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. Watching around the world

    Falls in the catagory of silly season.

    June 10, 2008 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |




    June 10, 2008 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  3. wake up

    Obama is open to inclusiveness....
    as long as you dare not disagree with him. Or criticise him.

    He even sacrificed his grandma and Rev Wright for personal gain and control of the image he was creating.

    This guy is getting scarier by the minute.

    Lead or dictate?

    Inspire or force?

    Hope or Hype?

    June 10, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  4. Whiskey

    If any of you readers or posters in this blog are swayed by anything an Obama, Clinton, or McCain supporter says is just simply weak minded

    June 10, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  5. Randy

    Can any of the obamabots tell me how he plans to lower the gas prices. He is always talking about it and blaming republicans, and I have searched his campaign website but can't find his solution.

    June 10, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  6. Ellie in Aurora, CO

    So someone got a good deal on a mortgage? Who wouldn't take it? It was legal – what's the big deal? A real s-t-r-e-t-c-h McCain. Perhaps you should be more concerned about Phil Gramm's active lobbying for no regulation on banks and mortgage companies. Now that hurt the American people!!

    June 10, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  7. Proud American

    Please.... Grasping for straws. Lets Go Dems!!!!!

    June 10, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  8. Hitler youth all over again

    Don't you dare to criticise the Great Obama.

    The Obama youth are in uniform ready to do his bidding.

    So bow down or shut up.

    June 10, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  9. Seah

    Obama Says one thing and does another. He points fingers and blames and condemns people his whole campaign.

    When it comes to him, He feels he is above the rest and can do as he pleases and it is Ok. Because he has been given a free ride so far.

    When Obama does something against what he preaches., and someone points it out, they are no good.

    Obama is a 10 year old kid in a man's body.

    Will Obama ever grow up and take on some responsibility for himself?

    Getting these people to work for him *cough* for nothing. Then getting favors from mortgage companies, is wrong.

    I do not see this company giving a whole town in small town America a break, probably dollar for dollar would be a cheaper break for all of them than this one guy.

    So yes, For the guy (Obama) who swears he is for the people, wants to keep politics clean, he is being a hypocrite, when it comes to his word and the people.

    40 year voting Democrat against Obama

    June 10, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  10. Andriea-California

    This story is a waste of time. CNN must be really bored and can't find any news worth reporing on. .
    Please give me something worth reading. This is a non-issue.

    June 10, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  11. Lisa CA

    The facade put on by Obama about the DNC not taking PAC or lobbyist money is laughable. Hey youngsters!!! Open your eyes!!!! They are just donating online through bundlers (new fangle name for lobbyists).

    My mama never raised no fool!!! They are all politici

    June 10, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  12. aaron from minneapolis

    Anyone who says Obama is shady for knowing Mr. Johnson because he has his mortgage with countrywide is absurd!

    How many people who support Obama have a mortgage with countrywide? How many Clinton supporters have a mortgage with countrywide? How many McCain supporters have a mortgage with countrywide? A LOT!! they're a major lender.

    I also heard that Obama ate at McDonald's and they have bad tomotoes there. No to Obama. (end sarcasm)

    June 10, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  13. no critism of the great Obama

    Isn't that what Obama does best- silence all criticism.

    He keeps the race card in his back pocket just for this purpose.

    Dare to disagree, you racists.

    That will be an ever-so-much-fun presidency.

    MY way or the highway.

    Oh wait... just like cocky, arrogant, boastful Bush.

    June 10, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  14. maca

    Hillary 2012!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 10, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  15. whatever!!

    Ok Democrat for McCain.....At least he didn't say he came under sniper attack while talking about Countrywide Bank. And you can't be a true Democrat if your for McCain. You can only have a true desire for more of the same diasters that this country is dealing with now.

    But on the bright side YOU may be related to Kevin Bacon...so maybe you should just pursue an acting career and your first role would be to play a smart american who looks at the real issues at hand!!

    June 10, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  16. Brian

    This is bogus. I had my home loan through Countrywide... does that mean I'm a criminal and shouldn't be given a job?

    The Republican party is a huge collection of hypocrites. Who do you think was least touched my the mortgage crisis? Now they want to tag Obama's VP team as somehow having benefitted?

    Give me a break.

    June 10, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  17. Floyd Goff

    My comment will probably not be posted because I am not making a an out of my way effort to give a twisted slant to every word that he says, to every person he has ever come into contact with. I was H. Clinton supporter, but it was very clear that your reporting was bias in her favor. Thanks for that, but I don't see how you think the public is so stupid that they can't see,read or count. You never see the kind picking on McCain, or H.Cinton for people they have come into contact with during there life time.Your base panel is maed up of two white women and two men, and it stands out every time they open thir mouth. You speak of H.Clintons' 18 million reasons to stay in the race. She says herself Obama out spent her.In spite of this she has a big debt and Obama has money in his campaign. H.Clinton does not have supporters in those numbers, those were Republicans who do not wamt run against Obama, and there money went to Republicans. The second group were in many cases people not very well read, and what they are is what they are, or I could say political news host display every day.

    June 10, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  18. Bjoerlingfan

    To Andy J-

    "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 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  19. Lisa CA

    The facade put on by Obama about the DNC not taking PAC or lobbyist money is laughable. Hey youngsters!!! Open your eyes!!!! They are just donating online through bundlers (new fangle name for lobbyists).

    My mama never raised no fool!!! They are all politicians, at least McCain and Clinton were honest about where they were getting thier money!!!

    Obama wants to serve up this BS about not taking money from lobbyist, which is exactly what he's doing, but it doesn't have to be disclosed!!!

    June 10, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  20. Kathy in Oregon

    Obama has been a hypocrite since day one.

    His "holier than thou" attitude turned me off during the primary campaign.

    So I will not be voting for this self-righteous Clinton-basher in November.

    June 10, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  21. bobby

    Let me get this straight. Johnson, a supposedly rich guy, got some mortgages from Countrywide who is one of the reasons for the mortgage crisis so that makes him "EVIL" in the eyes of the GOP. The mortgage crisis was caused by subprime loans being given to people who couldn't afford the loans because of GOP support of deregulation of the mortgage loan industry. Giving a "favorable" loan to a rich guy is probably one of Countrywide's better business moves. GOP...this is laughable.

    June 10, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  22. Renee

    To all Democratics and Repubicans and Independents if you are concerned about the ECONOMY Please don't vote Mccain it will be same Bush term just look at the results of the ECONOMY NOW. Mccain will embrace Bush Polices.

    June 10, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  23. Michael

    One of the biggest laughs for me during the Democratic primary process was the ridiculous claim that Obama would "change" things. The rich fat cats who put up the 20-25 million dollars for him to begin the running process own him. He is backed by some of the richest industralists in our country (the people who actually run our country! Obama is not going to Washington and then kick these same supporters in the teeth. It will be more of the same. Obama's choice for heading his VP committee proves it.

    Wouldn't it have been better to choose someone who understands the ins and outs of the system and goes to work hitting the ground running Rather than an inexperienced man who will find his way. Oratory will not help America solve its seeming insurmountable problems. The Democrats have only elected 3 presidents in 56 years. The media, intellectuals, and liberals always drive a candidate to the nomination, who cannot win the general election. I believe that we have done it again.

    June 10, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  24. Ray

    I'm not sure what McCain means by "people like that". Is he suggesting thCharles Keating, perhaps?

    June 10, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  25. J in Dallas

    So Obama should vet his vetters?
    What about vetting the vetters that are vetting the vetters?

    The guy got some favorable terms on a loan. So, what? That's life. This is only a story if he got the loan then somehow he didn't have to it pay back, defaulted without any consequence, and/or used his influence to aid in furthering the mortgage mess.

    If a family/friend were a mortgage broker, wouldn't that person be the first one you'd call to get a good deal on a mortgage?

    June 10, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
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