Obama veep search has a colorful cast of characters

posted at 6:55 pm on June 4, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

The day after Barack Obama claimed the nomination of the Democratic Party, his campaign announced the search committee members who will recommend choices for a running mate. These committees usually serve as sops to the various factions of the party and give a good indication where the candidate feels the need to either shore up support or give payback for assistance during the campaign. In this case, though, it calls Obama’s judgment into question — again:

Barack Obama turned in earnest to the general election and the hunt for a running mate Wednesday, embraced by Democratic leaders who signaled forcefully and sometimes impatiently to Hillary Rodham Clinton that her marathon duel with Obama was over. Clinton kept her silence in public, while supporters made a case for her as Obama’s No. 2.

Obama himself moved to link himself more closely with a young Democratic hero of a half-century ago, picking President Kennedy’s daughter Caroline to help him choose a vice president. …

Obama began focusing on who will join his ticket in the fall. His campaign said the vetting of potential running mates was to be managed by a three-person team of Caroline Kennedy, former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder and longtime Washington insider Jim Johnson.

That’s quite a trio. Allahpundit noted the inclusion of Caroline Kennedy to the committee in our joint post on the conviction of Tony Rezko. The former president’s daughter has pointedly avoided electoral politics for most of her life, except for endorsing Obama earlier in the campaign. One wonders what qualifications she brings to this process other than her standing as a member of the real Democratic dynasty. Obama hopes to rub more of that Kennedy vibe onto his campaign, apparently.

The other members are much more problematic. Eric Holder worked as the #2 man in the Clinton Department of Justice under Janet Reno. His most remarkable moment came at the end of the Clinton administration, when he apparently helped push the Marc Rich pardon past objections from the prosecutors who sought the fugitive financier:

A report by a Republican-led congressional committee accuses the Clinton White House of mishandling several pardons issued in President Clinton’s final days in office, while Democrats fired back that the report’s accusations are false. …

The report suggests that former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder was directly involved in orchestrating the pardon, by working with Rich’s attorney, Jack Quinn.

“Jack Quinn and … Holder worked together to ensure that the Justice Department, especially the prosecutors of the Southern District of New York, did not have an opportunity to express an opinion on the Rich pardon before it was granted,” the report states.

Of course, all Congressional committees were headed by Republicans in 2002, just as all are headed by Democrats in 2008. CNN’s helpful reminder of that fact rarely appears in their reports on Congressional investigations these days. Rich Lowry laid it out a little better for NPR after Holder’s testimony in February 2001:

Well, I don’t know whether there was a big news lead but this is interesting, I think, as a classic Washington buck- passing operation where you’ve had Bill Clinton go before the cameras and say, well, you know what? I was relying on Jack Quinn’s advice. So he’s saying by implication this is all Jack Quinn’s fault if anything went wrong here. And you have Jack Quinn saying look guys I’m a lawyer; it’s my job to represent odious people and odious causes and what happens here is Eric Holder didn’t stop this pardon from happening so by implication he’s saying it’s Eric holder’s fault. And then today you had Eric Holder testifying that essentially he didn’t pay very much attention to this and didn’t realize the President was about to pardon an international fugitive so it’s not his fault either.

Holder at the time admitted he made “mistakes”, but the “mistake” he made was in avoiding any communication with his own prosecutors on a pardon that would affect their case. That’s hardly a “mistake”; it broke DoJ protocol on pardon assessments and gave Bill Clinton an out to issue the pardon to a fugitive whose wife donated nearly $500,000 to his presidential library fund. And what did Rich do with his freedom? He wound up playing a critical role in the UN’s Oil for Food scandal that put billions into the pockets of Saddam Hussein.

Byron York notes the odor coming from the other member of this trio, Jim Johnson. Johnson helped John Kerry pick John Edwards in 2004, and Walter Mondale select Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, so he hasn’t exactly shown success in the running-mate business. Outside of that, Johnson’s term at Fannie Mae was clouded in scandal over executive compensation and transparency:

[Fannie Mae] failed to disclose to OFHEO in a timely manner a post-employment agreement with former CEO James Johnson that provided him with substantial compensation in addition to that already provided upon his termination as a Fannie Mae employee….

Shortly after the release of the September 2004 OFHEO report, an article in the December 23, 2004, Washington Post entitled “High Pay at Fannie Mae for the Well-Connected,” suggested that 1998 compensation for former Fannie Mae CEO James Johnson “was [reported to be] $6 million to $7 million a year,” in 1998. The total compensation in 1998 for Mr. Johnson was, in fact, substantially more.

An initial review of the 1999 Fannie Mae Proxy Statement “Summary Compensation Table” suggests the source of the Washington Post figure on 1998 compensation for Mr. Johnson. A close read of that proxy, including footnotes, shows that the Table itself listed only a small portion of the actual 1998 long-term compensation of Mr. Johnson. Mr. Johnson used a program available to only very senior Fannie Mae executives (Executive Vice President and above) to defer a sizable amount of earned Performance Share Plan shares. Fannie Mae disclosed in a footnote to the Summary Compensation table that Mr. Johnson deferred 111,623 shares; the actual value of the shares did not show up in the Summary Compensation Table.

Indeed, the released compensation value for Johnson’s employment in 1998 was just shy of $2 million, according to the OFHEO investigation into Fannie Mae’s practices. His actual compensation? Almost $21 million.

If Obama’s VP search committee says anything about him, it’s that not much has changed since Chicago. He’s not offering change, he’s embracing the tawdry and opaque elements of Washington DC much as he did by linking up with Tony Rezko in Illinois.

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Great post, Ed.

MayBee on June 4, 2008 at 6:59 PM

I hope both the VP selection team and the potential VP’s are screened for racial, sexual, gender, age, and other relevant forms of diversity. Have the black media been adequately involved? I hope to see a change in tone.

JiangxiDad on June 4, 2008 at 7:03 PM

They are gleaning her to take over Ted’s place. She is the only “capable” Kennedy, and God knows how many years that senate has been held by a Kennedy.
This gives her the “experience” she needs to be elected.

right2bright on June 4, 2008 at 7:03 PM

As I am reading about Caroline Kennedy, it doesn’t seem like she had done anything but sit on boards.

Though, I guess that is all you need to be VP.

upinak on June 4, 2008 at 7:06 PM

Three rubber stamps.

RBMN on June 4, 2008 at 7:09 PM

JiangxiDad on June 4, 2008 at 7:03 PM

Geeez….sounds like we might get Rocky Horror.

Limerick on June 4, 2008 at 7:09 PM

“enlightened” at JOM just said this:

Hmmm. James Johnson is also a board member of Goldman Sachs – (per Wiki)15th biggest issuer of sub-prime mortgages.….One in every six of the 8,274 mortgages bundled together in GSAMP Trust 2006-S3 was already in default 18 months later.

MayBee on June 4, 2008 at 7:09 PM

If anyone tries to compare Obama to JFK, remind them that JFK was strongly anti-Communist.

Ask Obama what he thinks of Marxism-Leninism. I dare you.

Red Pill on June 4, 2008 at 7:14 PM

Eric Holder …apparently helped push the Marc Rich pardon past objections

Tony Rezko sure hopes Obama wins…his pardon is on the line.

Red Pill on June 4, 2008 at 7:16 PM

Hi Maybee!

Here’s Johnson’s GS profile:

James A. Johnson
Mr. Johnson has been a Vice Chairman of Perseus, L.L.C., a merchant banking and private equity firm, since April 2001. From January 2000 to March 2001, he served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Johnson Capital Partners, a private investment company. From January through December 1999, he was Chairman of the Executive Committee of Fannie Mae, having previously served as its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer from February 1991 through December 1998 and its Vice Chairman from 1990 through February 1991. Mr. Johnson has been a director of Goldman Sachs since May 1999. Mr. Johnson is on the boards of the following public companies in addition to Goldman Sachs: Forestar Real Estate Group, Inc., KB Home, Target Corporation and UnitedHealth Group Inc. In addition, he is affiliated with certain non-profit organizations, including as Chairman Emeritus of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, as a member of each of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Friends of Bilderberg, the Council on Foreign Relations and The Trilateral Commission, and as an honorary trustee of The Brookings Institution.

Wonder how much Forestar Real Estate, KB Homes and GS are fixin to get in the mortgage bailout?

And he is Chairman ofthe JFK Center for Performing Arts – hence the Caroline Kennedy connection……….

I’m curious – Does Mr. Johnson also speculate on energy commodities?

Enlightened on June 4, 2008 at 7:19 PM

Colorful? Racist.

Dan Collins on June 4, 2008 at 7:32 PM

None of this matters because those who don’t know about it will never understand the intricacies even if they take a few days to research the history.

Those who do remember or understand what you are saying are going to be talking to the choir because we associate ourselves with people of like minds, and rarely if ever get down and dirty with the herd.

We all understand that this is a smoking gun issue and that the only change coming to the democratic party is who the next titular head of insider politics will be in that party, there is no way to explain this to rabid republican haters who rely solely on the mainstream media for information and guidance.

We have to find and take a different tack. I truly believe that the only course of action that persons other than democrats can take is to debate facts from hope. McCain actually has it right on that point. Whether he is the man to go face to face with BO on a national stage is another matter.

I have the unique opportunity on a daily basis to debate BO supporters and they are completely clueless about why this man should be president. Those who are willing to have a dialog based on why GW is not a bad man, why taxes are not the answer, and why we have not only our national security interests at stake but the world’s as well have walked away from me with a different look on their faces.

However, one conversation will not change a mind that latches onto the path of least resistance. I say screw Obama’s staff. Focus on the democratic nominee. He is the target, his staff, unless they have some supremely heavy baggage are not worth discussing.

BO is so wrong for the United States and the world that it is beyond comprehension. That message and that debate framed properly will save us from ourselves.

I can HOPE can’t I?

winemkr on June 4, 2008 at 7:35 PM

His campaign said the vetting of potential running mates was to be managed by a three-person team…

Obama is vetting people now?

forest on June 4, 2008 at 7:36 PM

not much has changed since Chicago

Didn’t dead people voting in Chicago play a big role in Illinois going to JFK instead of Nixon?

Red Pill on June 4, 2008 at 7:42 PM

Didn’t dead people voting in Chicago play a big role in Illinois going to JFK instead of Nixon?

Red Pill on June 4, 2008 at 7:42 PM

Yeap. Immediately after the election Kennedy flew down to Florida to talk to Nixon. Really unusual. He knew old Joe Kennedy had bought Illinois. Nixon could have held things up like Gore did in 2000 but he chose not to.

JonRoss on June 4, 2008 at 7:52 PM

Holder got dirtied up nicely by Clinton. My guess is that he is only the complexion member of the team. Ms. Kennedy had nothing to add so its Mr Johnson at the helm until the diversity stage of decision making comes up late in the game.

And my hunch is that Obama is going to revert to being a doctrinaire liberal in the process, but that the veep cannot step on his train.

JAW on June 4, 2008 at 7:56 PM

Obama will be vetting them to make sure they don’t have any controversial or criminal friends, like he does.

RBMN on June 4, 2008 at 7:57 PM

I hope he picks Jack Murtha.

Miltary credibility, right?

profitsbeard on June 4, 2008 at 8:48 PM

One wonders what qualifications she brings to this process other than her standing as a member of the real Democratic dynasty.

Perhaps he is going to rub her head for luck?

forest on June 4, 2008 at 7:36 PM

Yes they’re checking for tire tracks from the bus. Wouldn’t want to find out that he already threw the potential vp under the bus.

jdkchem on June 4, 2008 at 8:52 PM

OhBummer continues to exhibit poor judgment, to embrace questionable (that’s putting it diplomatically) political bedfellows, and to demonstrate singular inability to lead. San FranciscoGate has more on his selection of VP vetters: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/06/04/politics/p162804D65.DTL

I guess that if the presumed Democrat presidential candidate himself has not been sufficiently vetted, his team is equally likely not to be.

Words…just words.

OhBummer may be “articulate” with high-flying empty rhetoric, but he seems less and less “clean”.

onlineanalyst on June 4, 2008 at 8:59 PM

Great. Two sleazy, corrupt liars, and one woman who has never had a real job in her life, are going to pick the Dim’s VP.

Seems fitting, somehow.

AZCoyote on June 4, 2008 at 9:06 PM

Great. Two sleazy, corrupt liars, and one woman who has never had a real job in her life, are going to pick the Dim’s VP.

Seems fitting, somehow.

AZCoyote on June 4, 2008 at 9:06 PM

They do seem to be consistant in their incompetence.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a totally inept set of leaders in power all at the same time. Worldwide.

That’s the kinda crap I Hope to see Change.

techno_barbarian on June 4, 2008 at 11:51 PM

Caroline Kennedy to be on his VP Search Committee? I’ve met Caroline and she’s very nice, and I’ve always had a lot of respect for her, but I’m sorry… her selection for this role is so cliche.

D2Boston on June 4, 2008 at 11:53 PM

Putting Caroline Kennedy on the search committee is mostly window dressing; she’s really there to hold Michelle Obama’s hand.

JM Hanes on June 5, 2008 at 12:17 AM

Could Edwards be high on the list.. The African-American and the Southern Cracker?

With his 7 delegates, he carries a lot of weight.

originalpechanga on June 5, 2008 at 12:34 AM

The MSM should take note of the real investigative journalism going on here at Hot Air, but they won’t.

But Democrats don’t really care a flying fig about “change” or “hope”. What a flimsy smokescreen. They want socialism and defeat in the war. Our only job from here on out should be to expose them on that.

Halley on June 5, 2008 at 5:11 AM

shes there to stand by his side when he picks anyone other then hillbilly..

rico101 on June 5, 2008 at 6:38 AM