Friday, July 25, 2008

Hannity on Obama's cancelled Landstuhl visit

From Sean Hannity's radio show today:
[Barack Obama] wanted to go visit this military hospital. It was on the campaign sheet to go visit the military hospital in Germany. And we find out that the only restrictions the Pentagon wanted to impose was their rule against turning visits by politicians into campaign events. . . .
The Pentagon says, look, you can come but they're going to impose their rule against turning a visit by a politician into a campaign event. . . . All the Pentagon said is they advised Obama's staff -- yeah of course he can visit the hospital and injured personnel in Germany but only in his capacity as a Member of Congress. . . .
Obama apparently cancelled the visit and went to work out instead. He went to work out and then said it would be inappropriate as part of a trip financed by his campaign. . . .
So if you want my take on this, if you want to remember one thing about this trip is that Barack Obama chose to work out rather than see the wounded troops because he couldn't bring Katie Couric, Charlie Gibson, and Brian Williams with him.
Allahpundit discusses, giving Obama some benefit of the doubt. The problem here is that Obama listed the Landstuhl event on his press schedule and then canceled. His staff flunked Media Relations 101: When you put something on your press schedule and then cancel it, you'd better have a plausible explanation. Obama's attempt to spin this story is doomed to failure. They'd do better just to drop the subject and stop giving it oxygen.

UPDATE: As I explain at AmSpecBlog, looks like this story is going viral: Washington Post and CNN do follow-ups, and Associated Press has a story that will be in hundreds of local papers on Saturday morning. The transcript of Friday's press briefing, in which Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs tries a push-back gives a flavor of the media interest:
Q: When did you originally decide to go?
I have to get you an exact date but it has been on the schedule for a long time.
Q: Did it not occur to anybody that this might be viewed as a political stop?
We had taken some of that into consideration, but we believed that it could be done in a way that would not create, it would not be created or seen as a campaign stop.
Q: The schedule was for this plane, with us in it, to fly to Ramstein. By the way we were expected to pay for the flight, what were you suppose to do with the entourage then?
You would have stayed on the plane.
Q: We would have stayed on the plane, would there have been any pool report?
There may have been, I don’t know if we ever came to a decision on that.
These reporters' news organizations have to pay for them to travel with the campaign, and they were going to be charged for a trip to the air base (where the hospital is located), but they would have been stuck on the plane, waiting on the tarmac, with no chance to actually cover the hospital visit. Even a "pool report" (where one reporter accompanies the candidate, then files a description of the event that the rest of the press corps uses for their stories) might have been seen as a violation of the Pentagon rules.

What all this points to (and the reporters seem to be working toward this angle) is a huge planning error by the Obama campaign. The Pentagon has never allowed wounded GIs in hospitals to be used as political props, and any Senate staffer should know this. Unfortunately, the Landstuhl trip wasn't planned by Obama's Senate staff, it was planned by his campaign staff, who didn't know the rules.

All of which, of course, feeds into the anti-Obama narrative of the trip, namely that it was really just one big media photo-op from the get-go, rather than the kind "fact-finding" expedition his campaign had tried to frame it as.

This is a P.R. debacle of the first magnitude. Can't you just hear George Will talking about this on ABC's "This Week" Sunday morning? Oh, and just wait until Ann Coulter comes out with her column on Wednesday . . .

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure that Obama's people would love "just to drop the subject" at this point. Landstuhlgate, as I call it, is hardly going well for them as they must realize by now.

    But it's not so easy to just drop it while John McCain and so many others keep talking about it. Obama blew it, really a clueless decision to cancel that hospital visit, but he probably needs to respond to the criticism rather than just take it lying down.