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Thread: Barack Obama defense of James A. Johnson raises questions

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    Elite Member tkdgirl's Avatar
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    Default Barack Obama defense of James A. Johnson raises questions

    Obama Defense of Johnson Raises Questions


    James A. Johnson, vice chairman of Perseus LLC and former chief executive officer of Fannie Mae, speaks at an editorial meeting in Washington, June 4, 2008. Johnson is part of a small group of advisers helping to vet potential vice presidential candidates for Barack Obama. (Bloomberg News)


    By Dan Balz
    The most important decision Barack Obama will make between now and the November election is the selection of a vice presidential running mate. That makes all the more remarkable his effort Tuesday to suggest that the people he has put in charge of helping make the decision are somehow not really part of his campaign.



    Obama is on the defensive over his selection of James A. Johnson, the former CEO of Fannie Mae, to help lead the vice presidential search process, a role he played for John F. Kerry four years ago.


    Johnson is drawing fire over his jumbo home loans from Countrywide Financial, a major actor in the subprime mortgage mess, that may have been below market rates. The loans were first reported by the Wall Street Journal. Johnson also has drawn criticism in the past for his role in generous compensation packages to executives of companies on whose boards he served.


    At a news conference in St. Louis yesterday, Obama was asked about Johnson and the fact that the candidate has often criticized the activities of Countrywide. Rather than defend his choice, he sought to suggest that the role Johnson is playing is only tangential to his campaign and that it is impossible for the campaign to vet the vetters.


    "Jim Johnson has a very discrete task, as does Eric Holder [another member of the VP search team], and that is simply to gather up information about potential vice presidential candidates," Obama responded. "They're performing the job well. It's a volunteer, unpaid position and they're giving me information, and I will then exercise judgment in terms of who I'll want to select as a vice presidential candidate. So these are folks who are working for me, not people who I have assigned to a particular job in the future administration, and ultimately, my assumption is, is that this is a discrete task they'll be performing over the next two months."


    The distinctions Obama tried to draw raise other questions. Is he suggesting that Johnson, who is not paid, is exempt from campaign strictures that might apply to the lowliest paid staffers? Is he suggesting that Johnson, while overseeing some of the most sensitive work underway in the campaign, will act merely as a transmission belt for information scooped up from any and all available sources? Is he suggesting he would not select Johnson for a role in his administration? Or that different rules would apply to those he might select than those who play central roles in the campaign?


    Johnson can certainly defend himself, if he needs defending. He is a skilled and discreet Washington insider and veteran political powerbroker whose advice and judgment are valued by people like Obama and Kerry and scores of other powerful politicians and business executives. Nor are all the details of the Countrywide transactions known, although the Journal story said Johnson received a favorable interest rate. A lawyer for Johnson told the Journal that the loans were within standard practice in the industry, given someone "of Mr. Johnson's background."


    All of this will be sorted out in the days ahead. But in the meantime, for Obama to suggest that Johnson is floating in some outer orbit of his campaign raises questions about the candidate's willingness to deal forthrightly with controversy. Presidential candidates long have turned to trusted and loyal advisers and potential administration officials to help run vice presidential search operations. Is there any reason to think Obama has not done the same?


    The last two presidents tapped the advisers who oversaw the vice presidential selection process to play enormously important roles in their administration. Warren Christopher ran Bill Clinton's search process in 1992 and ended up as secretary of state. Dick Cheney ran the process for George W. Bush and in a remarkable twist ended up as the vice president -- perhaps the most powerful ever. It is not unreasonable to think that Johnson could end up playing a significant role in an Obama administration.
    There are many ways Obama and his team could be responding to this, but they are doing what they've done in the past when turbulence hits, which is to hunker down, stick to their talking points and wait for the storm to pass, which it often has.



    David Axelrod, Obama's senior strategist, echoed the candidate during a Wednesday morning interview on MSNBC. "He's a volunteer and the job is just to gather information, period," he said of Johnson. He went on to say, "He's not leading the vetting. There's a committee that's vetting these candidates. He's part of that committee."


    It isn't clear whether the uproar over Johnson is a passing storm or a more serious problem for the Obama campaign. For now, the campaign has decided to treat it as a minor annoyance that will soon disappear. But the candidate's response has raised questions about the candidate himself that could well linger past the moment.


    Obama Defense of Johnson Raises Questions | The Trail | washingtonpost.com

    A government big enough to give you everything you want,
    is strong enough to take everything you have. ~Thomas Jefferson

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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    The most important decision Barack Obama will make between now and the November election is the selection of a vice presidential running mate. That makes all the more remarkable his effort Tuesday to suggest that the people he has put in charge of helping make the decision are somehow not really part of his campaign.
    True, it's a stretch to say that people in charge of choosing the VP candidate aren't part of the campaign, but apparently Johnson's insight helped Obama select Biden. Who helped McCain select Palin? Oh yeah. Karl Rove.

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    Elite Member ana-mish-ana's Avatar
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    Add the fact that the fundies like Dobson have pushed Palin for as well.

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    Elite Member cmmdee's Avatar
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    King, she was only one Google click away.


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    Elite Member tkdgirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingcap72 View Post
    True, it's a stretch to say that people in charge of choosing the VP candidate aren't part of the campaign, but apparently Johnson's insight helped Obama select Biden. Who helped McCain select Palin? Oh yeah. Karl Rove.
    Another stretch. Palin's pick surprised even Rove, as well as the majority of the GOP establishment. Rove 'advised' McCain to not pick Lieberman and he was right.

    A government big enough to give you everything you want,
    is strong enough to take everything you have. ~Thomas Jefferson

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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tkdgirl View Post
    Another stretch. Palin's pick surprised even Rove, as well as the majority of the GOP establishment. Rove 'advised' McCain to not pick Lieberman and he was right.
    Come on. You really don't believe that Rove had NOTHING to do with the Palin pick? McCain had only met Palin once back in February. Whether you like to admit it or not, Rove is the one pulling the strings in McCain's campaign, just like he did with Bush's. And that's not a stretch, that's the truth. Afterall, if Rove had no pull with McCain then why would McCain listen to Rove and not pick Lieberman?

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    Elite Member ana-mish-ana's Avatar
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    I read an article that Rove wanted Romney or whathisface Pawtney (I know I mangled name )
    It was the religious nuts like Dobson which McCain needed to help boost his ticket that pushed Palin.
    I doubt Rove wanted Palin - a few weeks before he was criticizing Obama with the very points that Palin had about her inexperience.

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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    True, but then after McCain picked Palin as VP, Rove was completely on board and singing a different tune. The reason I think Rove pushed Palin was because they saw how well Obama did at the DNC and decided they needed to shake things up with Palin. She was nothing more than a panic pick.

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    Elite Member ana-mish-ana's Avatar
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    I know the lack of vetting shows
    And I suppose that Rove would love to work closely with Miss Mooseballs

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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    Lack of vetting? Come on. Just because she's had daily scandals popping up around her since McCain picked her, and has no clue about national or international affairs, is no reason to say they didn't vet her properly. That's bordering on being sexist.

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    Elite Member AllieCat's Avatar
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    ^ come on, That's a stretch. She knows about international affairs because she can see Russia from an island in her state. Everyone knows that.

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Guys, why didn't you tell me that John McCain was a POW!!
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    ^^Because we didn't vet him properly.

    Quote Originally Posted by AllieCat View Post
    ^ come on, That's a stretch. She knows about international affairs because she can see Russia from an island in her state. Everyone knows that.
    Except the people in Russia.

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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingcap72 View Post
    Lack of vetting? Come on. Just because she's had daily scandals popping up around her since McCain picked her, and has no clue about national or international affairs, is no reason to say they didn't vet her properly. That's bordering on being sexist.
    Hey, that's daily scandals before McCain picked her!

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    I'm sorry, someone thinks that Rove wasn't behind pretty much everything?

    *blink*

    Really? After 8 years?
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

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