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. Maxine

    Mccain is the same polices as Bush. Bush Administration put this whole country in a mess just a mess. VOTE MCCAIN our country will go down just like our ECONOMY and for the American people to TRUST Mccain who will embrace Bush Polices PLEASE We American people are tried of been fooled by the Repubicans.

    June 10, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  2. Cathy in Illinois

    Have ANY of you people ever worked in the political arena???
    Here's the scoop, folks... if he wants to be elected in November, then he just CANNOT totally ignore the 18 million voters who voted for Hillary Clinton. Whoever he picks for VP whether it's Hillary or someone else, it's got to be someone that will bring some of those disenfranchised Clinton voters back in to the fold. Think about it, folks. It's not rocket science.

    June 10, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  3. GS

    And the Beat goes on. Yes, we all know someone who knows someone who has a shaddy past. But his someone is in the position of choosing the #2 person in line for our presidency. Not something to ignore. It would be better if he cut the man off and go for someone else to choose the next VP. It's not brain surgery... he has no effect on his candidancy.. except he is on a no nothing committee. Obama already knows who he wanted as a VP.. he's done his homework for the past few weeks. Just cut the man lose and there is no more talk

    June 10, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  4. eam

    OBAMA IS JUST THE BLACK VERSION OF BUSH. WHAT A LAME LOSER ! AND I LIKE HOW HIS SHEEP JUSTIFY ANYTHING HE DOES. SHEEP ARE ALL YOU PEOPLE ARE, HOPE EVEYONE IS READY FOR THE THIRD WORLD WAR, THAT IS THE ONLY THING OBAMA WILL DELIVER .

    June 10, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  5. Lynn

    Another controversy. How many more skeletons does he have in his and Michelle's closet. Is he going to be like Bush and all the records has been destroyed. Remember he has been running for President since l996 when he became a State Senator and voted present over 100 times on issues he did not want to come back to haunt him.

    June 10, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  6. Republican for OBAMA 08

    Is this the best that my party can do. Look america, gas is going to $5 a gallon, the rich are getting richer, Obama is going to at least cut the taxes for people making under$249K, and then give us all another tax rebate. Add in heathcare, the debacle in Iraq, and the real estate mess even a moderate republican like myself has to say ENOUGH. I think I will try OBAMA!!

    P!O! republican!!!

    June 10, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  7. Chryssy

    Oh blah blah blah! Sorry to say that this new, energized hip generation will find out very soon what this older, wiser, hip 60's child found out years ago. No one in politics has clean hands, and if you are so idealistic you think Obama can "change the way things are done in Washington", you will get your little teeny sweet heart broken. Wake up and smell your lattes kids. This is a dirty game played by those who play with dirty people. They are attracted like flies to this profession. Just promise yourself one thing, that no matter what, you will never be so disillusioned that you become complacent and allow another George Bush in the White House. He is the worst in my memory. And ignore any such commentary against Obama. It is ludicrous. Politics has always made strange bedfellows.

    June 10, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  8. Liz

    Poor John McCain – this is the best he can do! Forget about the economy, Iraq etc. The Republican "task force" is out to find any tiny thing they can! After all they know they can't win on issues, honesty or integrity. So they must resort to a smear campaign any chance they can get. Retire McCain and make way for real change and yes even new ideas different from yours and your buddy Bush!! Go Obama!!!!

    June 10, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  9. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    OBAMA, PLEASE DON'T VETO EVERY SINGLE BEER LIKE JOHN MCCAIN SAYS HE'LL DO.

    June 10, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  10. Unshrub

    If Obama scratches his nose the republicans scream it raises serious questions about Obama’s judgment.

    June 10, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  11. MurphyMorseJohnson

    The proof of the pudding of choosing a vice president will be in the ultimate choice that is made. It is time to set all of the belly aching, cry-babying, and sour grapes aside. As for the rest who pulled W's off of White House type writers, you will probably never grow up. For the rest who want a Republican-rich person's-economy.

    However, If you want an economy guided by Democrats, then vote to END spending your tax dollars on: Iraq; the gas/oil moguls like Cheney; the health care millionaires Republican Club; the outsourcing of jobs and American industry, the outpricing of a college education, the end of the American dream of owning a home.

    VOTE DEMOCRAT, DEMOCRAT, AND MORE DEMOCRAT!

    June 10, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  12. Arnie, NY

    This just further convinces us Hillary supporters that we should either
    vote for Mccain or stay home in November. Either way, Obama loses at least 20% of the total Democratic vote and even the Obamarite idiots can do that math.

    June 10, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  13. Mr.President - Obama !

    Please take your time to arrive at a wise decision.WE ARE WITH YOU !!!!

    John McShame is a shame to all old people.I have grand parents and i love and respect them a lot.But this guy belongs to a different league all together.Is the GOP so dumb?Why did you even consider him as a nominee?
    Pathetic GOP, pathetic !

    GObama ! Go Democrats !
    2008 – infinity !

    June 10, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  14. Mike

    To all you McCain patsies, by this time next your children or grandchildren could be sunning and funning in the beautiful and friendly country of IRAN. God bless them all.

    June 10, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  15. CN, Florida

    AJ, the disaster is happening RIGHT NOW, it's called "George Bush" and the Republican GOP, including McCain.

    Let's debate the real issues not this garbage, that kind of politics doesn't work anymore. Tell me what Bush is doing to lower that $ 4.0 a gallon gas price, or to fix the mortgage mess or to get us out of Iraq...

    June 10, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  16. Rico in Arkansas

    MY FIRST MORTGAGE WAS THRU COUNTRYWIDE..AM I NOW UNFIT? PEOPLE YOU ARE ALL STUPID. WHILE SUB PRIME LENDING IS NOT GREAT. IT IS THE WAY THE WORLD WORKED AND HAS WORKED FOR YEARS. JSUT BECAUSE NOW IT HAS BEEN EXPOSED AS BEING BAD, YOU CAN'T START POINTING THE FINGER AT EVERY OPERSON WHO HAS TAKEN OUT A LONE. BE REAL. THE MAJORITY OF THE COUNTRY HAS BEEN INVOLVED IN SOME SORT OF LOAN ACTIVITY ARE THEY ALL BAD PEOPLE?

    @ HOANG IN BERKLEY. IT IS NOT WORNG TO NOT TRUST A CANDIDATE, BUT TO NOT TRUST HIM JUST BECAUSE IS EITHER RACIST OR PREJUDICE. WHEN SOME OF YOU OBAMA HATERS WHO SUPPOSEDLY ARE DEMOCRATS AND LOVE HILLARY WHO, ALSO SUPPORTS OBAMA, START COMING WITH ACTUAL REASONS TO NOT TRUST OBAMA MAYBE THE RACIST LABELS WOULD LEAVE.

    I MEAN ACTUAL REASONS NOT PROPOGANDA OR FALSEHOODS.
    EMPTY HATE OR MISTRUST = RACISM

    June 10, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  17. Mike

    To all you McCain patsies, by this time next year your children or grandchildren could be sunning and funning in the beautiful and friendly country of IRAN. God bless them all.

    June 10, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  18. steinway

    Guess since Rezko (who wasn't "working for him" either) is getting fitted for pinstripes Johnson was his next best choice which seems logical for a product of the Chicago Daley machine.

    Maybe Axelrod can recommend some other Exelon employees not to work for him or at least help him rewrite some of his proposals?

    Once again Barry has proven that he is highly adept at speaking out of both sides of his mouth.

    June 10, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  19. Floyd Goff

    My comment will probably not be posted because I am not making a an out of my way effort to give a twisted slant to every word that Obama says, or about every person he has ever come into contact with. I was H. Clinton supporter, but it was very clear that your reporting was bias in her favor. Thanks for that, but I don't see how you think the public is so stupid that they can't see,read or count. You never see the kind picking on McCain, or H.Cinton for people they have come into contact with during there life time.Your biased panel is made up of two white women and two men, and it stands out every time they open thier mouth. You speak of H.Clintons' 18 million reasons to stay in the race. She says herself Obama out spent her.In spite of this she has a big debt and Obama has money in his campaign. H.Clinton does not have supporters in those numbers, those were Republicans who do not want to run against Obama, and there money went to Republicans where thier hearts are. The second group were in many cases people not very well read, and what they are is what they are, or I could say what your political news crew display every day.

    June 10, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  20. If not Hillary....then McCain

    Once again my entire comment was sent to lala land, are you censoring these bogs CNN?

    We know about you wanting to have a pro Obama media presence, but really...does the FCC have any say in your processes?

    June 10, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  21. Ken

    I regret my vote for Obama , had I known what I know now , I would have chosen Clinton.
    Obama is an absolute phoney , reads a teleprompter well , delivers elaborate speeches , but with no substance .
    He has fooled a lot of people , including me.
    McCain is not only the better but also the safer choice of the two of them.

    June 10, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  22. Marilyn

    It doesn't matter who is on his VP team and it doesn't matter who he picks as his running mate! Moderate Democrats are not going to vote for him. He is too far to the left and those of us who don't like him will not vote for him anyway. Just because we are Democrats doesn't mean we have to bow down before Howard Dean and the DNC!

    June 10, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  23. Will in Richmond, VA

    Can I buy an Issue?

    If Obama talks to someone who once worked with a person who at one time bought coffee for a lady who had her dog walked by a boy whose father was best friends with a lobbyist, then of course that means Obama is a hypocrite.

    Please... no really, PLEASE spare me.

    Obama/anyone whom he chooses 08

    June 10, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  24. Stephen

    This should say "discrete" - meaning singular - not "discreet" - meaning private. That changes the meaning substantially.

    June 10, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  25. MurphyMorseJohnson

    The proof of the pudding of choosing a vice presidential candidate will be in the ultimate choice that is made. It is time to set all of the belly aching, cry-babying, and sour grapes aside. As for the those who pulled W's off of White House type writers, you will probably never grow up. For the those who want a Republican-rich person's-economy, it's nice to know somebody who's filthy rich.

    However, If you want an economy guided by Democrats, then vote to END spending your tax dollars on: Iraq; the gas/oil moguls like Cheney; the health care millionaires Republican Club; the outsourcing of jobs and American industry, the outpricing of a college education, the end of the American dream of owning a home.

    VOTE DEMOCRAT, DEMOCRAT, AND MORE DEMOCRAT!

    June 10, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
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