October 6th, 2008
06:15 PM ET
13 years ago

McCain gets more aggressive: 'Who is the real Barack Obama?'

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/05/art.macdenver10050.gi.jpg caption="McCain will hold a rally in Tennessee later Monday."](CNN) - John McCain raised questions about Barack Obama's background and questioned the Illinois senator's truthfulness at a rally in New Mexico Monday, one day before the two White House hopefuls square off at the second presidential debate.

The comments, which came hours after Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin publicly questioned Obama's patriotism while raising questions about his connections to onetime radical William Ayers, are among McCain's harshest language to date on the campaigning trail and signal the campaign is ratcheting its attacks on the Illinois senator with less than 30 days remaining until Election Day.

Earlier: Palin says Obama 'palling around with terrorists'

"I don’t need lessons about telling the truth to American people," McCain will say according to prepared text sent out by his campaign. "And were I ever to need any improvement in that regard, I probably wouldn’t seek advice from a Chicago politician."

McCain delivered the remarks at a rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the hardly-fought battleground state where the latest CNN poll of polls shows the Arizona senator trailing slightly.

"My opponent’s touchiness every time he is questioned about his record should make us only more concerned," McCain also said. "For a guy who’s already authored two memoirs, he’s not exactly an open book. It’s as if somehow the usual rules don’t apply, and where other candidates have to explain themselves and their records, Senator Obama seems to think he is above all that."

The new language is part of the McCain campaign's effort to move away from the country's economic crisis as the primary narrative on the campaign trail, aides told CNN's Dana Bash earlier Monday. McCain, the aides say, will try to reframe the economic issue into an overall theme that Obama is still a virtual unknown, and is not the right person to steer the country through its current financial turmoil.

"All people want to know is: What has this man ever actually accomplished in government? What does he plan for America? In short: Who is the real Barack Obama?" McCain said.

Read excerpts from McCain's speech Monday

The Obama campaign quickly responded to the comments, calling McCain the "one truly angry candidate in this race.

“On a day when the markets are plunging and the credit crisis is putting millions of jobs at risk, the one truly angry candidate in this race kept up his strategy of ‘turning the page’ on the economy by unleashing another frustrated tirade against Barack Obama," Spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

My opponent has invited serious questioning by announcing a few weeks ago that he would quote - “take off the gloves.” Since then, whenever I have questioned his policies or his record, he has called me a liar.

Rather than answer his critics, Senator Obama will try to distract you from noticing that he never answers the serious and legitimate questions he has been asked. But let me reply in the plainest terms I know. I don’t need lessons about telling the truth to American people. And were I ever to need any improvement in that regard, I probably wouldn’t seek advice from a Chicago politician.

My opponent’s touchiness every time he is questioned about his record should make us only more concerned. For a guy who’s already authored two memoirs, he’s not exactly an open book. It’s as if somehow the usual rules don’t apply, and where other candidates have to explain themselves and their records, Senator Obama seems to think he is above all that. Whatever the question, whatever the issue, there’s always a back story with Senator Obama. All people want to know is: What has this man ever actually accomplished in government? What does he plan for America? In short: Who is the real Barack Obama? But ask such questions and all you get in response is another barrage of angry insults.

Our current economic crisis is a good case in point. What was his actual record in the years before the great economic crisis of our lifetimes?

This crisis started in our housing market in the form of subprime loans that were pushed on people who could not afford them. Bad mortgages were being backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and it was only a matter of time before a contagion of unsustainable debt began to spread. This corruption was encouraged by Democrats in Congress, and abetted by Senator Obama.

Senator Obama has accused me of opposing regulation to avert this crisis. I guess he believes if a lie is big enough and repeated often enough it will be believed. But the truth is I was the one who called at the time for tighter restrictions on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that could have helped prevent this crisis from happening in the first place.

Senator Obama was silent on the regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and his Democratic allies in Congress opposed every effort to rein them in. As recently as September of last year he said that subprime loans had been, quote, “a good idea.” Well, Senator Obama, that “good idea” has now plunged this country into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

To hear him talk now, you’d think he’d always opposed the dangerous practices at these institutions. But there is absolutely nothing in his record to suggest he did. He was surely familiar with the people who were creating this problem. The executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have advised him, and he has taken their money for his campaign. He has received more money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than any other senator in history, with the exception of the chairman of the committee overseeing them. Did he ever talk to the executives at Fannie and Freddie about these reckless loans? Did he ever discuss with them the stronger oversight I proposed? If Senator Obama is such a champion of financial regulation, why didn’t he support these regulations that could have prevented this crisis in the first place? He won’t tell you, but you deserve an answer.

Who is the real Senator Obama? Is he the candidate who promises to cut middle class taxes, or the politician who voted to raise middle class taxes? Is he the candidate who talks about regulation or the politician who took money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and turned a blind eye as they ran our economy into a ditch?

Is he the candidate who promises change, or is he the politician who has bought into everything that is wrong with Washington? We can’t change the system with someone who’s never fought the system.

Washington is on the wrong track and I’m going to set it right. The American people know my record. They know I am going to change Washington, because I’ve done it before. They know I’m going to reform our broken institutions in Washington and on Wall Street because I’ve done it before. They know I’m going to deliver relief to the middle class, because that’s what I’ve done.


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (431 Responses)
  1. KEATINGECONOMICS.COM

    How is John McCain's relationship with Charles Keating related to today's economic crisis???

    When the savings and loan industry collapsed, Keating's failed company put taxpayers on the hook for $3.4 billion and more than 20,000 Americans lost their savings. John McCain was reprimanded by the bipartisan Senate Ethics Committee, but the ultimate cost of the crisis to American taxpayers reached more than $120 billion.

    The Keating scandal is eerily similar to today's credit crisis, where a lack of regulation and cozy relationships between the financial industry and Congress has allowed banks to make risky loans and profit by bending the rules. And in both cases, John McCain's judgment and values have placed him on the wrong side of history.

    October 6, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  2. Nifty 60, female and white

    KEATING 5.....wondered when that was going to come out. Same mess different time.....same politician....MC CAIN. We should all remember and not listen to the smear that M<cWack is trying to distribute and poison peoles minds with.

    October 6, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  3. Danni

    Is he serious??! Has he seen the stock market today?

    October 6, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  4. Sara

    The Republican'ts get desperate!!!

    October 6, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  5. Huh?

    Well.... I guess he needs to try something new. A legitimate campaign wasnt working out for him.

    Obama/Biden 08

    October 6, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  6. James F., New Orleans, LA

    McCain's campaign is bankrupt!

    October 6, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  7. CNN

    where are obama's ads?

    October 6, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  8. Thed Weller

    So sad...he would have more honor if he would just "drop out" than to put a campaign before his country.:-(

    October 6, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  9. Dutch-VA

    McCain is gonna punk out tomorrow night. Sen. Obama is going to slam him for all of his negative campaigning and lies. McCain wanted a fight, now he's got one! He can't even look Sen. Obama face to face, eye to eye because he knows he's running an unhonorable campaign. You started John, we'll finish it. And send that puppet of a VP of yours back to Alaska. Not only have you allowed yourself to lose all of your credibility, you're taking her down with you. There is no honor in your campaign. I thought you were going to stay away from the Rev. Wright thing? But it's okay for your chihuahu to talk about it? You two are a disgrace. As much as I disagree with the republicans, Huckabee would've been a way better choice than Sen. McShame. At least he has some morals whereas you've proven to me that you'll do anything to win an election. As Sen. Obama stated when he was here in Newport News on Saturday, "THAT AIN"T RIGHT." No Way, No How, No McCain, No Palin.

    OBAMA/BIDEN 08 – READY TO LEAD NOW

    October 6, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  10. Tim

    McCain is either a liar or he has lost it. I don't believe McCain is the one in control of his campaign. The two sides of McCain are contrasted on the subject of negative campaigning.
    MCCAIN 2000: "Uh, I, I just have to rely on the good judgment of the voters not to buy into these negative attack ads. Sooner or later, people are going to figure out if all you run is negative attack ads you don't have much of a vision for the future or you're not ready to articulate it." [The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, 2/21/2000]

    McCain 2008 … So according to McCain’s own words, he doesn’t have much of a vision for the future or he isn’t ready to articulate it, so he is going negative.

    October 6, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  11. spiveyivey

    I used to respect John McCain. He has lost it. Where is his dignity? I wonder what his mom thinks of all this? Shameful. Just shameful.

    October 6, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  12. the other jd

    out of ideas
    out of time
    out of his mind

    McBush/Palin-A Campaign to Nowhere!

    October 6, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  13. KEATINGECONOMICS.COM

    Who is the real John McCain? The make believe Maverick.

    October 6, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  14. Republicans Hate America

    Way to go John! You are the man! Thanks for helping elect Barack Obama as the next president of the United States.

    October 6, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  15. Dave

    Yes, who is the real Obama? The one who will lower taxes or raise them? The one who loves America or hates it? The one who is unaffiliated with terrorists or the one who worked with one? The one who claims to support Christianity or the one who opposes everything Christians favor?

    Obama is a great speaker and motivator, but I distrust him very much. I can't believe the media is supporting him so much.

    October 6, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  16. Republican Base Voting OBAMA

    John McCain you and the cronie you selected need to read the New York Times, CNN, Newsweek, Politico and all the major news organizations. The news of the day is it is the ECONOMY STUPID!!!!!!! Gallup Poll Obama 50% McCain 42% and the numbers are going to continue to shrink.

    Obama/Biden 08/12

    October 6, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  17. Sandi

    How sad that this is all McCain can come up with to talk about...what about constructive solutions. How to does this balance with Palin's comments in the "debate" about looking forward? It saddens me to see who McCain has become, he is not the same man that ran 8 years ago......ambition has clearly changed him, and not for the better.

    October 6, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  18. EMJ

    Here we go, another attempt by Republicans to win the election with slime, fear, basically saying anything negative so the real issues facing our country are not discussed. I am really tired of Republicans acting like they are the only patriotic Americans. I was a life long republican until this election. I just could take the lying and nasty tricks anymore.

    October 6, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  19. pearl

    Who is the REAL John McCain? He's certainly not the same John McCain we knew 8 years ago? An even scarier question: WHO IS THE REAL SARAH PALIN?

    October 6, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  20. JD in NC

    The McCain campaign's logic sounds like McCarthyism.

    By his logic, if I work with a racist, that makes me racist too.

    Or does this logic only apply to his opponents?

    October 6, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  21. Son of Liberty

    No actually all the American people want to know is "What exactly are you going to do differently than Bush with your administration". We've already had these 'discussions' about who Obama was and what he is going to do for America for the past 15 months.

    October 6, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  22. Republicans Hate America

    Obama is the leader, McCain is the has been.

    October 6, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  23. Donna

    John McCain is a sad, foolish man. He has far more skeletons in his closet than does Barack Obama and they will start emerging.

    October 6, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  24. Lisa

    McCain is an pulling all the stops, he does not care what he has to do. Is this the way an election should be run. McCain and his Gomer Pyle in heels think they know how to capture america's votes. They have got to be kidding. John McCain you are the oldest man ever to run for office, right now you are acting like a 2 year old. Shame on you and Gidget, you should just know true Obama supporters will never listen to a word you say, you tell way too many lies!!!

    October 6, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  25. McCain Invented the BlackBerry, Palin Invented the Manure Spreader

    IT'S THE ECONOMY, STUPID!

    The job's not done yet. Get back to work on the issues and stop harping on this pointless politics of personal destruction nonsense!

    I don't care whose house Obama might have gone to tea at thirteen years ago. This is not what we elect our representatives for!

    October 6, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
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