Higher Standards Bite Obama, McCain

For a campaign that's short on poetry of late, we've sure got a fair dose of poetic justice.

First, some data points as we try to figure out why really rich folks need to squeeze an extra quarter of a percentage point on their mortgages:

- Jim Johnson trips on the wire Sen. Barack Obama set for his opponents -- the latest casualty of a "game" where Obama helped set the rules.

- Sen. John McCain helps Obamaland color in a fading argument -- slipping up with the same kind of gotcha-gaffe manner his campaign delights in using against Obama.

- The Obama campaign brings you www.fightthesmears.com -- a sort of snopes.com for all things Obama that also serves to chart the distance between Obama and John Kerry as presidential candidates. (Lead item, on the legend of the Michelle Obama "whitey" tape: "No Such Tape Exists.")

- James Carville wants a former vice president to run for vice president (and while Obama's not returning Carville's calls any time soon, he chose the one name that's guaranteed to get him some notice).

- Is this the Obama bump? Obama's up, but Brand McCain remains strong: It's Obama 47, McCain 41 in the new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll -- compared to 51-35 in the generic Republican-vs.-Democrat White House ballot.

The Obama campaign is showing that it knows how to fight with the big boys -- but his big week got sidetracked on its date with destiny, and Obama really does have himself to blame.

Washington wisdom dictates that you don't run for president as a Democrat without having Jim Johnson vet your running mates -- except that Obama's campaign rationale centers on rejecting Washington wisdom and Washington players.

Johnson "resigned from that unpaid position [Wednesday] amid criticisms that Johnson represented a world of influence and special interests that stood in stark contrast with what Obama's campaign purports to stand for," ABC's Jake Tapper writes. "The perceived chasm between Obama's rhetoric and his association with Johnson served as a distraction for his campaign and an opportunity for his critics."

This is a complete reversal from Obama's defense of a day earlier -- and perhaps the timing had something to do with this:

"For one previously undisclosed loan last year for a Montana real-estate project, Countrywide overrode its internal limits on loan size, amount of allowable debt and number of loans to a single borrower, the lender's loan records show," Glenn R. Simpson and James R. Hagerty write in The Wall Street Journal. "At the time he got the loan, what the records indicate were Mr. Johnson's monthly obligations were nearly twice his stated monthly income."

Yes, you do have to vet the vetters -- or, as your oppo staff will tell you, others will vet them for you.

"[Johnson's] resignation highlights the difficulties for Mr. Obama's campaign in trying to live up to his promises to remain independent of the Washington establishment and the special interests that populate it," John M. Broder and Leslie Wayne write in The New York Times. "As questions about Mr. Johnson grew, Mr. Obama felt he had to move quickly to rid the campaign of a man who had come to symbolize the Washington fixers that Mr. Obama was running against, aides said."

The Journal can claim this scalp with its weekend scoop -- but credit Obama with a big assist.

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