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. Jabari Woods

    John McCain's health care plan is to tax your health care benefit, and then give you $5000 to buy health insurance on the open market that costs on average $12,600.

    McCain/Palin health care plan: more taxes, less coverage...

    October 6, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  2. Matt

    McCain: your time is nearly up ! Go back to Arizona with your NEGATIVE nonsense. We need solutions not smear.

    October 6, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  3. howie

    From McCain's mouth to our ears:

    "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."

    [Senator McCain during The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, 2/21/2000]

    October 6, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  4. Ruby, Kansas

    I don't care what "new" language McCain comes up with. He has the SAME POLICIES AS BUSHES!! So, my question is WHO AND WHERE IS JOHN McCAIN? I don't know who that REPUBLICAN man is running for President.

    October 6, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  5. Daniel

    And away we go! I thought it would at least take until mid-October for the low blows to begin.

    McCain is pulling this nonsense, yet at the same time is trying to tell us he won't be as an extension of the last 8 years? Puh-lease. Give it up, McCain. Obama has been human Teflon throughout the last 2 years, this isn't going to stick.

    October 6, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  6. Helen

    Distractions! The dow down 750 points. The economy is a terrorist attack on all americans. MCREEPY needs to take a nap.

    October 6, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  7. carlo

    McCain should be more concerned with his own past, cough, cough, Keating...

    October 6, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  8. Elaine

    McCain and the GOP has been steering and we are sinking fast. The question is not who is the RIGHT person to steer us through this mess (we have experts on both sides of the aisle) but which proposals WILL steer us through this mess and which candidate has the VISION to steer us through this mess.

    My money is on Obama (literally as my portfolio is sinking fast) and I should add that, if the gloves come off, his VEEP and her membership in the Alaska independence movement makes her really fair game.

    October 6, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  9. Aygola

    Well, desperate times require desperate measures. That's what coming out of McCain campaign, They are desperate and we can all see they're not interrested in trying to solve our number one problem right now.

    October 6, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  10. Ontaya

    He doesn't need a lesson in truth telling? According to Fact Check.com he lies often. This guy is such a scumbag he is the ultimate low life in Politics God forbid people fall for his tactics to make it to the White House.

    October 6, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  11. BJGT

    The real Obama is an intelligent, visionary leader of great character.

    Say Buh-Bye McCain.

    October 6, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  12. Irene

    Let's all find out who the REAL John McCain is..........JUST DON'T PRESS THE MAN TOO HARD..........he will either bail or loose his temper.

    McCain's smears reveal a lot about his personality. Can this be the same John McCain who wanted a "civil campaign"?

    BRING ON THE DEBATE..............OUR ECONOMY should be the primary topic! McCain can leave his smears at home!

    OBAMA / BIDEN 08

    October 6, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  13. Luvit

    This isn't going to work... It looks desparate

    October 6, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  14. So Disappointed withe 63yrs old Republican (That will vote fore sure Obama)

    MACCAIN IS SO DESPERATED !!! THIS IS EXACTLY THE OLD WASHINGTON TATICS MACAIN AND SARAH PALIN SAY THEY ARE AGAINST BUT ... MACCAIN AND PALIN ARE SHOWING US THAT THEY AREN'T MAVERICKS BUT THE WORSE KIND OF PEAOPLE FROM WASHINGTON. SHAME ON YOU MACCAIN, I DON'T KNOW HOW REPUPLICANS LET YOU DESTROYS THE PARTY IMAGE WITH THOSE DIRTY TATICS.

    October 6, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  15. Pat

    Who is John McCain and Sarah Palin?

    October 6, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  16. back to the dark ages

    Is this really how this man wants to win the white house. No wonder this country is doomed.

    October 6, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  17. the way I see it in Canada

    Oh and you are all honest there aren't you Mr. POW. 3/4 of the attacks you send out on Obama are lies. You american politicians should take a lesson from the ones up north in Canada. They talk about the issues not about what the other guy did 40 years ago when he was 8.

    October 6, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  18. Reason

    Won't work. The economy is sinking you dimwit. McBush go back to your cave!!!

    October 6, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  19. Reality

    McCain is a JOKE !!!!! PALIN is FAKE !!!!

    October 6, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  20. arc, Lugano CH

    McCain is a bitter, sickly, old man. He is a liar, who due to his age and failing health, would most likely not even see out a first term in office. However, the only other person who world leaders would respect even less McCain is Palin.

    October 6, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  21. Ex GOPer

    Economy is plummeting and McCain want's tell us that the most vetted candidate in US Presidential history has not been open enough. Guess what McCain my mortgage, car payment, electricity are bills are due. My 401k is worth 25% less then it was three weeks ago and all you can do is talk about Barack Obama. Try talking about me and what your going to do alleviate my concerns and the problems of other Americans. Shame on McCain and Shame on Palin.

    October 6, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  22. Mike from Calgary

    There McCain goes again!! The more dirt McCain throws, the more ground he loses.

    Frankly the more McCain talks the more erratic, and old and stupid he looks. The more Palin talks, the more I wonder whether McCain has in fact lost his bearings.

    October 6, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  23. Mike F

    A desperate attempt from a campaign in it's death throes. Can't get 'em on the issues, might as well attack his character. Great. Just what we need when we're facing an economic abyss, is more partisan politics.

    McCain is so out of touch with America it's not even funny.

    October 6, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  24. Jerome

    The fact is John, americans will take the a newer, fresher smart guy over old, uninformed washington insider you are

    October 6, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  25. Gtnaustin

    Desparation is not a pretty picture. So much for the "Maverick" idea. Trashing your opponent is the oldest Washington trick in the book. There is no "change" in operating by the standard, OLD book but then again - this is a man who stood side-by-side with Bush and created the economic mess we are in. But I guess trashing Obama is all he can do since he he is so completely out of his league.

    October 6, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
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