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. Beer Truck

    Whoi cares about this MUMBO JUMBO JIBBER JABBER CLAPTRAP! I am more worried about McCain vetoing my COLD BEER!

    Obviously McCain is no PATRIOT because vetoing the golden ale is downright unAmerican!

    Obama would NEVER veto out beer! Obama has my vote!

    June 10, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  2. Hugh, Nova Scotia

    I dream of a day when people will judge the worth of a candidate by their words, ideas and actions, not their political party. Unfortunately people today seem to hold to their party's candidate with near blind religious fervor. These are sad days indeed.

    June 10, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  3. MARYANN Oswego IL

    I do not want either nominee...Let's bring back Clinton/Gore...Hillary this time and Al Gore...both of them know what it is like to win the popular vote ...BUT then a few selected judges or delegates select who the American people have to pick and live with...Hillary Clinton/ Al Gore or Al Gore/Hillary Clinton. Obama is a liar and cheater,McCain I just do not know?

    June 10, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |

    Ho Ho Ho
    You think this Countrywide stuff is dirt?
    Wait until the real dirt about Obama and his little elves is uncovered and then watch the Obama snow-job.
    What fools ye mortals be to believe in me and Obama.

    June 10, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  5. Adam - TX

    Sounds like you have a pile of cover-ups...these things matter...you're only as good as the company you keep. You can decide who to include on your committees. Get over the "non-issue defense". If it wasn't a big deal, you could refute the claims.

    June 10, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  6. Sam

    Honey, you haven't even begun to hear all of Obama's trash. Hillary is well-investigated.


    June 10, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  7. David

    I don't see the relevance, this is an extreme stretch by the GOP. In fact the only major newspaper to report on the story was the LA Times. Most papers, including conservative ones, totally ignored this as it seems to have little relevance to anything. He's nothing more than an advisor to pick a vice president, who cares what loans he got once in his life?

    June 10, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  8. Viva Obama/Clinton 08

    A Vote for Barrack Obama is a vote for Hillary Clinton because they support the same cause.
    A vote for John McCain is a vote for a George Bush third terms more wars, bad economy and more country will not want to deal with our country. If you were really a true Hillary supporter that want a better America for this generation and the future generation you must vote Democratic this November. Please do yourself a good favor and vote for the Democratic nominee this coming November.
    No hard feeling because Hillary has none against Barrack. We must put the Republican out of the white house.
    As you can see, we are in a big recession and that will get worse with a John McCain.
    I want to tell John McCain that gas tax holiday is not a solution for our energy problem and is not going to be a solution. This gas tax holiday shows that John McCain do not understand the economy. Keating 5 john McCain took money from the Keating five for political favor.

    June 10, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  9. Randy

    Would those of you who keep bringing up the Keating 5 please do some research on that. My god, I am only 30 years old and have more information than you. The prosecutor in the Keating 5 scandal has publically stated that he asked Congress to completely clear John Mccaine of any wrong doing in that scandal. If you remember correctly the other indivuals were all democrats. The democratic congress did not want to only censure democrats due to how it would have looked so they included John Mccaine, against the wishes of the prosecutor.

    I see Obama wants to inject 50 billion stimulus package....hmmm thats funny he was complaining the last one was too small a percentage of the GDP to have any effect....yet he proposes one not even a third of the size.

    He calls suspending the gas tax pandering? Wow then was is this horsecrap.

    Obama could very well be a great president someday...he is a great speaker which is very important but you must also have some basic grasp of the issues.

    Please people, we have sat by for 8 years while someone tried to "learn" to be President. This is not time for experimenting!

    June 10, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  10. Janine

    It would be irresponsible of Obama not to listen to the majority of voters who backed Hiliary Clinton. He was gain their trust and support if he chose her for the VP spot. Anyone else shows a lack of consideration to what the people he supposedly represents have to say! HILARY FOR VP, PLEASE!!! (Their platforms are in almost total agreement anyway. He has the charisma and she has the brains.)

    June 10, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  11. McPREZ08

    Save the babies, overturn it. Let them fight republicans UNITE. One man and one woman 4ever.

    June 10, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  12. JeromeM

    Of course he doesn't vet anyone just ask Wright and Farrakhan. As a matter of fact he welcomes crooks like Rezko. He is the slimiest Washington insider in years. I just hope he legalizes cocaine so that he isn't busted for it. If it taught him something than maybe it should be a part of every child's education. He sems to think so.

    June 10, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  13. azher

    Like Prez Clinton infamously said.. Give Me A Break..

    June 10, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  14. John

    The problem with Johnson is that he is his ties to special interests which Obama keeps saying that he will abolish. How can someone with ties to special interest groups be impartial in picking a VP if he can't be impartial during his 9 to 5 job?

    June 10, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  15. Enlightened Voter -

    mcwar, we are so bloody tired of the repulsive repub spin on things. Let's talk about the keating 5, or charlie black or your stepford wife stealing drugs to support her habit. Seeing her arrested was hilarious, i remember it like it was yesterday. BTW did she ever get off of them or is that why I never hear two words out her dazed mouth?

    June 10, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  16. see?


    That it how he gets his way.

    No one is allowed to criticise him.

    That and the racist label if you DO.

    June 10, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  17. Bob, Houston

    This is the best the Republicans can do? Johnson is heading a committee to gauge party interest and support for Obama's VP options. Johnson is not making policy decisions. There isn't even an administration yet.

    Attack the man on policy, not on these "sideshow" topics. If they want to get personal, let's talk about McCain's army of lobbyists running his campaign...or why not ask Cindy McCain why she won't release her returns.

    June 10, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  18. Jordan

    McSame falters in the two most important issues facing America's Future. He admits he knows nothing about the economy and when it comes to Middle East policy, he doesn't understand the fundemental difference between Sunni and Shiite.

    Enough said!

    Anybody but GOP

    June 10, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  19. 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!

    June 10, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  20. Berat, Park Ridge, IL

    Let me get this straight... McCain's CAMPAIGN MANAGER was ACTIVELY working as a lobbyist during the primaries... but McCain and the RNC are jumping on OBAMA for a guy who's vetting his potential vice-presidents? Does the RNC SERIOUSLY think they're gonna win this one???

    Sometimes, I get very frustrated with the Democratic Party - enough to leave. But then I get a glimpse of just how hypocritical the other side is and thank my lucky stars I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the Republican Party.

    June 10, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  21. Michael Lorton, Virginia

    When you have "them" by their wallets........you have total control.......and when money speaks......the truth remains silent.

    June 10, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  22. Concerned Democrat

    I'll check back in after Denver...these idiotic news stories are pathetic.

    June 10, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  23. David

    AJ... what research are u talking about? Obama has set records for small donors and individuals. Legally corporations can't donate money to campaigns. They do it through PAC's and 527 groups. Both of which Obama has denounced. He doesn't accept money from corporations directly or indirectly, Your research is completely flawed. Name one corporation that has donated to his campaign.

    June 10, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  24. Arnie, NY

    A true picture of Obama is slowly beginning to surface. By election day
    it will surely be a very ugly picture and he will be buried in a landslide.

    June 10, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  25. Gary in VA

    I am kinda of hoping that some of the negative white people on here get McCain so when American goes to crap I can laugh and say I told you so. I have a recession proof job. I am a Radiologist and as longs as people need radiological diagnostic diagnosis I will be getting a paycheck. Vote McCain, I can't wait to get the last laugh. Ha, ha, ha,ha. My mother always told me a hard head makes a soft behind.

    June 10, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
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