Obama’s Answer on the Johnson Conundrum

By Jennifer Parker

Jun 10, 2008 11:42am

ABC News’ Sunlen Miller today asked Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, how he could "rail against Countrywide Financial Corp as an example of insiders and today’s economy while your VP search is headed by someone who got questionable loans from Countrywide?" (This is an issue we wrote about earlier today.)

"And in addition," Miller continued, "another person on that same VP search team – Eric Holder  — has also been involved in the Marc Rich scandal."

"Well, look," Obama said, "the, the, I mean – first of all I am not vetting my VP search committee for their mortgages, so you’re gong to have to direct — "

"But shouldn’t you?" asked Miller.

"Well, no," Obama said. "It becomes sort of a, um, I mean, this is a game that can be played – everybody, you know, who is tangentially related to our campaign, I think, is going to have a whole host of relationships — I would have to hire the vetter to vet the vetters. I mean, at some point, you know, we just asked people to do their assignments.

"Jim Johnson has a very discrete task," Obama continued, "as does Eric Holder, and that is simply to gather up information about potential vice presidential candidates. They are performing that job well, it’s a volunteer, unpaid position. And they are giving me information and I will then exercise judgment in terms of who I want to select as a vice presidential candidate.

"So this – you know, these aren’t folks who are working for me," Obama said. "They’re not people you know who I have assigned to a job in a future administration and, you know, ultimately my assumption is that, you know, this is a discreet task that they’re going to performing for me over the next two months."

You can watch some of this press conference HERE.

Did I read that correctly? Did Obama claim that Johnson and Holder — two of the three people heading up his VP search committee — aren’t "work"ing for him?

I suppose that’s because they’re unpaid, but my stars, that’s a lot of high-level, time-consuming sensitive effort to not be considered "working" for Sen. Obama.

- jpt

UPDATE: Sen. John McCain presidential campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds just pounced on this, saying “It’s preposterous for Senator Obama to claim that the leader of his VP selection committee isn’t working for him. Barack Obama has castigated Countrywide Financial, but now that Jim Johnson has been exposed for taking sweetheart deals from Countrywide’s CEO – Obama is in a state of denial.  It’s that brand of weak leadership and hypocrisy that shows why Barack Obama has no record of taking courageous stands or making change in Washington.”

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