Obama's Beltway Boys
The media reaction can best be described as stunned. The press conference raised more questions than it answered (Who recommended Johnson? Was Obama unaware of his reputation as a Washington fixer? Did Obama not recognize the potential for claims of hypocrisy?). It also provided the McCain camp with an opening to jab at their opponent. In a statement the McCain camp shot back:
"It's preposterous for Sen. 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."
The kerfuffle could not have come at a worse time for Obama, as he set out on his economic tour in the first week of the general election. Moreover, concerns about his judgment in assessing those around him already were put back in the mix with the conviction last week of supporter and friend Tony Rezko on multiple criminal charges. The RNC lost no time in making the connection in a statement it released:
"Barack Obama's assertion that he won't vet his own senior aides is totally inconsistent with his rhetoric, but wholly consistent with his own record. This is how Obama ended up in a sweetheart real-estate deal with Tony Rezko, even after it was widely known that Rezko was under investigation. Obama's naive attitude and hypocritical attacks is the sort of politics as usual that voters are sick of."
At a time when Obama is attempting to convince the public that alleged miscreants like Countrywide are to blame for our nation's economic ills, it seems only a matter of time before Johnson will have to be thrown under the proverbial bus to avoid the fast-moving "hypocrisy" storyline.
So the questions raised with regard to Holder, the man at the center of the Clinton's Marc Rich pardon debacle, seem equally apt with respect to Johnson. What criteria does Obama use in selecting key personnel and what do his choices tell us about his ability to lead an effective and scandal-free administration?
Judging from what we have seen, it is increasingly hard to think an Obama administration will represent a change for the better in the way Washington does business.
After the Obama campaign defended Jim Johnson's ties to Countrywide over the last 24 hours, Johnson tendered his resignation from the steering committee effective immediately.
Johnson said in a statement:
"I believe Barack Obama's candidacy for president of the United States is the most exciting and important of my lifetime," he said, according to a Bloomberg report. "I would not dream of being a party to distracting attention from that historic effort."
No word yet on a replacement for Johnson who was heading up Obama's Vice Presdential selection steering committe.