Obama Gets Scratched By Veep Search

While the focus for many voters right now is whether Congress or the two Presidential candidates will do anything about gas prices, the McCain and Obama camps are having a furious battle over ethical standards for their campaign associates.

The latest casualty was the head of Obama's Vice Presidential search team, Jim Johnson.  Days of attacks on Johnson (a former Fannie Mae executive) over what might have been special mortgage loans from Countrywide Financial.

Countrywide has been a frequent target of Obama on the campaign trail, as he rails against corporate greed in the overall mortgage mess story, so after a couple days of banging by the media and the GOP, Johnson decided to hit the road.

"Jim did not want to distract in any way from the very important task of gathering information about my vice presidential nominee, so he made a decision to step aside that I accept," said Obama in a statement emailed to reporters.

"We have a very good selection process underway, and I am confident that it will produce a number of highly qualified candidates," said Obama.

If only it was so simple.

"OBAMA'S SPECIAL INTEREST DOUBLE STANDARD" howled the headline from yet another Republican National Committee missive, which quickly zeroed in on another member of the Obama VP Search Team.

"Eric Holder...was involved in a sweetheart deal which granted fugitive Marc Rich a controversial pardon from outgoing President Bill Clinton," said the RNC release.

Team Obama did not fold up their tent.

"We don't need any lectures from a campaign that waited fifteen months to purge the lobbyists from their staff, and only did so because they said it was a 'perception pfoblem," said Obama spokesman Bill Burton.

Burton went on to drag McCain's top economic adviser Carly Fiorina over the campaign coals, saying she "presided over thousands of layoffs at Hewlett Packard while receiving a $21 million severance package and $600,000 in mortgage assistance."

What does it all mean?  Well, both campaigns are trying as hard as they can to present their candidate as the "real" reformer.  But both sides are also learning that their own tough rules about 'conflicts of interest' are sometimes bringing down their own people.

I do wonder whether Eric Holder is going to get a lot of flak now, because the Marc Rich pardon thing is something that talk radio can sink its teeth into and really run the battle flag up the pole over.

For now, I don't see this as anything dangerous for Obama or McCain, but if Holder is forced off the Veep Search team, then Obama is left only with Caroline Kennedy, which seemed an odd choice to many from the outset.