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. Tony in MT

    Desperate times call for desperate measures. This approach doesn't strike me a very "Mavericky".

    October 6, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  2. val

    Desparate times calls for desperate measures.

    Wish the election were tomorrow so we can all get back to business.

    Please stop covering Palin since she refuses to speak to you guys this is ridiculous.

    October 6, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  3. Robert

    McCain is a remarkably angry man. More and more we find ourselves offered a choice between competent equanimity and erratic hotheadedness. Does anyone else think McCain's self-touted ability to "reach across the aisle" sound like Bush's "I'm a uniter, not a divider?" We see where that got us.

    October 6, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  4. Jackie, Minneapolis

    You know, to both of them, I am a hard working American who has a family of four who is barely getting by. I can't afford all my bills in one month, so I am forced into the humiliating act of begging creditors to give me extensions just so I can feed my children. Honestly? This crap from both sides is the last thing I want to hear right now.

    October 6, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  5. ralph

    A. This didn't work for GHW Bush running against Clinton, but hey good luck with that.

    B. Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac charges might have more punch if your campaign manager hadn't been on their payroll untill they were taken over by the Government.

    C. That this corrupt old prima donna would complain about insults would be hilarious if it werent so very very sad.

    October 6, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  6. Pete in Columbus

    McCains ignorance comes shining thru.......we are in the middle of an economic crisis and all he wants to do is to bring the "Country First" down further. He doesnt care nearly as much about the Country as much as he cares about himself. No way McCain........and never again!

    October 6, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  7. PoliticoPundit

    Should I be glad CNN is bringing Non-Issue back to campaign, Raised by political parties, while our 401k is going down the drains.

    I want to know who is talking economy and what EXACTLY they gonna do about it. I don't want to know if main street is taken care of in $700 Billion bailout. I don't want to know 4 points in the bailout which should be there. I want to know what my next president is going to do to recover. and I also don't want to know who did this, we know that.

    October 6, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  8. Peggy Ellis

    The negative, smearing compaign by Senator McCain and Sarah Palin has helped me make up my mind as a Republican to change my vote to Omma. McCain is a disgrace to the party and Sarah Palin
    would never get my vote. If his policies for a "change" are so great, why not talk about them and not this approach he is now taking. Both are really scary!

    October 6, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  9. Dal CA

    OK let me go back and see what is the real thinking of a Vet who did not do his duty properly.
    OK commander McCain as a POW your first duty is to escape by any means.
    YOU DID NOT RETURN BACK WHEN THE VIETCONG WERE LETTING YOU GO. IF YOU HAD GOT OUT AT THAT POINT YOU COULD HAVE GONE BACK AND HIT THE VIETCONG AGAIN.
    You stayed back and rotted in the jail there afraid that you could not be a useful member of the armed forces.
    YOU Mr. McCAIN is COWARD.
    You were rebelling against the authority because your father and grandfather were better than you. You could not attain their high standards.
    Learn from your mistakes and bow out of this idiotic low road tactics and change yourself.

    October 6, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  10. Thebat

    McCain has been reduced to a lying, desperate, pathetic old man. it would be sad except he brought this on himself.

    He could have taken the high road and focused on the issues but, that's a loser for him. So, it's back to the Rove playbook, the same tactics he deplored in 2000.

    Give up old man; you're toast.

    October 6, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  11. bbarash

    Sad, pathetic and desperate.

    And, as a Chicagoan, I am seriously offended that the McCain is using "Chicago" as if it is an understood insult. Pleeeeeeeeease!

    October 6, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  12. AdamW

    "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."

    This coming from a campaign whose VP refuses to cooperate with the law because they don't think they are being treated fairly even though the evidence shows she broke the law. The same campaign that uses the gender card so people don't question that same VP with tough questions. The same campaign that says abosolutely nothing about how they are going to help the country except by being mavericks and have no real plan.
    All fluff, lies, and negativity from McLame.

    October 6, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  13. Vivian

    All one has to do is go to the Obama website for his policies. McPalin should question their own motives with her making a statement about "people like us" what people are she refering to? Black people, caucasian people, Brown people, polka dot people....exactly what people that are "like us"

    October 6, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  14. tulsa

    Your plan to fix the economy McCain, where is it?

    We are sinking into economic disaster and you are bashing your opponent. You do need a lesson McCain. You broke in Nam and you've proven yourself to be unamerican now.

    TRAITOR.

    by the way, you've taken half a million from the heads of Fannie and Freddy. Keep up the lies you bastard.

    October 6, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  15. Maurice-College Park Maryland

    Well Well well,its about time Mccain and his minions began the attack,I mean why not.They cannot beat Sen.Obama on any issue so let's smear his name and reputation.Le't deal out a wheel barrel full of lies and misinformation..You see America,the McCain campaign and the Republicans are calling you Stupid,because every major critical issue that faces every single citizen in this COUNTRY the Republicans have been spoon feeding us all this crap and pathetic lies.My response to McCain and that moron Palin..the next time you wantt to run the Country,try applying some vaseline first,that way at least we could walk away from you on our own

    October 6, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  16. Denyse Lieber

    For a guy who claims to be a maverick, McCain is going back to the same old Swift-Boat tactics of his predecessors....lies, lies, lies, distortions. He should tell us how to manage the economy, not how to tell lies about his opponent.

    October 6, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  17. Andy

    Gee thanks John. The Dow has tanked again today but you'd rather play nasty politics than help out your people...

    October 6, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  18. Ya_Ya

    Lotsa smoke, Lotsa mirrors............. not much else. Typical McCan't.

    October 6, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  19. Jack Six Pack

    McCain to get more aggressive? That old man is going to start foaming at the mouth soon! How many lies can you tell before you start to get confused and contradict yourself? John McCain and his running mate Silly Sarah are spinning lies so fast that people will lose track of their life savings going down the republican toilet.

    October 6, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  20. Sylvia Henry

    Poor old pitbulls have nothing left but attacks. 30 days till the old man goes back to one of his 7 houses and McPalin goes back to Alaska. Obama Biden we love you.

    October 6, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  21. Robert

    McCain is a remarkably angry man. More and more we find ourselves offered a choice between competent equanimity and erratic hotheadedness. Does anyone else think McCain's self-touted ability to "reach across the aisle" sounds like Bush's "I'm a uniter, not a divider?" We see where that got us.

    October 6, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  22. Brian

    uh, no, John, I think I'd rather hear about how you plan to help turn this economic mess around if you became president. So, changing the subject is not what I'm looking for now. I guess we can expect a lot of running from problems in a McCain / Palin admininstration, no thanks.

    October 6, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  23. David in Illinois

    Keating 5! Keating 5! Keating 5.

    Horrible judgment that led to the LAST bailout. I guess you could say McCain has lots of experience with actions that have led to taxpayers digging in their pockets to save banks and other Wall Street institutions.

    Bill Ayers and Rev. Wright are nothing compared to Charles Keating.

    October 6, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  24. Texas

    Hellooo..knock, knock..

    Earth to McCain/Palin orbiting Jupiter....

    PEOPLE ARE LOSING THEIR JOBS, THE HOMES, THEIR HEALTHCARE AND EVEN THEIR CARS...

    What do you plan to do about it?? Do you have any plans?...Any solutions?...

    Come on people...Focus ,Focus!

    October 6, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  25. PL

    These two idiots just don't get it (McCain/Palin)Gutter politcs will not work, just tell me how you plan to fix this economy.

    October 6, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
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