June 10th, 2008
01:00 PM ET
14 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. Cindy,CA

    In the end it all comes down to who can bring in the most money to the party. We will buy our president and feel sorry when he messes up. We need to look at the long term results of our actions today. There is no quick fix to America's problems we are dealing with. We don't need a Obama type to buy his way in and control our country...

    June 10, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  2. Ron Borzini

    McCain will be our Herbert Hoover; OBAMA IS OUR FDR.

    June 10, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  3. 1st Mrs. McCain is a HERO

    The Republican National Committee immediately seized on that report, saying Johnson's appointment "raises serious questions about Obama’s judgment."

    Yeah,,, well where is the judgement for RNC letting McCain VETO EVERY SINGLE BEER... I find that frightening..!!

    .................Save Beer from McCain vetos... Now that poor judgement...

    ........McCain's judgement... something he should have a drink on.....

    June 10, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  4. john fom LA

    I love this-CHANGE you CAN NOT believe in-I do agree with one Obamabot-that this Whole election is VERY "American Idol"-Obama is popular so let's elect him!-What has this country come to????

    June 10, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  5. MJY

    So your going to be loyal to a guy you really dont want in office anyway to get back at a guy, who in my eyes, won fair and square??? WOW This election is really going to show us where we really are as a country. People bring up the subject experience..... Look who we had in office for the last 8 years....... Real experience vet their......

    I see why most people dont want to vote. For what.

    I am almost certain McCain is going to win this election. Just pray for all the people that are going to dye for no apparent reason. Im not going to worry cause I will move to Europe where there money is actually worth something.......

    June 10, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |

    I Think It Shows A Lack Of Judgement, Foresight, Experience, And Patriotism To VETO MY BEER!

    June 10, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  7. Don

    This is so arrogant of him to have criticized countrywide and has a rep from them vetting for him. I think Obama is smarter than he looks. He figured out a way to preach change, yet he cannot move forward because his inexperience will not allow him use people out of Washington. So he uses the same old people so that they can make him look good and he takes all the credit. He is definitely not the messiah and his supporters who bash Clinton and think they will change the USA with Obama, have a better shot at seeing snow in WestAfrica. CNN post my comment instead of some of these vague ones.

    June 10, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  8. Never Ever Obama Rama

    This is what Obama calls change, sounds like the same old politics to me. I voted for Hillary because I felt she was the strongest canidate to run this country. I don't think Obama is a very strong canidate to be running this country. That's why this Democrat will be voting Republican in Nov.

    MCCAIN 08!

    June 10, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  9. Down with Obama

    You Obamabots are really good and drinking kool-aid!!!!!!!!!!

    Most don't have a mind of their own.....too bad...lots of disappointment for you all in November....just hope they put something in your kool-aid that will calm you all down!!!

    June 10, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  10. John Smith

    This will help McCain, just in case he gets a "heart attack" in the process. There will be plenty of people to help him to the ER room in time. Think of all the Obama folks who will be there, and are very sympathetic!

    So, for health reasons, Obama should probably accept only 1-2 of these to help McCain out! Otherwise, I see no use for such a process.

    Given that these guys generall get "older very fast" when they are in office, who would want to get MCain to the Oval Office and risk the prospect of an aging president!

    June 10, 2008 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  11. MJY

    Please Hillary supporters vote for Ralph Nader or BOB BARR.... NOT MCCAIN

    June 10, 2008 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  12. JOEL

    Obama / Gore 08 that all am saying.

    June 10, 2008 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  13. TXBad1

    Obama, and any other than Hillary will be a total slap in the Face to all her supporters, and you Know what, Not only will Obama Loose in November but all those super delegates running they can say bye bye also, and those running next year till we the Voters reform the DNC!

    June 10, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  14. salih

    response to huong
    i was wondering something..you seemed focus on trust..how did you come to trust hilary after all the misquotes, retractions of stories, fund raising rules that were broken, hiring of incompetent campaign leaders that she fired, losing a huge lead in the campaign, misjudging on the importance of where she should show up, trying to have the rules changed when she wanted, terrible money management, voting for a terrible was that has bankrupt the U.S. financially and morally...just what did you find to trust there..is that how you want the country run?

    June 10, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  15. history repeats

    wow obama must really be clean! the best they can do id hit him because of someone elses relationship with one of the largest mortgage companies in the country? what did these people expect there was a mortgage boom alot of people were making money did you think jim johnson was going to turn down doing business with countrywide because of their questionable sub prime loans? nobody except mortgage brokers knew about the sub prime crisis until it exploded so please stop with this nonsense...

    June 10, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  16. robert

    thats the least of it Joe Johnson is a member of the American Bilderberg group–not a good thing

    June 10, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  17. buba, cincinnati oh

    Folks, where's the meat?
    Getting money and services from lobbysts is the issue here!
    I don't see how a loan between two parties can be linked to Obama's campaign since it does not benefit it in any way.
    If there was something fishy with that loan, Mccain should have some DA file charges or shut up.
    By his own far reaching logic, McCain should be put on trial for murder or wrongful death for authorizing the war in Iraq...duh!

    June 10, 2008 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  18. California Girl

    This is not good! Like I said before, the Republican is working over-time to find any kind of dirt on Obama. Let the games begin.

    This is what they do, to win!

    June 10, 2008 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  19. sunny florida

    Here we go again. The anointed one says one thing, distances himself from the people/staff around him who are saying or doing what he says he deplores, then he blames the opponent on "playing games"(your best defense is a good offense). Give me a break. This is "new politics"? Changing the way we do business in Washington? Same old, same old. Typical politician with a shiny new look. Audacity of Hype is more like it. If this is as an important decision as there is out there for him at this point, what's wrong with asking that he use advisors who have no "ties" (aka sounds similar to lobbyists, eh?) with questionable, conflict-of-interest decisions or relationships? Not alot to ask!

    This long-time Independent, turned Democrat (not for Obama), is turning back to Independent. America is in serious trouble if this guy gets elected. “NOBama. Keep the Change”.

    June 10, 2008 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  20. Billy J Austin, TX

    Hillary or Wes Clark for VP. Ya don't need a bunch of well heeled northern effete to tell ya that, Barack. Man up, and bring the party together.

    June 10, 2008 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  21. No McBush

    McCain leaving his first wife (after her accident) to marry Cindy should be a bigger issue than this!!!!

    Huffington post has an article with McBush's 1st wife, where she said a big Issue in their marriage was that McBush tried to act 25, when he was 40???? (That's right sleeping around, and partying, while his 1st wife loss 4-5 inches in height due to crushed and removed bones!!!) And has a bad limp. But no you are a conservative........... RIGHT! Conveniently Conservative-LOL

    But we care that a non paid volunteer got a mortgage when everyone else did?????? And that helps you how?

    June 10, 2008 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  22. McPREZ08

    One man one woman 4ever. We RULE and don't forget it.

    June 10, 2008 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  23. Keepin it simple in CT

    If you liked the status of our country during the past 8 years, then vote for McCain....

    If you are willing to take a risk on something different (but of course with no guarantee) then vote Obama... but if he fails don't complain and vote again in 2012 for someone else

    If you are a sore-loser Hillary supporter (not that all are, some are graceful and proud) and vote for McCain just out of protest that she was beat (and yes it was close) than you really need to check your emotional maturity.....

    June 10, 2008 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  24. MLG

    McCain 08

    June 10, 2008 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  25. Charlotte

    Obama is a typical politician. They take money from anybody and use everybody to futher their careers. Throw anyone under the bus who may pose a threat to their careers. Anyone who believes Obama is any different, needs their heads examined.

    June 10, 2008 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
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