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Obama's, McCain's sniping over advisers continues

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  • NEW: Obama camp says McCain rejects proposal for five joint appearances
  • McCain camp raises questions about second Obama vetter, Eric Holder
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From Dana Bash
CNN
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Sen. John McCain's and Sen. Barack Obama's camps Friday continued to snipe at each other over advisers, despite promises from both presidential candidates to engage in civil, issue-based campaigns.

Just days after Obama secured the number of delegates needed for the Democratic presidential nomination, McCain's campaign targeted Jim Johnson, a former CEO of Fannie Mae and a Washington insider whom Obama had tapped to help vet vice presidential nominees, for receiving a mortgage with favorable terms from Countrywide.

Obama has criticized the mortgage company for its lending practices.

Obama initially defended Johnson, but the adviser stepped down earlier this week, saying he did not want the controversy to distract from Obama's campaign. Video Watch McCain call for more resignations »

Now, McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, is targeting a second Obama vetter, Eric Holder.

Holder was a deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration and signed off on the controversial pardon of Marc Rich, a financier who was a fugitive at the time, during the final days of the Clinton presidency. Video Watch McCain go on the attack »

"Holder recommended the pardoning of Mr. Rich and all of those things will be taken into consideration by the media and the American people," McCain said during a town hall meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, on Thursday.

A spokesman for the Obama camp said Friday that the controversy over Obama's vetters has gotten "a little bit out of control."

"I think Eric Holder, obviously, is a very honorable man who worked the majority of his life in law enforcement. He has done nothing wrong, and I think this is sort of gone a little bit out of control," said Robert Gibbs, Obama's communication director. Video Watch Gibbs raise questions about McCain's vetter »

Gibbs also raised questions about the person McCain has tasked with vetting his vice presidential candidates, Arthur Culvahouse.

Culvahouse is a registered lobbyist who had represented Fannie Mae, Johnson's former firm, and is chairman of Omelveny & Myers, a lobbying firm that has represented Exxon-Mobil Corp. and Enron.

"Not to get into guilt by association or things like that, but let's look at who John McCain has vetting his vice presidential prospects," he said. "He's a former lobbyist and the head of the legal team in the Reagan White House during the Iran-Contra hearings."

The attack on Culvahouse comes after the Obama camp has for months blasted McCain for having two lobbyists -- Rick Davis and Charlie Black -- head his campaign. Davis is McCain's campaign manager, while Black is a senior adviser to the Arizona Republican.

The back-and-forth over advisers is just the latest incident in a struggle by the two campaigns over who is the real reformer who can bring change to Washington.

But it is a far cry from the "respectful campaign" that McCain promised and the "civil, substantive debate on the issues" Obama vowed to engage in.

On Friday, McCain promised to run a campaign with the voters in mind during a town hall meeting in Pemberton, New Jersey. Video Watch a funny look at the town hall wars »

"I think this campaign should be for you. And you are tired of this. You are tired of attack ads. You want a civilized debate and discussion of the issues and challenges that confront America," McCain said.

McCain again called for a series of joint town hall meetings with Obama. On Friday, McCain accepted invitations to participate in town hall meetings in July at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, and the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas. His campaign challenged Obama to also accept the invitations.

The Obama campaign said Friday its candidate had sent a counterproposal to McCain that proposed five joint appearances -- three traditional debates, one town hall meeting on the economy in July and one town hall meeting in August focused on foreign policy -- but that he had rejected the plan.

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Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, said the proposal represented "a historic commitment to openness and transparency" and that he was disappointed by the Arizona senator's refusal.

"Apparently they would rather contrive a political issue than foster a genuine discussion about the future of our country," Plouffe said.

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