Chicago Sun-Times
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Obama at first downplayed vetter Johnson problem. Chicago's Carol Felsenthal new "Clinton in Exile" book looks into Obama veep vetter Holder role in Marc Rich pardon.

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WASHINGTON -- Presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama -- after first downplaying questions about the ethics of his chief vice presidential vetter Jim Johnson, the former Fannie Mae chief -- on Wednesday accepted his resignation.


"Jim did not want to distract in any way from the very important task of gathering information about my vice presidential nominee, so he has made a decision to step aside that I accept," Obama said in a statement.


"We have a very good selection process under way, and I am confident that it will produce a number of highly qualified candidates for me to choose from in the weeks ahead. I remain grateful to Jim for his service and his efforts in this process."

Johnson, Caroline Kennedy and former Deputy U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder were the three-member team Obama tapped to vet potential running mates.

On June 5, Obama told reporters traveling with him that "there is no decision that I am going to make that is more important before the November election. I intend to do it right and I'm not going to [do it] in the press."

But that was before Saturday's Wall Street Journal report that Johnson obtained below-market mortgages from Countrywide, the national home lender under investigation for subprime loans -- and a company singled out by Obama for contributing to the housing market crisis.

The apparent sweetheart deal, coupled with rehashes of Johnson's lucrative pay packages while at Fannie Mae -- executive boondoggles are another Obama target -- exploded on the Internet, cable political shows and into mainstream newspapers.

On Monday, Obama brushed aside questions about Johnson and Holder. Republicans started using Johnson to bash Obama's holier-than-thou anti-lobbyist drive, throwing Holder into the mix because of his role in the controversial pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich by President Bill Clinton.

"I mean, first of all, I am not vetting my VP search committee for their mortgages. . . . I would have to hire a vetter to vet the vetters," Obama said.

In a new book about Bill Clinton, Clinton in Exile by Chicago author Carol Felsenthal, Holder -- then the No. 2 man in the Clinton Justice Department, with responsibility for pardons -- was seen as "so ambitious to be attorney general in the expected Gore administration" that he "played ball" with a Gore confidant, Jack Quinn, who was Rich's lawyer. Felsenthal wrote that Holder ''adamantly denies there was any secret deal.''

(Holder, also a former federal prosecutor, headed the team that indicted former Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Dan Rostenkowski.)

Several people I talked to in Obama's orbit were surprised that Obama tapped Johnson. For a candidate running on a change platform and against Washington, Johnson is an insider's insider. He vetted vice presidential contenders for Walter Mondale in 1984 and John Kerry in 2004.

Alex Conant, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said if Obama "is concerned his campaign's ties to special interests are distracting from his VP search and message, why is Eric Holder still on his search committee," adding "Obama's hypocritical attacks show he can't stand up to his own standard -- and that he just isn't ready to make change."

Shot back Obama spokesman Bill Burton, "We don't need any lectures from a campaign that waited 15 months to purge the lobbyists from their staff, and only did so because they said it was a 'perception problem.' "

7 Comments

Obama based his campaign against Hillary, and will presumably base his campaign against McCain, on his supposed judgement, saying that his opposition to the Iraq war was more important than experience on foreign--or domestic--matters. Yet, in his first significant decision after becoming the presumptive nominee, he has shown poor judgement in at least two (Johnson and Holder) of the three decisions he's made.

It doesn't augur well for what his decisions will be if elected.

-Wm Tate
http://www.atimelikethis.us/

BARACK OBAMA HAS FAR MORE IMPORTANT THINGS TO DEAL WITH THAN THIS,
THE MEDIA CAN BLOW IT OUT OF PROPORTION IF THEY WANT TO, AND THE
GOP AND MCCAIN CAN SPIN IT ALL THEY WANT, THE BOTTOM LINE IS MCCAIN DOESN'T HAVE A CLUE, AND OBAMA IS WINNING THIS CONTEST, THE
MAN IS RUNNING CIRCLES AROUND MCCAIN AND THE GOP KNOWS IT TO BE
TRUE! GRIN AND BEAR IT, BECAUSE THE LEAD IS GOING TO WIDEN AS THE
DAYS MOVE ON, THAT'S WHY MCCAIN WANTS TO FLY ON THE SAME PLANE WITH OBAMA, HE WANTS TO SEE WHAT A REAL CANDIDATE LOOKS LIKE UP
CLOSE!

THE GOP CAN'T SPELL THE WORD CHANGE, IF THEY COULD THE WAR WOULD
BE OVER! BRING OUR MEN AND WOMEN HOME!

I do not see the problem with Johnson having a loan--he got a better deal than most--the problem?
And stop stop stop with the 'pardon' crap--look at Shrub's non-stop pardons. And Senior bush putting those tandem trailer trucks on the road his last days in office.
And then Shrub sealing all the documents about Iran-Contra for daddy?
Wanna talk corruption? It's the party of the elephant--that's why it hurts what they do to us!

I do not see the problem with Johnson having a loan--he got a better deal than most--the problem?
And stop stop stop with the 'pardon' crap--look at Shrub's non-stop pardons. And Senior bush putting those tandem trailer trucks on the road his last days in office.
And then Shrub sealing all the documents about Iran-Contra for daddy?
Wanna talk corruption? It's the party of the elephant--that's why it hurts what they do to us!

To golden oldie: couldn't have said it better myself.

Lemme get this straight: Johnson has to hit the bricks for appearances sakes, while the candidate for whom he is working is running against one fifth of the lobbyist-supported Keating 5? PLEASE!!!! What about that makes good sense? This is a fight! Obama needs to go for that old codger's throat every chance he gets.

When is Obama going to grow a sturdy brass pair and scream "SCREW GRAMPERS!" in his outside voice? McCain is not going to win this one! So, Obama has nothing to lose by pointing out all his loose ends and ragged edges, which are plentiful and numerous.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on June 12, 2008 7:52 AM.

Republican National Committee blisters Obama on Johnson resignation. Is Holder next? Obama's Burton slapback was the previous entry in this blog.

Obama headlines $28,500 per person fund-raiser Thursday in Chicago; hits two funder events in city. is the next entry in this blog.

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