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. LB

    I hope the Rep. don't find out Obama eats spaghetti or he'll be accused of being in the Italian moffia.

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

    Once again the republican party has nothing concrete on Obama so they try to attack him on the smallest things what they need to be worried about is how Mccain lied to the press saying he never said nice things about hillary when the video says otherwise he acutally denied saying anything. And they want to talk about judgement Mccain can't even remember things that he has said! All hillary supporters better think very hard on this one do you want to go down with the titanic or would you rather jump on the life boats?

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

    Tell everyone “ we will vote for MCCAIN a repub b/c republicans have good ideas -just as obama said in the primary ——we will follow obama advice –and vote repubs-JOHN MCCAIN –

    June 10, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  4. frank from SF

    Dear Fact Check- How are Hillary Supporters racist. And can you explain to me why the 90% of Black Americans who voted for Obama(many of whom just because he is black) aren't racist. Remember Toni Morrison, a leading black author and activist called Clinton, the first Black president

    You need to check your facts..

    June 10, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  5. Obama 's the winner 08/12

    CNN Thanks for removing blogs

    June 10, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |

    Crushing dissent isn’t democratic.

    Stealing votes isn’t democratic.

    Identity theft isn’t democratic.

    Democrats actually don’t even have a candidate in this race. McCain is a Republican and Obama is a Libertarian.

    Not a Democrat in sight because the corrupt Democratic Party put out a contract on the only Democrat that had the guts to stand up for Democratic Principals.

    June 10, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |

    Remind OBAMA about his promise of PUBLIC FIANANCING -UH UMMM UM FLIP -FLOP

    June 10, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  8. K

    > 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.

    If you support her, why don't you listen to her when she says not to vote for McCain?

    June 10, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  9. MD

    McCane and the Republicans are so desparate this time around that they have to hang on to any little bit of "news" to make themselves look better. It's sad and pathetic, but true that George Bush has created a sense of desparation within the Republican Party, the likes of which has not been seen since his father was running for his second term.

    How we allowed George Bush a second term, is beyond me. However, I am positive, we will NOT allow a third term through McCane. Fearmongering will not work this time.

    June 10, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  10. ron canada

    every obama supporters is an ostrich whenever there is a concern about him they put there head in the sand and hope it will go away.the man has affiliated himself at one time or another with to many antiamerican people to be coincidental but they and the liberal news media (cnn) especially jack cafferty chooses to ignore the facts look at how he won the senate seat legal yes but very underhanded yet you say it's ok. he constantly lies about his relationships with certain people but thats ok. he calls his grandmother a racist then says she's a typical white person but thats ok he as thrown everybody that's been close to him under the bus but thats ok.if he gets elected president and trows you all under the bus will that be ok

    June 10, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  11. Charlotte

    I do not want Obama to pick Hillary! She needs to stay far away from him and his wife. Their anti-american mentality is scarry. I will write Hillary Clinton on my ballot in November. If he chooses her, I will 'gag' and vote for him, but I really perfer not to.

    June 10, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |

    OBAMA""it,s okay to trash to bill clinton everywhere -but my name and my wife is offlimits""lol–hypocrite

    June 10, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  13. Beltway Insider

    Smart people knew Obama would be the democratic nominee.

    Smart people know he will be the next Presdient.

    Whining, complaining, crying, and throwing temper tantrums will not change this. Racists and bitter old hags will not change this. Nothing will change this.

    Obama WILL be our next President. Period.

    OBAMA '08

    June 10, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  14. Todd S

    How can Hillary supporters continue to say that they will vote for McCain if she is not on the ticket. This is just beyond belief. By doing that you will crush most of what you belive in and it will not be able to be fixed by then voting her into office in 2012.

    – McCain will appoint the justices to overturn Roe v Wade - He stated that on his website

    – McCain will do NOTHING to improve healthcare

    Regardless of what is said, this will be Bush's 3rd term but only worse.

    Please do yourselves a service and get over the hurt and work to get the best option into the White House

    Obama '08

    June 10, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  15. Todd

    For all those responses that they don't trust Obama and don't like his policies and would rather write in Hillary, consider what the Nader protest votes got us. Yes, you have every right to protest by writing in HRC but will you complain when McCain maintaines the same policies as the current administration? If you don't like either candidate, it might be a better choice to then pick the one that offends the least. Don't tell me you liked Clinton and will then facilitate the presidency of the one diametrically opposed to her entire platform. That seems a bit short sighted.

    June 10, 2008 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  16. ms.sims

    This is getting ridiculous already and the race just started...next they'll say his mailman cheated on his taxes last year, so that too must be something that goes against his character. You can tell they don't have any dirt to throw on him. In the 15 months he's been running the only things they could come up with are what OTHERS have said and DONE. I can't even believe McCain's camp would open up the topic of shady characters and dealing. You can just look at his past (Keating 5) and present and tell he's no saint. But I think people are smart enough to figure out the truth. With the internet so full of infomation why sit around and believe everything you hear research it for yourself!!

    June 10, 2008 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  17. Sue

    "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"

    Right! All filthy rich panelists who stole from the poorer Americans to get their goodies are now going to tell Americans what their government should be like. Right!!

    June 10, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |

    He This Is The Best That MC Wrinkle And His Team Can Come Up With They Are Done In Their Bid For The Presidency!

    June 10, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  19. foosayer

    Smacks of poor judgement on the campaign's part. People wh even have the appearance of insider sweetheart deals need to be vetted and spuned to stay on message.
    Obama's response was generalized and oblique. Yes, WSJ is now Rupert's paper, which would give one pause, but investigative journalism is to be applauded no matter where it comes from. But could we hope for the same vigor in exploring McCains connections. Probably not enough time to vet them all.
    Obama making light of the need to vet his top campaign people seems disingenuous. If this is the cleanest guy available, then perhaps Washington is too far gone for anyone to help.
    Please, no more ammunition for the distractionists.

    Republican Obama Supporter on day one who hopes for better from his campaign.

    June 10, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |

    Obama is a typical politician. WHO PLAYS POLITICE -CHICAGO WAY WHICH IS QUIET DIRTY -– 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 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  21. ch

    Hillary has more than earned the VP spot – 18 million votes. The record number of votes received in a presidential primary (Yes, those were millions of REAL people that voted in REAL elections in FL and MI).

    If Hillary is not on the ticket as VP then many of these 18 million (myself included) are GONE.

    I have voted for a democrat in every primary, general and local election since 1988. And I want the opportunity to vote for the smartest and strongest candidate ever – HILLARY!

    June 10, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  22. FAYE

    immy velman June 10th, 2008 1:47 pm ET



    June 10, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  23. Barack the Vote in RI

    To "Hoang", "aware", "jason" and the rest of you closet racists disguised as HRC "supporters"…….

    If this is the best dirt the Republicans can dig up then they are desperate and lack common sense. Obviously Obama is doing something right……against all odds, he couldn't have come this far if he didn't know what the issues were and how to solve them. For you to throw your country under the bus, so to speak, and recklessly support a man like McCain, who embraces another 100 years in Iraq, tax cuts for the wealthy, high food and gas prices (not to mention gas tax gimmicks), outrageous job losses and unprecedented numbers of foreclosures then not only are you insane…..but you might need professional help as well. You guys must be prejudice as hell to choose suffering over a candidate who pretty much mirrors all the issues HRC stands for.....check out her website and get a clue.

    June 10, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  24. FedUp

    "Non-issue. GOP should get a life and worry about gas price that is cruising to $5."

    You mean those created by the Dems in Congress, DOUBLED YES DOUBLED since they took office, and increased $.35 in one month since they refused the bill put forth by the GOP. Get your heads out of you butts people, all you want is tax tax tax.

    June 10, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  25. EMJ

    Wow! Any Clinton supporters claiming support for the Republican nominee had better go back and read the 'fight the liberal media' post.

    It said "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!"

    And you seriously plan to vote for the party this moron comes from?
    In case you forgot, if McCain gets in there, say hello to some very conservative supreme court judges who will effect our country for years to come. Don't cry when the goverment once again has the authority to tell a female American citizen what she can and can[t do regarding her own body. Continue to have the rest of the world hate the Republican 'kill, intimidate, over-run at all costs' view of how to treat the rest of the world. Keep giving it up for corporations, stay in Iraq for 100 years and continue another excuse for a terrortist attack here in the US. Any democrat that votes for McCain just because their candidate did not get the nomination is a selfish, immature and deserves the 3rd Bush term they are voting for.

    June 10, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
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