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

Obama beats back criticism over head of VP search

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/10/art.johnson.ap.jpg caption="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. Jim Walker

    After reading a lot of this crap, most of it from the Obama bar guide of what's your favorite flavor I have decided not to even try to rebut some of this crap here that takes rationiziation to a new level. Just going to vote for McCain. Him I can live with for 4 years but the big BO? Never!

    June 10, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  2. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    Neil Bush and the Silverado Savings and Loan scandal!!!!!!!!!!

    But Jonson and Countrywide is bigger news?!?!?!?!

    June 10, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  3. In Chicago

    Obama is trying to make this a non-issue because it could cost him the election. Not because his volunteers are crooked, but because he himself has gotten the sweet loans and party perks (which is customary in Chicago, land of the payola). Mr. Obama's good friend Tony, who is now being indicted, bought Mr. Obama's neighbors house. Tony, sold the Obama's a good chunk of land from that house at a loss and then sold the house for a greater loss. That is a nice friend.

    My Mom always told me that your friends reflect upon you. Mr. Obama is with crooks because he is a crook. This is going to be a dirty election folks. A crook on one side and an old robot on the other. Vote a third party. Break the demopublican hold on America.

    June 10, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  4. Barack the Vote in RI


    To Andy J- and all the rest of you closet racists disguised as HRC "supporters"....

    "How can you run on a platform for "change" when you hire washington insiders to find you a VP?"

    Are you an idiot? Of course he's going to hire Washington insiders to find him a VP! Why on earth would he hire Washington OUTsiders to find potential VP candidates? What's the good of hiring someone to find strong candidates if they don't know who the heck anyone is?

    "If you have such great judgement of character, shouldn't you be able to pick your own VP? "

    Sure he could pick his own VP…oh wait…he's too busy CAMPAIGNING. It's standard procedure to put together a commitee who's sole purpose is to put together a list of strong VP candidates. Obama will trim down the list through meetings with the potential candidates and make the ultimate decision himself.

    To AJ-

    I would LOVE to see the fruits of this "research" you've done to uncover all of the BIG money Obama has taken from corporations and interest groups. I'm sure it's quite the revelation, seeing as how NO MAJOR NEWS ORGANIZATION, NOR THE RNC, HAS MENTIONED IT. You appear to be just another disgruntled Hillary supporter who is willing to destroy the country by voting for McCain out of spite, even though he represents everything your beloved Hillary has been fighting against for her entire political career. Now THAT'S what I call "informed voting

    June 10, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  5. For country

    The most deceiving and hypocritical candidate in American politics continues his ways.

    June 10, 2008 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |

    GO OBAMA! Anyone who questions his “vetting” for President of the United States is “tangentially inconsequential.” Furthermore, everyone understands that voting “present” 130 times in the IL Senate is “trivial” compared to his having to sit in that church for 20 years just to advance his political career. He was not born to a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas to end up earning the “infinitesimally” tiny salary of $14K a year as a community organizer. Nor did he attend Harvard so that he could steel a measly couple of thousand votes during his run for the IL Senate. NO! His vision has always been higher than that.

    June 10, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  7. Turning the page

    The Republicans are so out of sync this election cycle that every move team Obama make causes them to jump.
    They will try everything they can to throw the dogs (media & public) off the trail scent. But the real scent is extremely foul and unmistakable – it can't be missed. Not this time!!

    June 10, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  8. FAYE

    OBAMA““it,s okay to trash to bill clinton (the

    best president ever)everywhere —but my name

    HUSSIEN and my wife MICHELLE and my BIRTH

    CERTIFICATE is offlimits““lol–hypocrite –

    June 10, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  9. MD

    Barack Fans.

    Get used to the hypocracy of Obama. Someday you may even recognize that you've been conned.

    June 10, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  10. J in Dallas

    This guy isn't picking the VP for Obama. He's been asked to do some research on a group of people being considered.

    He's a glorified private investigator.

    About who Obama should or shouldn't pick... Obama should pick whoever he thinks is best to run the country and will best aid Obama, in a manner of Obama's choosing, in fulfilling his duties as president.

    I think down near reason #532 should be which VP candidate will help him win an election. If Obama 'appeases' anyone with a Hillary VP choice, he sets himself up for a presidency where around every corner there's someone looking for 'appeasement.'

    Any ardent Hillary supporters stop to think that the country might be best served with a strong candidate like Obama as president AND Hillary in the Senate? If Hillary's the VP, then she can't publicly disagree and therefore can't shape matters of policy to her advantage. There's a reason that many former VPs have decried the position as mostly ceremonial and powerless.

    June 10, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  11. After further review,Texas

    DAVE,your so right but the truth just flies over these morons heads.The fix has been in for along time.

    June 10, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  12. Elmo

    Johnson should either reveal the terms of all his loans from Countrywide, or he should resign.

    June 10, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  13. Lynn in NM

    Did they also check the blood types of every employee of Countrywide Mortgage to be sure his blood wasn't the same type? Get real, people. How nit-picky can you get???? Get a real job or go home!

    June 10, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  14. Suziku

    Obama has already clearly stated that "when" "he" says something about choosing a VP choice, then and only then will it be true! Enough speculation that doesn't mean anything.

    June 10, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  15. Mark

    OMG what is Obama doing to my democratic party.

    More sleaze, more bad judgement.

    June 10, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
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