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. Lora B.

    Yep, we Clinton supporters may be bitter and angry, but we're not racists, and we're certainly not worthless. In fact, we're gonna band together come November and show you all what we're made of. In November, we will remember!

    June 10, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  2. brice, greenville, south carolina


    June 10, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  3. Thee, Los Angeles

    Hoang UC Berkley,

    Quit your crying. The same reason you wouldn't vote for Obama is the same reason why I didn't vote for HRC. I don't trust her. Why are you so bitter? Nobody is forcing you to vote for Obama. Go ahead and stay home, write in HRC's name, or vote for McCain.

    Maybe I should send a box of tissue over to UC Berkley with the attention of Hoang! You can use that to wipe your tears away. Don't be a poor sports Hoang, if you are a Dem than vote for a Dem. You are from UC Berkley for crying out loud. Isn't that where the left wing liberals are from?

    Good luck with your decisions!

    June 10, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  4. Rob

    This looks bad on Obama, but what gets me angry is people like this that KNOW they have shady pasts or connections not stepping down or withdrawing their services. People have gotten so used to getting over they don't understand the concept of an honorable withdrawal.

    June 10, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  5. Doh

    Hey "Hoang, UC Berkeley" there are other third party candiates you know!! If Obama or Mcsane does not fit your bill you do have a choice.
    You Clinton immature cry baby!!!

    June 10, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  6. rd texas

    obama or his staff...one day will figure it out...what a bunch of peaheads...and they want my vote....it aint going to happen...writting in hillary

    June 10, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  7. tony

    Countrywide Mortgage guy -heads the VP Search and all Obama can say is that we are not getting mortgages-
    He doesn't understand that it is this attitude as well as these types of relationships that will keep him OUT of the White House–
    Some set !!
    If that was McCain–we wouldn't hear anything but-
    How dare him–think we are so stupid--

    June 10, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  8. California Girl

    MJames: Stop the Hate.

    June 10, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  9. MurphyMorseJohnson

    While McCain is floundering around with buttons, John, let's hope he doesn't push the wrong one.

    Vote Democrat

    June 10, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |



    They are only paid to attack... not think.

    June 10, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  11. Fight the liberal media!

    straight from Hillaryclinton.com


    by Vel at 6/7/2008 12:33:04 PM

    [Login or Create Account to Reply]
    We support you FOREVER!!!

    BUT we will NEVER support BO!!! He doesn't deserve it! He stole it!!! NEVER means NEVER!!!

    Also, we will FOREVER remember what BO, his nasty supporters, MSM, & the UNdemocratic DNC did in this election.

    McCain 08!!!

    Hillary 2012!!!

    by People at 6/7/2008 1:33:08 PM

    I love it! McCain has this wrapped up
    welcome former hillary supporters! together we will rid the US of abortion and homosexual marriage before our family structure crumbles! i dont care how many young women he hs affairs with, that is who you are supposed to have affairs with not young men or old woman. Go riddence liberal elite Obamorons!

    June 10, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  12. Shane


    June 10, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  13. Obama 's the winner 08/12

    lORA B . /You HRC fallowers have been calling him elitist among many other untrue words dreamed up and now you are saying if HRC .not on ticket it will prove to you he is an elitist so the question is if you were unsure then why call people names you had no knowledge of????????????????????
    You know Obama was raised poor ,lived poor but had the Hope of an education and paid fo years on his education .
    Get off it if you like seeing flagged draped coffins, injured warriors,Roe V Wade abolished ,no home ,gas while Bush frolics overseas and you love McShame /Bush policy so much then stop threatening us since you are already a Repub lican so your wish for more of this with McShame will be filled

    June 10, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  14. Chris, from WI

    Lora B.

    There is no rule that says the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has to select the person who finished second in the primary season no matter how close the race was. He has every right to choose whomever he deems is fit for the job.

    And stop pretending like you know exactly what's going on in Obama's thought process when trying to pick a VP. Saying he is elitist and thinks he's better than Clinton and her supporters if he doesn't pick her makes you sound very uneducated, bitter and ignorant. Think before you type.

    And why does everyone think making Clinton VP will be so wonderful? Do any of you know what the role of the VP is? I really can't imagine Clinton wanting that job; she could do so much more for the Obama administration if she was in a different role.

    June 10, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |

    Jim Geraghty takes a look at longstanding blog buzz over Barack Obama’s birth certificate, which the campaign refused to release to the St. Petersburg Times in April:

    We tried to obtain a copy of Obama’s birth certificate, but his campaign would not release it and the state of Hawaii does not make such records public.
    Has anyone seen it? Why shouldn’t the record be in the public domain for presidential candidates?

    June 10, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  16. frank from SF

    a different kind of politician. Hmmm. No lobbyists. Obama criticized Countrywide Mtgs during his campaign. He criticized Clinton and McCain for their connections to lobbyists. Fire Johnson. Put your money with your mouth is. Or are you just speeched but no substance.

    Hillary supporter who will not support Obama, unless Clinton is VP

    June 10, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |

    Obama Votes Party Line 3X More Than McCain

    McCain has voted against his party on average 10.7% of the time.

    Meanwhile, in his admittedly brief Senate career, Mr. Obama has only done so 3.5% of the time.

    You can see for yourself the vast number of times Mr. McCain voted against his party, compared to the paltry few times Mr. Obama has done so.

    (Which is of course one of the facts that has so endeared Senator McCain to our watchdog media, as opposed to the GOP base.)

    Maybe we should try to be clever too, and start calling Mr. Obama ‘Barry Reid.’

    June 10, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  18. Jeffrey

    Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is an excellent choice for Obama’s Vice President! Vladimir Putin will be retired as Russian Prime Minister soon. He made a superb job for rejuvenating Russia from ashes to the rise of world’s energy superpower. We need him for our country to rejuvenate our economy. Please pick Vladimir Putin as Obama’s Vice President! You never find a better man/woman than Putin for Obama’s Vice President!

    June 10, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  19. 4HILLARY

    Can i please just finish me waffles??

    ha ha MR WAFFLES

    June 10, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  20. TexDem

    "Obama tapped Johnson, a longtime Washington insider, to head his vice-presidential search late last month. ".....
    whose first reported public foray is a trip to Capitol Hill to huddle up with other "longtime Washington insiders"......
    Change? Change?
    Not a very good first step toward change.

    June 10, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  21. James, Pennsylvania

    Of course Obama doesn't have any lobbyists or corrupt people on his team........and he was never present during one of his reverand's racist anti-America rants, and he wasn't that close to Tony Rezko, and his uncle liberated Auschwitz, and he didn't race-bait by marching with Oprah to South Carolina during the primaries, and he didn't accept corporate money during his campaign, and his name was never Barry, and his parents weren't Ivy League educated, and he never called rural Pennsylvanians bitter, and he never winked at Canada and Mexico when he said he would be tough on NAFTA, and he was never raised by a Bank Vice-President Grandmother, and he was never privileged, and he never told his advisors that he would have to wait and evaluate whether or not it was okay to withdraw troops until after he was in office despite ALWAYS being opposed to the War in Iraq, no NOT Saint Obama!

    Obama reminds me of that song Tell Me Lies, Tell Me Lies, Tell Me Sweet Little Lies.

    June 10, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  22. paulie_nj

    I'm sure Obama's excuse will be the same as it was for Wright, Flegler, Ayers and Rezko: "He is not the person I know". Can't wait for him to use that one again.

    June 10, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  23. julie mn

    Hillary won kentucky because its sooo close to Arkansas,say obama, Oh ,,,what an idiot !!

    Why is Donna B still with the dem party,? I will leave if they overturn the will of the people!!!! poor women full of hate and revenge, bet she is best friends with michelle O......

    June 10, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  24. Glenn

    The Republican National Committee needs to know up front what goes down comes down. McBush's judgement is not only going to be questioned, but we all know that McSame's judgement is seriously flawed. It's even flawed within his own party. His age, senility and health will virtually cancel out McShame as a serious candidate even before we start questioning his substantive qualities and experiences.
    He has lost his bearing as well. He is a flip flopper and is a bigger whinner than Bill Clintion and that says a lot.

    June 10, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  25. 4HILLARY

    Great Idea – Lets elect the NOMINEE who recieved the MOST primary votes!

    Obama is the corrupt DNC SELECTEE, and NOT the Legitimate NOMINEE. We shall never support this Marxist T*H*U*G!

    June 10, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
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