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. Kenneth M

    IS JOHNSON BEING INVESTIGATED FOR A CRIME? IF NOT I DONT SEE WHAT THE PROBLEM IS.

    June 10, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  2. STILL BROKE~

    DONT PICK HILARY, WE NEED HER IN 2012!!! PICK OPRAH OR CAROLINE, PLEASE PLEASE OBAMA DO NOT PICK OUR NEXT PRESIDENT FOR YOUR VP.

    June 10, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  3. ANGIE

    grow up mccain remember what you say and try to at least pretend to know what your talking about is this the best you republicans got ha ah your going down out with the republicans in with the democrats

    June 10, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  4. KMAN

    If the RNC is questioning Obama's judgment in the selection of Jim Johnson ... then they need to question their own judgment since they are supporting John McCain ... NOW THAT'S QUESTIONABLE JUDGEMENT!! McCain is a now defunct serial adulterer and he has often been a foul-mouthed jerk to his colleagues!! Yes, a fine American indeed!!

    June 10, 2008 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  5. Dem in CA

    This kind of six degrees of separation thing is a new form of McCarthyism. Every one of us is connected to someone who is connected to someone else of shady reputation if we dig around enough, because everyone knows a lot of people. Are we to all start vetting each other as we meet so we don't taint our own reputations? It's as silly as combining McCathyism with cooties.

    This is such a non-story. It must be a slow news cycle, huh? When they have an actual choice for VP, vet them.

    June 10, 2008 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  6. BIFF, BIFFINGTON...

    OBAMA HAS BEEN A ONE MAN FINANCE REFORM JUGGERNAUT.

    McCain 'talked" about campaign finance reform.. then left enough holes in it to drive a truck (or a 527 group) through.

    Obama has SHOWN by ACTIONS what campaign finance reform is.

    THAT is leadership BY "EXAMPLE" !

    it is a fact you Obama haters CANNOT change. He has DONE it in his own campaign. Whether or not you choose to acknowledge it... (and we don't even need you to..) HE HAS DONE IT, AND YOU CAN NEVER DETRACT FROM THAT ACCOMPLISHMENT.

    a government OF the people BY the people and FOR the people...

    DEAL WITH IT !!!

    June 10, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  7. andrew

    Well, OK we all know that this is a pretty bad try at making Obama seem like a puppet for the loan sharks. However, can we all agree to keep holding the Obama's and McCain's responsible for being too close too "the enemy?" I would hope that soon, being a friend of the CEO of Countrywide Financial should be a big liability for this Jim Johnson character and the hundreds of others like him.

    Love,
    The Unified, Nonpartisan, Anti-Lobbyist/PAC Front. :)

    June 10, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  8. Michelle

    Another lame excuse from Obama.

    It's disgusting that the media lets him get away with this nonsense.

    June 10, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  9. Bob-a-latte

    The important reason not to have Mr Johnson lead the effort to screen VP candidates is his record: he picks losers. Why pick a loser to pick a loser.

    June 10, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  10. Steve in California

    Can't the McCain campaign read? Obama clearly stated this guy is doing one task (that's what "discrete" means, McCain). Obama didn't say the guy wasn't working for him, he said the guy won't have a position in his administration. Big difference. The guy is just putting together a list of potential VPs. Obama will have the final say as to which candidate makes the cut.

    If this is the best McCain can do, this election will be an easy one. Give me a veto beer!

    June 10, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  11. total supreme ruler knows best

    And so it continues.... no criticism of the supreme leader is allowed.
    This isn't democrisy... it is dictatorhip.

    This is how all the great charismatic dictators- left or right- do it.

    You control the press and then you silence ALL opposition.

    HRC was just the first of our choices to be eliminated.

    Our freedom to think and speak and disagree are next...
    Actually... already used those tactics to steal the nomination.

    June 10, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  12. Cathy

    Obama is right. Come on people, if you have to avoid every single person that had any sort of anything there would be no one left.

    Give me a break. Johnson's mortgage company is complete irrelevant to Obama searching for VP!!!! We could go into McCain’s camp and surely find a lot of “well-connected" and unsavory people.

    LET'S STICK TO THE REAL ISSUES!!!!

    June 10, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  13. The Clear Thinking Indepedent

    I have a million dollar mortgage with Countrywide in Carlsbad California .... how does that make we unfit ?

    CNN, please vett these blog subjects and the content to stay on point and away from the National Enquirer-like distractions.

    Thanks,

    June 10, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  14. brice, greenville, south carolina

    well put seamus. everyone take note. we can't handle more of the same. it seems like every day we keep getting more and more proof that voting for mcain is a bad idea. understanding why anyone would vote for mcain is beyond my rhelm of possibilities. don't just vote your politic history/check list. vote according to what is happening today.

    June 10, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  15. Bob

    "everybody you know who is anybody who is tangentially related to our campaign"

    But this person is NOT only tangentially related to his campaign. This person is LEADING the search for Obama's choice for VP (who could be President someday) and therefore should be held to a higher standard. This is the same way Obama was able to sweep Ayers and Flager under the rug and the McCain people should not be as afraid to push these issues as the Clinton people were.

    June 10, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  16. Bob-a-latte

    This is change we can believe in?

    June 10, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  17. Sebastian

    This is a non-issue. We dismiss it.

    June 10, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  18. Scott

    Change we can believe in.

    "Rules are rules are rules. Except when they apply to people I want on my campaign."

    June 10, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  19. Dave

    OBAMA IS A TRUE LIAR, HILLARY HAD HIM PEGGED. A RACIST LIAR!!!

    MCCAIN 08

    HILLARY SUPPORTER

    June 10, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  20. total supreme ruler knows best

    what a surprise- blocked by BIASED CNN again.

    The Great Obama already controls the media.

    Now he can say or do anything and silence all who dare disagree.

    And so it continues.... no criticism of the supreme leader is allowed.
    This isn't democracy... it is dictatorship.

    This is how all the great charismatic dictators- left or right- do it.

    You control the press and then you silence ALL opposition.

    HRC was just the first of our choices to be eliminated.

    BRAINWASHING works on some... NEVER on all.

    Our freedom to think and speak and disagree are next...
    Actually... already used those tactics to steal the nomination.

    June 10, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  21. RyanD.

    McCain has 170 lobbyists working for him.

    Nuff said.

    June 10, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  22. Guilty One

    Let the first person without any blemish cast or throw the first stone.

    June 10, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  23. Another Republican for Obama

    John McCain is nothing more than a puppet of the RNC. He sounds confused on the issues from one day to the next. You are almost scared for him when he speaks in front of people because he forgets and misspeaks quite frequently. He said that he would keep this strictly about the issues, but he is going to find out just as Clinton did, that character attacks in this years election will not work. People want to hear about the issues. I consider myself an outstanding member of my community, but I guess if you looked hard enough with 6 degrees of seperation, you could find someone who knows me who said and did some pretty stupid stuff. People are smarter than that. Everyone knows someone who has said and did something stupid. You have to look at the scope of someones entire life.

    John McCain has few answers about the future and direction of this country. He is old old old school. There is a new generation of republicans who want things to be different. And I am one of them. George Bush was and has been huge dissapointment.

    Go Obama!!!!
    REPUBLICANS FOR OBAMA

    June 10, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  24. Dave

    oh but that's not all with Mr. Johnson. If you want the truth about him you will find he is knee deep in the CFR and Bilderberg's. In fact, the Bilderberg's are the king makers that select these VP's. They chose Edwards for Kerry in 2004 because they liked him, and Kerry didn't, but the puppets must obey the marching orders. That was all we needed to know when Obama chose Johnson to head the search. It will be the elites choice. Also note that the Bilderbergs just concluded their meeting in Chantilly, VA over the weekend. Does it make sense that a meeting of 200-300 of the Western world's leaders in the spheres of government, banking and media held a secret meeting and the mainstream media did not cover it at all? If a group of that size of entertainers or sports figures met, they would be all over it.

    June 10, 2008 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  25. Carl29

    This is why 7 years of the GOP runing the country has left us is this hole. These guys have no plan to get us out of the ditch. All they know is attack and attack anybody who wants to help the american people solve their problems.

    June 10, 2008 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14