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. Brian

    I only want to know what does Bill Ayers, Keating 5, or Jeremiah Wright have to do with policy.. they didn't work once and they won't work outside of the racist, republican box... I love all Americans but to here that Applachian folks are falling for McCains tactics explain nothing.. they were not voting Democratic anyway!!

    October 6, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  2. James

    Who is the real McCain? Does he even know, or has old age set in? He has constantly screwed up on the campaign trail, picked a complete idiot as his VP candidate and has spewed lies and falsities towards Obama. Who is the real McCain? A complete moron!

    October 6, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  3. Rachel

    Here we are 29 days until the general election and we STILL haven't heard about what a John McCain Administration is going to do for the American people.

    I'm so tired of hearing these attacks, I want to know what he's going to do FOR ME! How is he going to solve this crisis we are in right now? How is he going to provide healthcare to millions of people who can't afford it?? What is he going to do to improve education in ALL communities???

    Until I hear from him clear definied plans on those things, he will NOT get my vote.

    Obama stick with the issues that's what us voters care about.

    October 6, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  4. Annie

    Well, so much for McCain saying he would run a smear-free campaign. I guess when one is desperate one needs to start the mud-slinging. How about talking about the real issues, John? Is it that you know you are not the best one suited for the job and so you need to resort to mud-slinging. I think most American people are fed up with the negativity. Also, who are McCain and Palin to throw stones..Palin can't even be honest about her troopergate.

    October 6, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  5. Joe six pack

    Dow dropped 700 points today, this is the best you can come up with to talk about?

    October 6, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  6. Gee, Alabama

    I think McCain is talking about himself. If this is is his style for the next 4 years God help us all.

    OBAMA/BIDEN '08

    October 6, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  7. Ricky, Bryan TX

    Desperation sets in......

    October 6, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  8. pj

    nice try buddy, my 401k account has lost 20% in the last 6 weeks alone... and you want to turn the page on the topic? forget it. we're talking economics and you think the fundamentals are strong, you think we're better off then 8 years ago.

    you're a joke.

    October 6, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  9. Malcolm

    This is what happens when you have nothing new to offer the American People

    October 6, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  10. LS

    Obama is our Future President of the United States McCain, that's who Obama is.

    It's funny that McCain seems to block out all the distortions Palin is involved in with Troopergate. Palin abused her powers then and is still abusing her 'so called' powers now by ignoring the subpoenas, which is very Unconstitutional.

    McCain and Palin are just plain dirty.

    October 6, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  11. Democrat 4 Life

    I call that "desperation".

    October 6, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    Can't believe this nonsense is taking place in the USA!

    October 6, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  13. Rob

    Potato – potatoe. McBush says aggressive and we say desperate distraction. When the economy collapses. and you ( McBush) are the cause of the collapse. All you have left to work with are the negative lies that were already dismissed by the Fack Checkers. Dogonit Ya angry bitter old man. Ya jus don't understand. We have had it !

    October 6, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  14. Stacy from Loudoun County, VA

    Senator McCain, I would ask the same question of you: Who is John McCain? The honorable man that was beaten down by Bush in 2000 or the angry man with no answers in 2008? Are you a war hero that believes in America? Or a hatemonger that shows the worst side of us all?

    October 6, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  15. Justin Cider

    Ah, the stench of desperation...

    October 6, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  16. Central Florida

    Who is this dishonest politician from the person I used to support? The "real" McCain? How sad.

    There is no way I could vote McCain-Palin now when they are not addressing the issues many Americans are facing in this struggling economy.

    Obama-Biden are offering real solutions to the economy, healthcare, education, foreign policy, etc.

    October 6, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  17. OS

    McCain ADDRESS THESE ISSUES FIRST AS HARSHLY AS YOU CAN……….

    EIGHT YEARS OF GOP REGIME HIGHLIGHTS …………

    FORECLOSURES
    MARKET CRASHING BELOW 10,000
    OVER 5,000 MILATRY LIVES LOST IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN
    TENS OF THOUSANDS INNOCENT CIVILIAN KILLED IN IRAQ
    MAJOR BANKS DISAPPEARING
    SMALL BUSINESSES SHUTTING DOWN
    ~ELEVEN TRILLION DOLLARS IN DEBT
    400 BILLION IN DEFICIT
    HIGHEST UNEMPLOYMENT RATE AND GOING UP
    INCREASING OIL AND GAS PRICES
    THE LIST GOES ON…………………………..

    October 6, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  18. Ben-Ohio

    The economy continues its death spiral, and Republicans only can aswer with personal attacks on theirr opponents. Way to put Country First!

    October 6, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  19. tulsa

    THE MOST DISHONEST MAN IN AMERICA.

    JOHN McCAIN.

    October 6, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  20. PB

    And, speaking of openness, how about sharing your tax and medical records, Senator McCain?

    October 6, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  21. shawn in atlanta

    Get back to the issues John. Country first remember? Don't tell me who Barack is not, convince me of what you can do for a country in turmoil. If you can't, concede. The voters care about ISSUES.

    October 6, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  22. SmallTowner for Obama

    In a time when our economy is tanking, and with a debate tomorrow night looming, this is not the best strategy for John McCain.

    October 6, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  23. James

    Dow is at 9570.40 down 700 plus points and McCain wants to talk about this! Honestly Senator we dont care. We care about our jobs, our houses, and our future all of which are "losing" issues for you.

    OBAMA 08'

    October 6, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  24. Beth

    Wow, it's deja vu. I could swear I heard all this on a special news report on Fox last night. Is Fox News now writing McCain's campaign speeches?

    If McCain can't win without slinging mud, it must be because he doesn't have carry a strong and meaningful message of how we're going to get out of this mess, other than spending more money in Iraq.

    October 6, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  25. Some honor

    Here it come people. Republicans are desperate and going to get nasty, instead of talking about the political issues that are terribly harming this country (notice the attempt by McCain to turn away from discussing the economy, on the same day it's dropped below 10,000 for the first time in over 4 years.....horrible). I think this may not accomplish what McCain is hoping and will actually turn away some voters out of disgust.

    October 6, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
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