Election 2008

Obama Fires Back At McCain Attacks

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Sen. Barack Obama delivered a strong response to Sen. John McCain's questioning of his judgment. He also drew attention to the Republican's statement on Saturday that only those earning more than $5 million could be considered rich.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Scott Simon.

Now, Barack Obama's response.

Senator Obama addresses the VFW tomorrow, but he didn't wait to respond to Mr. McCain's criticisms of his Iraq policy. At the same time, the question of his presidential - vice-presidential selection - who it will be, when we might find out - remains a topic of much speculation and anticipation.

NPR's senior political correspondent Mara Liasson is traveling with the Obama campaign. We spoke with her earlier today about that vice presidential question and Mr. Obama's response to Mr. McCain's speech.

MARA LIASSON: Those were some pretty tough attacks from McCain at the VFW convention. And the Obama campaign immediately put out a statement saying that McCain's attacks were full of bluster and distortions and negativity. And that the difference in this race is that John McCain is intent on spending $10 billion a month on an open-ended war. And Barack Obama wants to bring the troops home in a responsible way.

The Obama campaign is intent on sending a message that it's not going to let any of these attacks go unanswered. It's not going to be Swift-Boated the way John Kerry was, and Obama talks about that a lot. He also made sure that he pivoted pretty quickly to an economic attack on McCain, mentioning that the war's costing $10 billion a month. We could be spending that money on other things, and also taking advantage of a gaffe that McCain made at the Saddleback mega church forum on Saturday when McCain defined rich as somebody who makes $5 million a year. And today, Obama said, I guess that means if you're making $3 million a year, you're only middle class. So that is the tone of the campaign back-and-forth today.

SIMON: Is there any sense among the people running the Obama campaign that they were on vacation last week and Senator McCain may have made some ground, showing off some of his foreign policy credentials as the conflict in Georgia went?

LIASSON: Yes. There is no doubt about that. He's been absent for a week. McCain had the stage to himself. He had the stage to himself in an area where he has advantages over Obama, foreign policy, the question of who is the better commander-in-chief - that is the one area where McCain is beating Obama in all the polls. And I also think that there is this discontent among Democrats, kind of the chattering classes of Democrats which the Obama campaign insists it doesn't listen to, but that Obama has to hit back harder and that he is in danger of being Swift-Boated. And he does talk at every stop now about how good the Republicans are at negative attacks and that he isn't going to let them get away with it.

SIMON: So when Senator Obama decides who's going to be his running mate, are you going to get a text message?

(Soundbite of laughter)

LIASSON: You know what? I was told if I want to get one, I have to sign up. The press does not get an automatic text message. But this is the way that the Obama campaign is planning on making the announcement that everybody has been waiting for. It will be in a text message, first to their supporters. And this, they think, is the Obama way. It's very democratic, grassroots. The first people to hear about this are the people who have signed up on the Obama campaign Web site to receive text messages. And they make a lot of announcements this way, and they're going to make the vice-presidential announcement this way also.

SIMON: Any sense of when this exercise in mass democracy might occur?

LIASSON: Well, first, there's the question of when, and I think that is going to be this week. Although there is now talk that maybe he would do it at the convention and kind of step on any story of Hillary Clinton and her supporters being rambunctious. But I think it will come this week. He is going back to Chicago on Thursday. Maybe it'll happen on Friday. But I can tell you, this decision is so closely held that the people you talk to on the campaign truly do not know. About six people are in the room with Obama discussing this. There have been absolutely no leaks, and that is why there's buzz and speculation about it. Nobody knows.

SIMON: NPR's senior political correspondent Mara Liasson, thank you.

LIASSON: Thank you, Scott.

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