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. Pat


    Baa! Baa!!


    Get real. We aren't sheep. You're just scared that your way of life will end when we get a Democrat in the white house.

    June 10, 2008 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  2. Cynthia

    What are the Republicans nervous about – the Committee's recommendations of VP candidates? You all (the Republicans) have been tough on the people for eight years, so take it like a man. What's the best thing that can happen – the Democrats take back the White House.

    June 10, 2008 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  3. John

    McCain will veto beers while Obama is out visiting all 57 states.

    A flub is a flub. Let it go.

    June 10, 2008 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  4. goodcitizen

    Obama's so called "CHANGE"=SOS!
    The real person can have a change is our hero-Hillary Clinton!

    Hillary is PEOPLE'S president, we are staying with her forever!

    June 10, 2008 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  5. Loretta from California

    Ok! I admit it, my mortgage is owned by Countrywide too. I had better go and beat myself.

    June 10, 2008 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  6. Lora B.

    I am a Hillary supporter and if Obama picks someone else for his v.p. , it will prove that he is an elitist who thinks he is better than Clinton and all of her supporters.

    Obama should appease dems first and foremost with his v.p. choice. He should not attempt to satisfy independents and republicans with his choice as they are not his core constituency.

    If Clinton is not offered the v.p. slot, I will vote for McCain. McCain is a moderate and any supreme court nominees will likely be another "Sandra Day O'Conner". After all, republicans really don't want to overturn Roe v. Wade. Why would they – then the would lose the anti-abortion zealots that support their re-election bids. And besides, republicans don't want to support the babies already born – what would they do with the millions more born if the law were overturned?

    June 10, 2008 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  7. corin

    omgha! mccain campaign is hosted and hugged by a hurd of lobbyist!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They dont even have platform to stand on!!! lol this is going to be a rough year for mccain!!!

    Democrats 08

    June 10, 2008 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  8. FactCheck

    Dear bitter/angry/racists/worthless Clinton supporters... if you don't like it here so much why don't you all get the h*ll out? When McSame gets through outsourcing your jobs (pro NAFTA), cutting your healthcare, cutting social security and foreclosing your homes, Canada and Mexico will start to look awfully tempting.

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

    This just in – A McDonald's restaurant in Chicago once visited by Obama in 2003 has been robbed. Therefore, it is concluded that Obama is a robbery supporter, is soft on crime, or that all criminals support Obama. In an earlier story, as a life long Catholic, I am now considered a terrorist myself because there is such a thing as the IRA in Ireland. I also saw a story where Obama had watched a movie that involved a murder and immediatly the RNC said that was proof Obama was not ready to run the country and that all murederers support Obama. I can make this junk up just as well as Republicans and the Clinton-sore losing-haters.

    June 10, 2008 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  10. Tonya, Richmond, VA

    I'll be glad when November gets here so everyone can just shut up with their speculations. Good GOD.

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

    57 States. The man is a genius.

    June 10, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  12. The O

    BARACK THE VOTE!!!!!!!



    BARACK THE VOTE!!!!!!!!

    June 10, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  13. G

    Picking at straws why don't you report about John Mccain lobbyist ties. Especially the guy responsible for the mortgage crisis in the U.S is giving Mccain economic advice. This is far more interesting!

    June 10, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  14. Crush Rush

    Did mccain choose his new world dictator yet?Wait till he picks the real choice for Republican "puppet to be" if you want to see scary.

    June 10, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  15. Where does the stupidity end

    Rachel Ray had to give up her scarf, because some idiot said it looked too Middle Eastern. When did we become so paranoid? However, in support of that, since I believe the terrorists wear underwear, I pledge never to wear underwear again.

    I would like all the narrow minded Muslim haters to go even further – I have it on good advice that all Muslims, especially the terrorists, breath air, therefore..........

    ...and a final shout-out to Andy J, NY, who gave himself away with his the last three words in his post. Just pining away for them good old days when McCarthy was all the rage, eh? Looks like Obama's got all you right wing wackos in a tizzy now, doesn't he? ...and I'm lov'in it!

    June 10, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  16. just a guy

    you can't change the country in a day. Denying capable people oppurtunity to be a part of the change is going against the change itself. Only fools would do something like branding a person and then sidelining him till he is suitable for your gains.

    June 10, 2008 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  17. TXBad1

    This says it all
    "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.”

    Obama is Nothing of a leader or the right Person to Lead the United States as President!, Obamanites hers your Savior, a Hypocrite !

    McCain all the way!

    June 10, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  18. Richard, FL


    Please tell all the other Hillary supporters why, when she says she hopes and prays that her supporters will support Obama, she cannot be trusted to be honest or care about what happens to our nation.

    All America is waiting to hear.

    June 10, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  19. Glenn

    To those that want to overlook Obama's hypocrisy on this issue of Jim Johnson and Eric Holder heading his VP vetting team by pointing to McCain's own problems with Washington lobbyists and insiders, I have only this to say: Two wrongs don't make a right!

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

    You kids get off my lawn!

    June 10, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  21. Smiley from Conyers, GA

    I am so sick and tired of people calling Obama a Clinton basher! She lost because she had a horrible strategy. She bashed him twice as hard as he bashed her.

    Secondly, mostly every politician you come across will know some CEO from some company. They all run in the same circles. Get over it people. Get over yourselves! This is how the rich become famous. They rub elbows with people who are rich just like themselves.

    Lastly folks, please get a thesaurus, dictionary or write your comments in Word then cut & paste. For the love of this great country too many of you will have foreigners thinking we're all stupid!

    June 10, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  22. Obama /C.Kennedy

    The night Obama reached his goal McShame thought he could not be out shined so gave a speech in N.Orleans and was worried NO PEOPLE would attend so to locate this crowd they went searching for people in Sr.Citizen homes for the 600 in attendance .

    Way to GO OBAMA in 8 years from now you will go down as the greatest Preident we ever had .

    B. OBAMA /C.KENNEDY 08/12

    June 10, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  23. Penn State

    Hoang, UC Berkeley this is for you. With all respect you like many others have the right to complain about what could or might have been, since HILLARY lost the nomination I, like many others who are true DEMOCRAT will be voting for that candidate, in this case OBAMA. And the other thing you forget is a vote for MCBUSH is disrepecting the other DEMOCRAT voters who voted for HILLARY because she said it her self let forget about are differences and be one DEMOCRAT and WHITE BELONG TO DEMOCRAT COME NOV 08. so go ahead and tell yourself and many other how disapointed you are because HILLARY wasn't chosen. 18 mil for HILLARY and 18mil for OBAMA = power of unity. By the way I vote for HILLARY but now I am for OBAMA becuase I am true DEMOCRAT, period.

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

    OMG 'Fight the liberal media's' post is very scary. I no longer know what was going on in George Wallace's head back in the 60's just by reading that post. Jeez, I am a life long Republican who is now leaning towards the democratic party this year but then BAM, out comes a racist, lying, slimey, rant by someone who claims to be a democrat. Oh, wait, I forgot, he is a Clinton supporter so that explains the racist republican mindset.

    Oh yeah, Lisa CA, please GET REAL, educate yourself please.

    June 10, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  25. Alan Boyer

    McCain continues to demonstrate that he would rather attack people than debate the issues. His strategy team must be afraid on an intellectual conversation with Obama because they know that McCain is short on intellect as well as communication and leadership skills.

    June 10, 2008 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
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