Wednesday, June 11, 2008

With Friends Like This…

Barack Obama’s continuing “friend problem” is in the news again. had an article today here: about the most recent Obama associate with a questionable past. Jim Johnson was on Obama’s team tasked with searching for a Vice Presidential candidate.

Mr. Johnson resigned today due to his ties with mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp. Johnson, a long time Democratic power player, has secured several potentially questionable loans totaling more than 7 million dollars from Countrywide. While no one has said the loans were obtained illegally, the questions arise from the fact that Johnson received below-market rates for the loans likely because of his friendship with the CEO of Countrywide, Angelo Mozilo.

Once the loans came to light, news sources started looking further into Mr. Johnson’s history. Johnson worked for Fannie Mae before they drew suspicion from regulators, among other questions about his personal career.

The real issue for Obama though is his constant criticism of Countrywide for it’s predatory lending practices. Having Mr. Johnson on his board was rightly criticized as being more than a little hypocritical. The response from the Obama campaign was that they could not be responsible for knowing everything about his staff. There are two problems with this. One, he has attempted to hold John McCain to the same standard. Can we say hypocritical again? Second, he should know who is on his staff. This does not appear to be some deep dark secret, the media got the info pretty easily days after he was named to the search team.

Mr. Johnson was one of three members of Obama’s search team. One of the remaining two members, Eric Holder, is now under scrutiny for his role in helping Marc Rich get his pardon from Bill Clinton. Marc Rich was a wealthy financier who was indicted for tax evasion and illegal trading with Iran. Mr. Rich fled to Switzerland and remained there until his pardon, a member of the FBI’s most wanted list. Fortunately for Mr. Rich, his wife had her own well placed investments. Mrs. Rich had made several large donations to the Democratic party and the Bill Clinton Presidential Library. To his credit though, Mr. Johnson has had his character vouched for by John Kerry and Howard Dean. You can’t make this stuff up.

If this is how Obama screens his staff now, how will he screen his cabinet. The ironic thing about all of this is that so far two out of three members of his VP search team are of questionable character. These people are responsible for selecting the person who could potentially be our next Vice President, a person who is a ‘heart beat away from the Presidency’. Fortunately the remaining member is Caroline Kennedy. What are the odds that a Kennedy could be tied to scandal?

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