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. Ann

    This was a question asked by Biden, Richardson, Hillary and others in the primaries. It didn't go away, this is a legitimate question. Not only Who is Obama? but what exactly does mean that Change he proposes?

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

    Dow dropped 700 points and this is what McCain focuses on ..... Obama keep talking about the economy and how you will pull us out of this Republican/McCain created mess!

    October 6, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  3. AYERS AND WRIGHT ARE ACCUSATIONS, MR “KEATING 5” HAS FACTUAL EVIDENCE OF HIS DISHONESTY WHEN IT COMES TO ALLOWING OTHERS TO BUY HIS INFLUENCE, EVEN IN FACE OF DAMAGING THE AMERICAN PEOPLE! IS THIS A REPEAT?

    You decide if Mr. “Keating 5” who was sanctioned by the Congressional Ethics Committee for taking campaign contributions in the amount of $112,000 from Charles Keating, is the type of public servant you want to have access to the public till? McCain has a proven record of dishonesty, just how much has McCain benefited from the current meltdown occurring right now in the banking industry?

    October 6, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  4. Shari, NY

    Attention Country First sheep: “KABUL (Reuters) – The war in Afghanistan cannot be won militarily and success is only possible through political means including dialogue between all relevant parties, the United Nations' top official in the country said Monday”. In other words, war without dialogue brings more war. Afraid of terrorism? Let Sen. Obama watch your back for you because he is willing to reason and look before he leaps, it is as simple as that. Don’t let Broom Hilda (the Republican parrot) scare you with old, repetitious, unfounded claims. If you are scared of the name Hussein, then you should also be terrified of McCain (the fighting Irish).

    October 6, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  5. Jay

    McSame is grasping at straws now. He is a tired old fool that has been cornered on lack of agenda issues. He needs to get lost so Obama can start focusing on our future.

    Also, of note, Palin's comment about Obama's ties to terrorism is ridiculous and off the mark. She needs to climb back into a cave with a polar bear...

    October 6, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  6. EXPERIENCE!

    Go John! We need experience today more than ever and Obama has NONE!!! We don't know who he is, Obama. What does he really want to do at the head of our country anyway? Does he have good judgement in your opinion after spending 20 years in a raciste church with the crazy Rev. Wright among others?

    NObama!!!

    October 6, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  7. EMJ

    The #1 reason to vote for McCain/Palin – ' '

    October 6, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  8. jason, tx

    What a jerk.

    October 6, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  9. Okey Moronu, FortWorth, TX.

    McCain: "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."

    Then listen to your wouldbe electorate and stay on the issue. Stop lying.

    October 6, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  10. John

    McShame just retire and save with your LIES LIES.......BYE BYE

    October 6, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  11. Republican Mom for Obama!!!

    Q: Who is Barack Obama?
    A: He will be the 44th President of the United States.

    President Obama.

    Get used to saying it.

    October 6, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  12. Megan

    Unfortunately why Barack Obama is talking about what he will do for America you're talking about him instead.

    October 6, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  13. obama/biden supporter

    I really wish all of this bashing would stop.

    Sarah Palin has stooped to an incredibly low – low. To say that Obama pals around with Terrorists – is SICK

    its sad that children can act and compose themselve more maturely than the two running for president on the McCain ticket.

    at this point in the game the candidates should be further showing us what they can do for the country – thats the only way to win over undecided voters. This mud-slinging has to stop – from both campaigns.

    October 6, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  14. ATLian

    Anybody who wants to know who Obama is already knows. Buy his book sand read them!

    October 6, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  15. mk

    the real question is what he ISN'T.
    He ISN'T Four more years of George Bush.
    He isn't a liar.
    He isn't a war monger.
    He doesn't want to make us pay more for health care.

    October 6, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  16. Chris in Columbus

    Desperation is an ugly thing.

    October 6, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  17. Lorna, NY

    If McCain continues on this path, he will lose the election.

    October 6, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  18. Wrinkly and Winky

    McCain is a fumbling, bumbling IDIOT! GO HOME and take that loud mouth nasty wench with you!!!!!!!!!

    America says THANKS BUT NO THANKS !

    October 6, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  19. roger

    all americans should just ask themselves this question....should McCain be elected & something happen & he not able to fulfill the job as president would you trust Palen to be president of the US?

    October 6, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  20. David Orbach, New York, NY

    Since McCain's negative tone has served him so well up until now . . .

    October 6, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  21. Elephant(GOP) in the room Ignoring the bigger Elephant in the room(Economy)

    McCain is starting to use text messages now? I guess the smoke signals and the Morse code was failing.

    Obama 08

    October 6, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  22. JIM

    MC CAIN IS A JERK SOMEONE WE WOULD NEVER BE PROOUD OF AS BEING PRESIDENT. READ THE ROLLING STONE ARTICLE ON HIM EITHER BUY IT OR LOOK IT UP ON LINE. VERY ITERESTING AND VERY TRUE.

    PLEASE DON;T VOTE FOR MC CAIN WE WILL ONLY BE IN MORE WAR AND HAVE A NUT FOR PRESIDENT

    October 6, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  23. Victor of MI

    It is a very sad day for America to see the once noble McCain degenerate to nothing more than a dirty, despicable politician. RIP McCain. I hope this election buries you in a landslide, you deserve it.

    October 6, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  24. OMG

    Whoes the REAL McCain - I don't reconigize this man. He's not the McCain from 2000

    October 6, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  25. Steve, Madison WI

    Who is the real John McCain – this is not the one I supported in 2000.

    As for Obama's plan – what is yours McCain? Neither you or your pitbull Palin ever discuss the issues or your plans during the debates or on the stump.

    The American people want to hear your plan to fix this economic mess that years of Republian deregulation and lack of oversight have caused.

    C'mon "maverick" got any fresh ideas. You betcha, us Joe Six-packs would love for ya to get back to us on that one!

    October 6, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
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