June 10th, 2008
01:00 PM ET
6 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. Shelly in IL

    Are you people happy now? There, CNN has posted the story about Jim Johnson (the Lobbyist). Good greif are you nay-sayers happy now?

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

    Yeah and I wonder also if my boy is also a part of that mortgage crisis or let alone did he "knew" about it??? Hmmmm, a mystery don't you say. By the way, I thought the Reps don't care about the mortgage crisis??? Yep, just like I don't care about money! LOL!!!!

    June 10, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  3. STAND UP now

    Post it CNN:

    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.
    Remember how Hitler inspired a youth eager for change?
    Remember how charismatic and how powerful his speeches were?

    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 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  4. kayla

    mcsame should not worry about sen. obama's vp. search. he should worry about his. he became the nominee about two months before obama and yet has not found a vp.

    June 10, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  5. gary

    . YOU THINK HRC SHOULD BE HIS WHITE SLAVE AND UNITE HER VOTERS FOR HIM.B.S. AFTER NOT CONSIDERING HRC FOR VP. OR ANYTHING ELSE. YOU HATERS HAVE BROUGHT THIS RACE TO AN END FOR YOUR CANIDATE O.B. MCCAIN WILL E OUR NEXT PRESIDENT. ATLEAST HE DONT CON PEOPLE AND THINK HE IS GOD. YOU HATERS SURE LIKED IT WHEN HRC ENDORSED O.B. NOW THE SPEECH IS OVER SHE IS DIRT TO YOU HATERS AGAIN. I HOPE SHE TURNS AROUND AND GOES INDEPENDANT. WITHOUT HER ON THE TICKET YOU HATERS LOOSE ALONG WITH YOUR CANIDATE.THIS RACE WAS HANDED TO O.B. NOW HE IS GOING TO EARN IT. WITHOUT HRC ON THE TICKET ,HE'S DONE.

    June 10, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  6. Whiskey

    PUMA = The New Hardcore Disgruntled Bitter Feminist Movement.

    June 10, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  7. Kenneth

    why is everything a issue ? when are we going to talk about real bead and butter items

    June 10, 2008 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  8. mjc

    CNN.. why no story or mention of Rep. Dennis Kuchinich's issuing articles of Impeachment against g.w. bush?

    June 10, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  9. freer already

    Beating back criticism....Isn't that what he does best?

    Wasn't Bush the first to use that strategy.

    FEELING FREER already.

    June 10, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  10. Seth

    "Democrats For McCain"

    HUH?

    That doesn't even makes sense. If you are voting for McCain you are a Republican plain and simple. You can't be a Democrat and vote in someone who has all Republican policies. That makes you a Republican.

    And if you flip-flop your allegiances so easily because you got your feelings hurt, then good riddance.

    June 10, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  11. BIFF, BIFFINGTON...

    I wonder where the Wall Street Journal's report on McCain Staffer and former Texas Senator Phil Gramm is.. Lobbying disclosure forms, filed by the giant Swiss bank UBS, list McCain’s campaign co-chair, former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, as a lobbyist dealing specifically with legislation regarding the mortgage crisis as recently as Dec. 31, 2007.

    A McCain staffer is a lobbyest who pushed for de-regulation of the industry WHICH DIRECTLY CONTRIBUTED TO THE CURRENT MORTGAGE CRISIS!

    YOU WILL NEVER READ OF THIS CONNECTION IN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.

    BECAUSE, LIKE 'FOX NEWS', IT IS NOW OWNED BY RUPERT-FREAKING-MURDOCH!

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

    OBAMA KNOWS A GUY WHO KNOWS A WOMAN THAT ONCE DATED A RADICAL FROM 1964!

    These are the words of scared people.

    Obama just cleaned up the DNC to the tune of 100,000+ dollars while McCain lied about more things he said 2 days earlier.

    CHANGE vs. McSane.

    OBAMA 08!

    June 10, 2008 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  13. Timothy

    Vote Mccain this whole country will go down we are almost there now with Bush policies. Vote Mccain and we all will be very,very very disapoint just like we are now whom ever vote for Bush same thing will happen again. Our childrens future will suffer as well as our. Just watch if you vote Mcain.

    June 10, 2008 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  14. Gerald

    ...........................and the band PLAYED onnnnnnnnnnnn..............

    June 10, 2008 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  15. Ding, Washington, DC

    Remember Keating Five!, Senator McCain "Used Poor Judgment" according to that ruling. GOP should keep their mouths shut. Why are they reminding Americans.

    June 10, 2008 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  16. pauline

    I trust Obama's judgement for VP. I am 61 yr old woman.
    Obama for president

    June 10, 2008 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  17. Loretta from California

    This is an apples and oranges strategy at best. Until the GOP's camp will pledge to discontinue their practice of yielding to special interest it will be the "Pot calling the kettle black".

    June 10, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  18. Down with Obama

    The whole Obama bunch are crooks!!!!!!!!!!

    Hey Donna, I thought you were going to leave the Party if “THE DELEGATES” choose the nominee over the “WILL OF THE PEOPLE”?????

    What happened, are you still a democrat???

    June 10, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  19. Janie, Raleigh, N.C.

    I read the best comment today. I liked it because it described my feelings well. A strong Clinton supporter stated that she could vote for Obama, but not with any enthusiasm. For now, that comment describes a lot of Clinton Democrats. Obama is just lofty in his speeches, but has few details about the changes he champions. I am going to wait and see what he and McCain actually mean by their comments. Some issues that were front and center for me years ago do not mean as much to me now. I am not sure if we want change as much as we need stability.

    June 10, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  20. CW4Barak

    The Repugnants are grasping at straws!!

    Obama '08!

    June 10, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  21. Whiskey

    Democrats for Mccain = Im taking my toys and going home mentality. Part of the problem...never the solution.

    June 10, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  22. Enough already!

    Forget Kevin Bacon... all the media wants to do these days is play "Six Degrees of Separation" (and everybody else eats it up).

    For goodness sakes, people. What matters more - staff member's buddies or the actual presidential candidate's actual plan for the economy?

    And I swear to Loki if one more person yammers about how all he does is talk, without bothering to check up on all the things he is already doing, now, even before he's president.....

    June 10, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  23. john s

    No mention here of the other person Holden who had a connection to the Marc Rich pardon. The actual transcript show Obama stumbled and was not as smooth as he has been touted by his supporters. If he can't handle a simple question without getting defensive, I don't know how he'll handle the really tough questions. If it was McCain the Dems would be all over him about his people and their connections.

    June 10, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  24. folly

    And the media helps this demagogue beatin back any criticism.

    He is just the nominee, and already he chastises and silences any criticism.

    How is this GOOD for America?

    Didn't Bush silence everyone who disagreed with him- and paint them as traitors?

    So Obama IS the leftist version of BUSH.

    You are all silly fools falling for folly feigning as hope and change.

    June 10, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  25. Brad

    Can you say the pot and the kettle...
    McCain being critical on this issue is completely fatuous.
    The DNC should seize on this and remind everyone who was front and center during the savings and loan crisis...

    June 10, 2008 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
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