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. Faith?

    I'm reminded of the hymn of my youth: They will know we are Christians by our love.

    I'm feeling the love Senator. I'm feeling the love.

    October 6, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  2. Sophia, 23, FL

    All these attacks by the McShame campaign is not going to help him out at all. It's really going to deflect the voters from him because all he can do is attack, attack, attack, but he can not come up with any real plan to make America better. SHAME ON YOU MCBUSH! SHAME ON YOU.......OBAMA SUPPORTERS STAND UP!

    OBAMA/BIDEN '08

    October 6, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  3. Josephine (North Carolina)

    "ERRATIC"-that describes McCain to a tee.

    October 6, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    WMD-- Weapons of Missed Distraction

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  5. Ben - Portland, Or

    Back in 2000 I remember thinking that I'd rather had him than George in the white house. I remember thinking that he was an honorable person and that he was stabbed in the back by his own party. I guess I was wrong. After so much talk about having an honorable election, after talking about being a uniter, it looks like over the past 7 years he's not only adopted the Bush doctrine, but the Bush/Rove campaign philosophy. At what point are the republican "values" voters going to demand that their candidates "walk the walk instead of talk the talk"?

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  6. RK

    McNasty at it again. Not gonna work – his campaign is on the path to self-destruction.

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  7. Independent Fred

    I'm dissapointed at the direction this election has turnned. I 've always repected McCain but too many Rove advisors spoil the soup.

    The dow is down more than 700 points i want to know what he and Obama propose to spurr this economy.

    Both candidates have questions the american people should be looking at. You don't get to pick and choose which the public looks into.

    Be carefull openning Pandorra's box good senators.

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  8. Shirley-Ohio

    Keating Five is just like Fannie and Freddie. McCain had his hands in the pockets of Fannie and Freddie and so did McCain lobbyist who works on his campagin. McCain's campagine is filled with lobbyist who will continue to bring down America if McCain is elected and to top it off he has vice presidential running mate how knows nothing. She is just plain dumb.

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  9. Toni - Atlanta

    Of particular interest in this election year is whether Americans want to see a United States "united" or "divided." With this being the 21st Century, I believe most people have progressed to a country UNITED!! That's the difference when it comes to the campaigns of "CHANGE!"

    Obama/Biden '08

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  10. mark

    I've lost 57.000 dollars in the last week and all McCain can do is bash Obama instead of coming up with answers. McCain is not the type of man I want in the White House in the time of need.

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  11. true republican

    John McCain must have accepted in his mind that he has lost this election to Obama.
    Moving away from the economics when the stock market is in turmoil to focus on Obama's Character. wow.
    Obama's supporters know about his Character and they love him the way he is. You are clutching at straws, You can tell them anything they didnt already know about Obama. and quite frankly it wont stick.

    McCain should tell the American people what he would do about the economy and draw distinction between himself and Obama.

    Painting Obama as risky this late in the game isnt going to work. it wont do much damage.

    Be a true maverick and fignt on the issues, you might have a chance.

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  12. meron

    They do any thing to get elected. This is shamefull to Mccain campain. Disgrace to the country

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  13. KJ, GA

    Oh, McCain is so obnoxious and irritating!

    Its so obvious he is getting desperate and scared about losing..how pathetic!

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  14. Tired of W, OH

    Factcheck already declared this as FALSE, but I'm sure that it won't stop McCain from pushing it. Truth doesn't matter much to the republicans. Disgusting.

    CNN, Stop spreading the lies!

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  15. Q

    So, Mr McCain how many times did you fly on Keating's private jet to the Bahamas was it 9 or 10?

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  16. No time for foolish games!

    Is this guy serious? He has nothing new to offer the country so he decides to spew hot garbage. Well Sen. McCain, this conservative just lost about $4,000 from my very modest 401k and I'm voting for someone who doesn't think the fundlementals of the economy are strong...Barack Obama (hope I spelled that right)!

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  17. John

    Meanwhile, the DOW is down 700 points.

    Get real, McCain.

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  18. Mary Sue

    I'm not sure why the MSM feels compelled to give front-page/primetime space to McCain's talking points. If the economy is what's on people's minds, that's what the MSM should focus on, not negative attacks we've already heard about Obama. McCain should be way ahead given the help the MSM gives him with his campaign's talking points. Clearly, however, a growing number of people are looking beyond McCain's attacks to another candidate who is offering solutions to America's very real problems.

    I hate silly season. The last three weeks–though heartbreakingly difficult for the American people–at least focused on substance. McCain's negativity is out of place and out of touch in this environment.

    (Dear Moderator: Why do all my posts end up awaiting moderation?)

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  19. sandy

    I just have to say how disappointed I am in this pathetic campaign. You guys should seriously consider changing your slogan to the Low Road Express.

    You're bringing up stuff that everyone had already learned and thought about during the primaries. Old news, old man! It didn't work for the Clintons and it certainly will not work for you guys! Where's the substance? Where are the issues? Why are you guys trying to create a distraction? Everyone knows what you guys are doing, everyone knows that you guys don't have a chance to win this thing by sticking to the issues. Nobody with an IQ higher than 70 cares about what some former radical did 40 years ago. But then again, nobody with an IQ higher than 70 would still seriously even be considering voting for you clowns.

    John McCain should have just given up last time around. Everyone would still believe that he was an honorable guy, but come November 5th, he'll just be known as a grumpy, bumbling old man that was just too out of touch and too cynical!

    Hopefully the country will never have to hear from John McCain or Caribou Barbie again.

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  20. tedious898

    I wish americans would think intelligently about the Keating 5 issue. We will concede McCain was not found guilty but showed "poor judgement". Just like today, the SL crisis was a failure of proper bank regulations and ended in a loss to tax payers. That sounds a little like today ....doesn't it?

    So please do look stupid and say "Keating 5 should not be brought up" Now....what Ayers did when Obama was 8 really isn't related at all...now is it?

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  21. Noorah

    SHUT UP AND GO AWAY MCCAIN... GO RETREAT TO ONE OF YOUR 12 HOUSES... YOUR TIME IS UP!

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  22. NO MCCAIN/PALIN

    MCSHAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  23. Mary J

    My guess is half the country wouldn't hear or be aware of these attacks if it were not for you good ole cable guys. Thanks but no thanks to the negative turn. And...shame on you. There are really important and newsworthy events today that are of more concern to me than he said she said. I want the facts. Isn't that what you guys are supposed to be doing with a free press.

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  24. pat C.

    MCCAIN ...PLEASE HAVE CUTESIE SARAH SPEAK IN TONGUES GOING FORWARD SO THAT WE DON'T HAVE TO LISTEN TO HER LIES ABOUT OUR NEXT PRESIDENT....WILL YA PLEEEESE OLE BOY!!!!

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  25. Dutch-VA

    How does Sen. McSame plan on uniting the country if he is elected? I'll tell you how, he won't! Everyone who supports Sen. Obama will revolt. You thought Washington D.C. was in ruins after MLK died? That ain't nothing compared to what will happen if Sen. Obama doesn't win. There is nothing Sen. McSame can do convince us that he is best for the country. He is just more of the same. This is election is about young americans future. We are the game changer's in this election. Young americans will be in outrage if Sen. Obama doesn't win because he represents us.

    OBAMA/BIDEN 08

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
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