Jun 13, 2008

Another Wheel Falls Of Obama Campaign Bus

The resignation of the head of the three person panel that Obama entrusted to help select his Vice President to is big news in the States. Not what Obama would be wanting to see on the front page of the New York Times.

James A. Johnson, the consummate Washington insider whom Senator Barack Obama tapped to head his vice-presidential search effort, resigned abruptly on Wednesday to try to silence a growing furor over his business activities. Mr. Johnson’s departure deprives Mr. Obama of decades of experience and access to Washington’s power elite. Mr. Johnson has been a fixture in Washington political and legal circles for three decades, and he led the vice-presidential search team for Senator John Kerry, the Democrats’ presidential nominee in 2004.
His resignation, at the start of a general election contest in which the candidates have pledged to run issue-based campaigns, came after days of intense scrutiny from the news media and attacks from Senator
John McCain and Republican Party officials over mortgages Mr. Johnson, a former chief executive of Fannie Mae, received on favorable terms from the Countrywide Financial Corporation, the mortgage company that was a central player in the subprime lending crisis. Mr. Johnson also faced questions about his role on compensation committees that awarded large payouts to corporate executives.
His resignation highlights the difficulties for Mr. Obama’s campaign in trying to live up to his promises to remain independent of the Washington establishment and the special interests that populate it.

Mr. Obama had defended Mr. Johnson as recently as Tuesday, saying that he had only a “tangential” role and that the campaign would not hire people to, as Mr. Obama put it, “vet the vetters.”
But as questions about Mr. Johnson grew, Mr. Obama felt he had to move quickly to rid the campaign of a man who had come to symbolize the Washington fixers that Mr. Obama was running against, aides said. One aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said that Mr. Obama, a relative newcomer to Washington, had little loyalty to Mr. Johnson, a major presence in Democratic politics for more than two decades.
But the loss will carry some costs for the Obama team. The controversy is the latest example of the demonization of so-called Washington insiders, who both profit from the political system and bring irreplaceable experience and insight to it.

Although Mr. Obama’s campaign is known for its stability and cohesiveness, Mr. Johnson is at least the second high-profile adviser to step down in the wake of controversy. In March, Samantha Power, a close friend and foreign policy adviser, resigned after referring to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as “a monster.”