Hatchet job by the Wall Street Journal

Normally I would not front page this as it’s a detail in the national presidential race – no Colorado angle and not that big. But ColoradoPolitical (our most active recent sockpuppet) was a one-man spew-a-thon on this issue.

And it looks like the story against James Johnson may be nothing more than a bunch of smoke from the WSJ.

From David Federer at HuffPo we have:

How The Wall Street Journal Fabricated a Scandal to Impugn an Obama Supporter, James Johnson

Ok, the original article said:

“A comparison of the Fannie Mae officers’ terms with interest rates prevailing when they got their loans raises the possibility Countrywide gave them preferential terms. But it’s impossible to tell for sure from public documents. An array of other factors also can account for lower-than-average rates, including a borrower’s income, total assets and credit score; how big the loan is compared with the home’s value; and how many “points” a borrower may have paid upfront in order to get a lower rate.”

In fact, the 3 loans were:

October 23, 1998: Amount: $393,000; Initial Rate: 6.375%; Market Average: 6.2%. Rate was .175% above market average.

November 8, 2001: Amount: $1,300,000; Initial Rate: 5.250%; Market Average: 6.0%. Rate was .75% below market average.

June 20, 2003: Amount: $972,000; Initial Rate: 3.875%; Market Average: 4.3%. Rate was . 4125% below market average.

Based on that what was the conflict of interest?

James Johnson was the CEO of Fannie Mae, the biggest buyer of Countrywide’s mortgages, until December 1998. Consequently, the only mortgage Johnson obtained when there was a potential conflict of interest was a $393,000 mortgage that was 17.5 basis points “above” the market average.

So where’s the problem? Well there is a big one. The major papers took a story that said there might be an issue. Repeat, might be. And the summed it up as:

“Jim Johnson, the man Barack Obama has picked to lead his vice-presidential vetting team, has gotten preferential treatment for personal loans from Countrywide Financial, a company Sen. Obama and others have blamed for helping to create the subprime mortgage mess.”

Lazy-assed reporting took something where it looks like there is nothing there and instead of doing the hard work of truly checking it out, jumped to the conclusion that would sell the most papers.

Did Jim Johnson do nothing wrong? It’s not clear. But in this country there should be a presumption of innocence and there is nothing here other than some maybes.

Unfortunately this encourages nimrods like ColoradoPolitical because they do see that repeating something ad-naseum will make enough people believe it regardless of the facts.

Jim Johnson is

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28 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. "The Blonde" says:

    He is clearly guilty.  And Obama is close buddies with yet another person of questionable character.

    Wait until the video of Michelle Obama attacking whitey comes out.

    • RedGreen says:

      because these manufactured attacks were distracting. Mission accomplished, guys. The McCain zealots wouldn’t know conflict of interest if it bit them in the face. Witness Phil Gramm’s continued role.

      • "The Blonde" says:

        He resigned because cockroaches always scatter when you shine the light on them.

      • Precinct854 says:

        This character clearly has nothing to say besides regurgitating talking points. Point out his history of non-responses and walk away otherwise he’ll make the responses useless.  

        • "The Blonde" says:

          I missed the part on McCain’s website that said to call them cockroaches.  But if it is on there – then I am off to a good start!

          I thought you would bring up something intelligent like “what about Keating 5?”

          There.  Must I do your job for you?

    • Sir Robin says:

      But more importantly, you’re probably a brunette….like a lot of liars I know.

    • Another skeptic says:

      Fannie Mae has been a stink hole forever, and Johnson is just another Democrat who misused his power to line his pockets.

      That he resigned shows that where there is smoke there is fire, to coin a phrase.

      Instead of defending your crooks and embracing them, try being objective.

      • Objectivity requires looking at facts.  The facts are that Johnson didn’t do well with Countrywide until well after he was out of the position.

        If Johnson was corrupt, he’s gone.  If he wasn’t, he’s still gone thanks to this apparently baseless attack.  Either way, the Obama campaign’s original reason for putting him on the committee was his experience in vetting VPs, not his sordid past.

        Oh, and… he’s gone.

        Where are Charlie Black and Phil Gramm?  They’re still with the McCain campaign.  What does that say about the candidates’ commitment to ethics?

  2. Precinct854 says:

    That looks more like a good payment history lowered the rate the mortgage company was willing to give him very slightly. Jim Johnson did the right thing by resigning since the dittoheads were not going to let this go and it is possible there was something wrong, but it does not seem terribly likely on the basis of the facts.

  3. "The Blonde" says:

    Can I vote for he is clearly guilty again?

    • RedGreen says:

      until the video surfaces of John McCain’s PTSD anxiety attack. It’ll make a nice double feature with Cindy McCain shooting up. Is this really the kind of leadership we want in the White House? Hasn’t George Bush’s secret drinking been enough?

      • ekean says:

        He cant find a way out of Iraq, He cant figure out fiscal policy as a fiscal conservative, he cant find his veto pen, he cant protect the enviorment, he cant stop his vice from shooting people…

        How do you expect him to find the god damn fridge?

  4. ColoradoPolitical says:

    Rupert Murdoch got his pals the Graham Family at the Washington Post and the New York Times to go along with his conspiracy. All reported the same story. The Post actually dug up other even more damaging information on Johnson.

    Go ahead and believe that it is just one big conspiracy.

    • RedGreen says:

      Not true. They reported that the right-wingers had “raised questions” about Johnson. They didn’t pass judgment on the quality of the questions.

      Paying some bloggers to insert it into every discussion makes it harder to ignore.

      We’re going to see a lot of this. McCain can’t win on the issues so his supporters throw sand in everyone’s face. Classy.

  5. DavidThi808 says:

    In Obama’s campaign they resign if there’s a question of conflict of interest.

    In McCain’s campaign they stay even when there’s a clear conflict of interest.

    ColoradoPolitical, The Blonde, etc may win a small fight or two. But I think we’ll win the war.

    Even more important, we can look at ourselves in the mirror the next day and feel good about what we have and have not done.

  6. Big Red says:

    ColoradoPols misses the point here.  Johnson would be a total non-story, except that Obama made him one!  By bashing Countrywide repeatedly, Obama invited this type of scrutiny.  If he thinks Countrywide is an evil corporation, he has to live with that standard.  It’s not a standard that Republicans imposed.  It’s Obama’s.

    • I have a Countrywide loan.  They were recommended to me by family, who had nothing but good things to say about them.  I’ve since decided they’re not so great due to other dealings with them, but I’m not about to give up my 30-yr. fixed loan…

      If Johnson’s guilty of having three loans through Countrywide, I guess there are going to be a lot of guilty people joining him.

    • DavidThi808 says:

      I hadn’t thought of that but that connection does make it more key.

      • RedGreen says:

        and excessive compensation for executives while approaching bankruptcy … how does that make it fair game to smear anyone with a Countrywide mortgage? They’re the largest mortgage lender in the country, for crying out loud. Big Red’s “connection” would be akin to bashing Wal*Mart for some of its business practices, so, by golly, any of your associates who SHOP at Wal*Mart are tainted.  

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