Obama Distances Himself from VP Vetters
By Perry Bacon Jr.
ST. LOUIS -- Pressed on the involvement of one of the members of his vice-presidential search committee with a controversial mortgage company, Sen. Barack Obama said of the people helping him find a running mate that they are serving in a "volunteer, unpaid position" and "these aren't folks who are working for me."
The Wall Street Journal reported this weekend that Jim Johnson, an Obama fundraiser and backer, received $7 million in loans from Countrywide, a mortgage firm Obama blasted in March for giving its executives huge bonuses in the midst of the home foreclosure crisis. Johnson, who is one of three members of a committee that will help "vet" Obama's vice-presidential pick, received the mortgages at rates below market averages, according to the paper, a claim Obama aides have disputed.
Obama did not address the specific controversy, instead describing criticism of his advisers' connections as a "game."
In a wide-ranging press conference here, following a tour of Barnes Jewish Hospital, the Illinois senator largely ducked questions about whether he would help Hillary Clinton pay off her campaign debt ("It was not a topic that was the focus of my meeting with her") how many of the 10 town halls John McCain has proposed that he would attend ("it will be probably be somewhat fewer than 10, but more than the three we have already agreed to" and the last time he had had a cigarette ("I don't remember, it's been a while ... months").
Before taking questions from reporters, Obama, who had just toured this hospital with a nurse, repeatedly blasted McCain's proposals on a variety of pocketbook issues, following the Arizona senator's attack on him earlier in the day.
The two speeches showed a huge range differences, as McCain wants more trade agreements with foreign nations, which Obama is skeptical of. As well, Obama is proposing $100 billion a year in health care spending, while McCain proposes that same amount in corporate tax cuts, and McCain is proposing to further deregulate the health insurance market, while Obama wants to require insurance companies to offer plans to anyone who wants it, with the government offering subsidies if insurance will cost too much.
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