Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean says presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain is “running a campaign that is, frankly, pretty sleazy.”
Dean has been hitting the McCain campaign particularly hard lately for its ties to lobbyists and blames the McCain camp for leaking the James Johnson story to a reporter at “The Washington Post.”
In an interview on MSNBC, Dean says soon-to-be Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama’s image is no way tarnished for having selected Johnson, the former Fannie Mae CEO, to the team vetting the process of choosing vice presidential candidates for Obama.
The front page story (“Obama’s Choice of Insider Draws Fire”) appeared Tuesday criticizing Obama’s decision to select Johnson. The article questioned Johnson’s past personal loan deals and involvement in the mortgage crisis. Johnson resigned Wednesday as a result of the article.
“I had to laugh when I saw that headline,” Dean says, noting it will in no way hurt Obama’s chances of running a good general election campaign and winning the White House in November.
“It’s a silly article, but you get silly articles from time to time in politics,” he says.
“I suspect the McCain people called ‘The Post’ and got the reporter to write an ‘interesting’ article about this stuff. But the truth is Barack Obama hasn’t taken any money from lobbyists or special interests.”
Dean defends Johnson as a capable guy who’s been vetting vice presidents for a while, including for former presidential candidates John Kerry and Walter Mondale. Johnson, he points out, was not on Obama’s payroll as an adviser and is not a donator or lobbyist to Obama’s campaign.
“John McCain’s campaign is being run by lobbyists,” he chides. “He’s got lobbyists crawling out of every corner of his campaign: they donate money to him. Barack Obama doesn’t take money from lobbyists.”
Dean says McCain’s camp planted the story to show Obama’s lack of judgment in making his first key appointment.
First of all, “he’s not a key appointment; he’s a guy who was doing a volunteer job,” Dean clarifies.
“It’s trench warfare – that’s part of the deal – but it’s a pretty silly article considering McCain’s history” [of accepting money from lobbyists and special interests].
“Not one dime of lobbyist money has gone into Barack Obama’s campaign,” emphasizes Dean. “Not one dime of special interest money” either.
“Let’s have the Republican National Committee do what the Democratic National Committee did, which is not to take money from lobbyists,” Dean says reproachfully.
“Let’s see the Republicans do that. Then they can start [planting] articles like this. Let’s have John McCain not take any more money from special interests and lobbyists. When he does that, then we can discuss Jim Johnson’s volunteer background.”
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