Howard Dean: McCain Planted WaPo Article on Jim Johnson

Washington Post: GOP tool? Might sound a tad far-fetched to you. But you're not Howard Dean.

Appearing on today's Morning Joe, DNC Chairman Dean claimed a Washington Post article about Jim Johnson, whom Barack Obama has chosen to head up the vetting of potential VP picks, was "planted" by the McCain campaign. Johnson's appointment has become an embarrassment to Obama because the former CEO of Fannie Mae has been linked to the mortgage crisis. As WaPo reported:

The questions about Johnson began after the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that he received more than $2 million in home loans that might have been below average market rates from Countrywide Financial, a partner of Fannie Mae and a leading purveyor of the kind of subprime mortgages that spawned a national housing crisis.

Moreover:

As CEO of Fannie Mae, Johnson, a former chief of staff to Vice President Walter F. Mondale and chairman of the board of the Kennedy Center, was the beneficiary of accounting in which Fannie Mae's earnings were manipulated so that executives could earn larger bonuses.

Dean smelled a rat.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Are you saying this Washington Post article is planted by John McCain?

HOWARD DEAN: Yeah. That's exactly right. I suspect the McCain people called up the Post, which is what both sides do, and got the reporter to write an interesting article about this stuff.

So in Dean's mind, WaPo serves as something of a Republican transcribing service. Call up, dictate your article, give your placement instructions, "yeah, put it on the front page," and . . . voila!

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the McCain campaign did indeed push the story—it would be virtual campaign malpractice not to do so. But surely Dean must realize the story is highly newsworthy and that the Post would be among the last papers to take Republican talking points at face value.

Dean got off another rib-tickler in the course of the conversation, claiming that Johnson was "not a key appointment." Right. Obama has called his choice of running mate "the most important decision that I will make before I am president." And Johnson is heading up the vetting committee. Nothing "key" there ;-)

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.