big event. It is not.

    May 9, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  23. Slowpoke

    It was kind of a weird thing to say, but it wasn't exactly planned and McCain is making it a big deal for no reason.

    May 9, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  24. Pamela

    McCain's camp have lost their marbles for reading too much into that statement. Let me guess, that's ageist too right?

    May 9, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  25. Carl Tillman

    I think that Mccain is just being paranoid. Someone who gets lost in the woods has lost their bearings. I think that's what Obama meant – he's lost his way. Obama meant that Mccain used to make decisions that Obama respected, but seems to have strayed away from that.

    May 9, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
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