June 10th, 2008
01:00 PM ET
7 years ago

Obama beats back criticism over head of VP search

Johnson's loans from Countrywide are drawing scrutiny.
Johnson's loans from Countrywide are drawing scrutiny.

(CNN) – Barack Obama on Tuesday brushed aside the notion that the head of his vice presidential search committee, Jim Johnson, contradicts the campaign's message because he has received favorable loans from Countrywide Financial - one of the companies at the center of the nation's mortgage crisis.

"I am not vetting my VP search committees for their mortgages," Obama said during a press conference in St. Louis, Missouri. "I mean this is a game that can be played - everybody you know who is anybody who is tangentially related to our campaign I think is going to have a whole host of relationships."

The comments come two days after the Wall Street Journal reported that Johnson was the recipient of over $7 million worth of home loans from Countrywide, made available through a program for friends of the company's chief executive officer.

Countrywide has taken a big hit during the current subprime loan crisis. Obama has often taken aim at the practice of issuing subprime loans.

The Republican National Committee immediately seized on that report, saying Johnson's appointment "raises serious questions about Obama’s judgment." Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain also criticized Obama, saying Monday that Johnson’s role "suggests a bit of a contradiction, talking about how his campaign is going to be not associated with people like that."

Obama tapped Johnson, a longtime Washington insider, to head his vice-presidential search late last month. Johnson held the same role for then-Democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry in 2004. He has long been known for keeping a low profile while holding some of Washington's most powerful posts, including heading up mortgage giant Fannie Mae and the Brookings Institution.

Johnson is currently a vice chairman of Perseus LLC, a private banking firm.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Obama suggested Johnson's past loans are irrelevant to his current position with the campaign.

At some point you know we just asked people to do their assignments," he said. "These aren't folks who are working for me. They are not people you know who I have assigned to a job in the future administration, and ultimately my assumption is that this is a discreet task that they are going to performing for me in the next two months."

McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said it is "preposterous" for the Illinois senator to claim Johnson isn't working for him.

"Barack Obama has castigated Countrywide Financial, but now that Jim Johnson has been exposed for taking sweetheart deals from Countrywide’s CEO - Obama is in a state of denial," Bounds said. "It’s that brand of weak leadership and hypocrisy that shows why Barack Obama has no record of taking courageous stands or making change in Washington.”


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (340 Responses)
  1. Josh, CA

    Non-issue. GOP should get a life and worry about gas price that is cruising to $5.

    June 10, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  2. martin

    he's not being paid to be on the commitee.tucker is lame,and a liar,and a ridiculous republican.

    June 10, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  3. Yes we can!

    Dont you just love Obama...I mean everytime that have come at him with nonsense, he just shows great poise and calm with great responses:
    "I am not vetting my VP search committees for their mortgages," Obama said during a press conference in St. Louis, Missouri. "I mean this is a game that can be played — everybody you know who is anybody who is tangentially related to our campaign I think is going to have a whole host of relationships."
    ********************************************

    June 10, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  4. 58 old white ladies for OBAMA

    MCMOULD IS BUSY WITH THAT "VETO OF EVERY

    SINGLE BEER", SO WE HAVE TIME.

    June 10, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  5. Hoang, UC Berkeley

    THIS IS A RESPONSE TO B. Churchill AND The Truth Hurts

    So, what you guys saying is that Democrat voters should close their eyes and follow whatever, whoever the Democratic Party chooses? !!!!????

    Talking about the issues, what if I DON'T LIKE OBAMA'S IDEAS AND PLANS? What if I THINK HIS PLANS ARE WEAK AND LOUDSY AND IN THE END WILL NOT FIX ANYTHING? (His plans do not go all the way, such as UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE and WITHDRAWING ALL TROOPS FROM IRAQ AND INVADING AGAIN LATER). What if I THINK HE'S AN UNDECIDED GUY AND WILL NOT DO A GOOD JOB IN THE WHITE HOUSE? And personally what if I SIMPLY DON'T TRUST THE GUY.

    You guys have been talking that his plans are similar to Hillary, SO WHY DIDN'T YOU VOTE FOR HILLARY? WHY DID YOU VOTE FOR OBAMA? Doesn't the small different make a whole 'nother level? Isn't that TRUST an important part? I simply don't trust that he can do the job.

    So now, if I have all of these issues with him, but because of the Party, I have to get in line and vote for him? vote for a person I have issues with and don't trust?

    I now have 2 options: either sit at home like many many other Americans, or go to the poll and write in Hillary. I can't vote fot the person I don't trust.

    Can I just simply have my right to vote for the PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE that shares my views and opinions, the one that I trust?

    I don't like either McCain or Obama, instead of sitting home and not caring about politics like many many Americans, can I just simply go to the poll and write Hillary in to put my voice into the country's most important election? I know it is a tiny one, but if many many do the same thing, it's gonna be big. Everything has to start with one, more often unusual.

    June 10, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  6. DB

    They are stretching it a bit.

    Obama has repeatedly spoken ill of how business is done is Washington. Is the McCain Campaign going to attack for wanting to run Washington even though he is pointing out things that are going severly wrong in Washington?!?

    I thought there was supposed to be a debate about the issues, not a winefest.

    June 10, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  7. Former republican

    "raises serious questions about Obama’s judgment."?????

    i hate stupid language like this. it is so tired and old and represents old politics. fitting that the RNC would use old politics to defend mccain.

    June 10, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  8. M.K. Ozman

    If this is all the dirt that they can dig up about Obama and his team then the Republicans are really doomed.

    June 10, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  9. SDunn

    Um shouldn't McCain's groupies focus on his own staff filled with registered lobbyists before making any stupid judgements? Just a thought.

    June 10, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  10. Mike Lorain, OH

    GOP=grasping at straws and making a mountain out of a molehill. This is one of the more absurd charges, but I'm sure more will come...

    June 10, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  11. vINCe

    This is SOOOO NOT an issue!! Geez....Repubs are desperate if they are complaining about this.

    June 10, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  12. A Democrat No More

    Double speak.

    June 10, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  13. Jose'

    Lying Hypocrite!

    June 10, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  14. Richard, FL

    Barack Obama today used the words "Infinitesimal" and "tangentially". Bush and the 28%ers must be looking for "translators" today. They still haven't found "nucular" in the dictionary. It's great to think that we might get a president who is highly intelligent and actually can pronounce words correctly. That is a major CHANGE after 7years of Bush's ignorance.

    June 10, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  15. Brett

    Ahhhh, the politics of "hope" and "change" :)

    June 10, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  16. He'sSoFine

    Exactly right !! Just like all the other collegues he knows. Glad no one judges me on some of my collegues (and you know who you are).

    Sending you a 'pound' Barack and keep the pace – we are enjoying the ride immensely.

    June 10, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  17. P, CA

    It's called a payroll, McHolmes. I love it how, when they shook YOUR tree, a bunch of bugs came scurrying out, and you were PAYING them.

    You give Obama's a shake, and one comes out who's working as a volunteer.

    Try harder. This isn't making it and it's a non-story.

    June 10, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  18. Kristi, MD

    OMG Senator, I hope you dont drive a Volkswagon – they might accuse you of being too friendly with the Germans!!

    June 10, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  19. Rich

    Oh please. The Repubs believe EVERYTHING Obama does "raises serious questions about Obama’s judgment." The day Tucker Bounds makes an intelligent argument is the day McCain vetoes beer.

    June 10, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  20. aware

    Forget it Obama!

    You are not trustworthy, and your judgment and courage are pathetic.

    You are just good at old style politics, Photo Ops/PR, obfuscation, reading teleprompters and throwing people under the bus when they are no longer useful to him.

    Obama=Bush – just the opposite extreme! :(

    Don't waste your vote disillusioned Democrats! Vote for the American hero. John McCain 08! :)

    June 10, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  21. Jason

    This is what will continue to come out about this "unknown" Senator from the southside of Chicago. The Democrats and Obamabots are in for a rude awakening!!!

    June 10, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  22. A Vote for McCain is a vote for Prosperity

    Who cares?

    Obam was appointed by the DNC and the DNC will appoint a VP.

    After seeing the results and the delegations from the state of Washington where Obam got 25 delegates on less than 30,000 votes and he got more delegates in TX and NV when Hillary won the popular vote are prime indicators that the nomination was fixed.

    So go on and try to seize the headlines on a phony VP search. Give me a break.

    June 10, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  23. RealDeal

    Please. Bush lied about the reasons for getting into a war, killed the leader of the country and got thousands of American soldiers and Iraqis killed. Anything the Repubs try to smear Johnson with doesn't even register on the meter.

    June 10, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  24. jimmy velman

    OBAMA VP"SEARCH TEAM" IS A FARCE. HE HAS DECIDED QUITE SOMETIME AGO TO DENY HILLARY CLINTON THE VP SPOT. AND THE "SO-CALLED SEARCH TEAM IS JUST A COVER.

    June 10, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  25. Louise - MN

    Hold up! Obama taps "longtime Washington insiders" to be on his VP search comittee while spending months railing against "longtime Washington insiders?"
    Don't get me wrong, I think that Johnson is a great choice for the position, but does this mean that Obama is actually going to surround himself with people who know what they are doing in Washington? That's not "change" but that sure is smart.

    June 10, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
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