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. Nate Mook

    "Bearings" means direction. Sen. Obama was saying Sen. McCain is losing his direction as he pursues the nomination. Obama has said this before as well, with McCain having to cater to the Republican base and President Bush for support.

    But I suppose we should all thank the McCain campaign for reminding us that Sen. McCain is old.

    May 9, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  2. Janel, St. Paul, MN

    Give it a rest, Wolf! Concentrate on the issues.

    May 9, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  3. Jeremy

    I doubt Obama meant it as an attack on his age, but it was a defensive gesture that could be considered a retaliation. Don't get me wrong, I don't like McCain anymore than the rest of America, but it was throw mud in my eye, I'll sling some at you. I think Obama probably was referring to the Senior Senators general unstable filp flop mentality which may or may not have anything to do with his age.

    May 9, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  4. Katherine

    I think that the McCain campaign doth protest too much.

    May 9, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  5. karen

    Obama meant mcCain is off track for someone who is not going to be negative– hamas comment was a smear by McCain who has lost his bearings –hes off track-how can anyone read anything else into that comment-thanks,karen

    May 9, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  6. Dale Wise

    So what? John McCain has become a senile old fool. Call a spade a spade.

    May 9, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  7. Amir

    I don't think it had anything to do with McCain's age as well. Obama had clearly proceeded the comment by saying how McCain had earlier denounced the idea of running a negative campaign. His suggestion that Obama is the preferred candidate of Hamas was an absolute smear. So Obama responded appropriately. McCain's campaign is merely grasping at straws to say Obama was pointing out McCain's age. Salter's comments strike me as desperate and disingenuous.

    May 9, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  8. Peace

    Bearings has nothing to do with age.

    May 9, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  9. Tom

    McCain is "losing his bearings " meaning this guys doesnt know where on the map he is or where he stands. He says his campaign wont smear Obama then he goes and link Obama to Hamas.
    Frankly i think McCain ought to be ashamed of himself for his double talk. He says one thing but does another, He accepts Hagees endorsement but conderms the man for what he said.
    He writes the immgration plan with Bush then he goes against it because its no longer popular.
    He is against the bush tax cuts, but to win over conservative talk show hosts now he is for the bush tax cut.
    This guys is Yesterdays politician and Yesterdays News. Bring on Change to the White House.

    May 9, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  10. Alex H

    Ok... so if we're going to say 'losing his bearings' is a reference to being old... you gotta look at the meaning of it, and also the sentence relevance of it.

    Everyone is focusing on the 'losing his bearings' and ignoring the subsequent words 'as he pursues this nomination'. Anyone who thinks McCain is too old would think he was too old at this exact moment... not that we're watching him get older. Aren't we all getting older? So the tense of the phrase doesn't coincide with what Mr. Salter is implying.

    Also, the phrase 'losing his bearings' is a navigation reference implying he's lost his way. Obama's reply to the Hamas comment is regarding McCain's behavior in ethical and amicable campaigning... or losing his moral way.

    Now, if he said 'losing his marbles' or 'going senile' that's completely different as it refers to losing his mental capacity through aging... but 'losing his bearings' refers to a conscious shift in mentality regardless of the capacity. I could lose my bearings right now... and I'm 21.

    May 9, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  11. Dana

    Sen. McCain opened this can of worms by suggesting that Sen. Obama would be influenced by terrorist organizations because of his name/religious background. Responding to McCain's comment with a potential age-related comment of his own was perhaps not the most politically savvy move – but McCain et. al. should not be complaining when they threw the first punch.

    May 9, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  12. sheryl

    Who cares this is not news good lord!!!! That is what most of Americans think

    May 9, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  13. Arwa from AZ

    Obama's arrogance and discrimination against Mcain will be dished right back to him, as we all know he is inexperienced and is leading this country to believe he is the best to run this country. It has been over a year now and I still do not buy what Obama is selling. Mr Obama will not gain any votes by doing this because the democratic party has left a bad taste in some of the American peoples mouths. I am a Hillary supporter and after The Indiana primary I switched my registration back to Republican and am planning to vote for Mcain. I will take an older man's wisdom far before a young man's promises.

    May 9, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  14. Alan Weiss

    I think McCain's reply showed me all we need to know about him. The reply made me think of his age, not Obama's comment.

    May 9, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  15. SarahfromMN

    This is a case of creative hearing on McCain's part. How he gets "McCain is old" out of Obama's observation that McCain is "losing his bearing" is beyond me, but then again, maybe creativity increases with age.....

    May 9, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  16. Ty

    Seems to me Mr. Obama line "losing his bearings" is to equate Mr. McCain and his message to a ship that has lost its course on a rough sea of public support. For those who don't really understand that term "Bearing" should consult Mr. Webster. To equate the term to Mr. McCain losing his mind is not what he was implying.

    May 9, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  17. Florida resident

    Witty, but disrespectful comment by Obama.
    Obama is just another politican, not a saint like he leads people to believe him to be.

    May 9, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  18. Samarendra N Banerjee

    Of course not ! people who are saying that are losing their bearings!!

    May 9, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  19. D. A. Graham


    I don't believe Senator Obama was making a reference to Senator McCain's age. He was simply stating that the senator was off his position.

    Getting your bearings also, find one's bearings. You figure out one's position or situation relative to one's surroundings. For example, She's still new to the company and needs time to find her bearings, or I'll be along soon; just wait till I get my bearings. Naturally, one can also lose one's bearings, as in After we missed the turnpike exit, we completely lost our bearings. These phrases use bearings in the sense of "relative position," a usage dating from the 1600s.

    This is just another attempt to make a mountain out of a mole hill by the media and the Republicans.

    May 9, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  20. Ellie in Aurora, CO

    For heaven's sake! I "lose my bearings" on a regular basis, and it isn't because of age. The McCain campaign is so sensitive about his age, that they pounce on anything. Silliness!

    May 9, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  21. Counterpunch

    Considering that McCain is working hard to become what he thinks "Conservatives" want him to be (at least in appearance), I think the phrase "losing his bearings" refers more to McCain acting outside of character to appease some people out on the right.

    McCain's campaign is trying to hard to find their own "race" card to play.

    May 9, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  22. Sonia From Georgia

    Wow! The republician always seems to blow-up what Obama says. Tell McCain to get a back bone – and he got the nerves to say Obama is weak, it sounds like grand-dad McCain is the weak one. It sounds like McCain is the one who is self-consious of his age.

    May 9, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  23. Coop

    I don't believe that the phrase "losing his bearing" is at all suggesting anything about Sen. McCain's age. I think that it's supposed to be more in line with the phrase "losing your military bearing". Which means, losing your composure that you have been trained to keep. Sen Obama just meant that Sen McCain has a way that he likes to present himself, and briefly detoured from that normal behavior. If anything, the choice of wording was probably meant to connect to military personnel like myself, in terms that we can relate to. Kind of dig in to some of that military backing.

    May 9, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  24. calif

    wolf dont mind them. you have to know the rebub attack machine is not a new thing for american people cos if there go on issues and policy obama will definitely win them, so there come on attack which americans knows. my advise for them is for mccain to change his policies like before he had not to change it as soon as he get nom.. and the fact was that's what make him win the nom cos he was running as a change candidate an that was why i vote for him then, but since he embrace bush i change my vote for obama.

    May 9, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  25. Dee

    Of course I agree that it has nothing to do McCains age. Methinks Mr. McCain is a little sensitive about the age issue.

    May 9, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19