Tuesday, July 29, 2008

'That assertion is not correct'

The Obama campaign and the New York Times try to spin the Landstuhl story:
Before his visit to Ramstein Air Base, which is near the medical center, was canceled, the plan called for reporters to stay behind at an airport terminal while Mr. Obama and one adviser met with the troops. Why? The Pentagon does not allow reporters and photographers inside Landstuhl.
For weeks, Mr. Obama had been planning to visit wounded troops in Germany. . . . Yet the Landstuhl visit carried more risk because it was to come in the middle of an overseas campaign trip.
Robert Gibbs, a senior strategist for the campaign, said Mr. Obama thought he could carry out the visit without being perceived as politicizing it.
But two days before the visit, Pentagon officials told the campaign that only Mr. Obama would be allowed inside the medical center in his capacity as a senator. The adviser who had intended to join Mr. Obama, Scott Gration, a retired major general in the Air Force, was told he could not go along because he was a volunteer campaign adviser. . . .
At which point, reports from other sources indicate, Gration threw a tantrum that was the proximate cause of the cancellation of the visit. Gration apparently had not realized that signing up as a adviser to Obama meant that he would be treated like any other campaign aide. A senator can bring his Senate staffers with him to visit military hospitals, but a candidate cannot bring his campaign staffers.

The New York Times article doesn't explain that distinction, nor explain that the Obama campaign put the visit to Landstuhl on the media itinerary for the trip. As the transcript of the Friday news gaggle makes clear, the press plane was scheduled to accompany Obama to the Air Force base. Gibbs tried to tell reporters Friday that the plan all along had been for the media to sit in the plane on the tarmac while Obama visited the hospital, but that story doesn't sound convincing to me.

More likely, I suspect, is that the trip was scheduled by campaign staff who didn't fully understand the rules (as his Senate staff would) regarding media, campaigns and military hospitals. And it's clear that Gration didn't understand the rules, either, or else he would have known that his status as a campaign adviser meant that he wouldn't be able to accompany Obama into the hospital. The original plan to bring a whole planeload of reporters, photographers and TV crews to the Air Force base indicates that the Obama campaign originally had some idea that there would be a "news event" for them to cover there. (I discussed this on Friday.)

So it's pretty obvious that Gration and the campaign staff who scheduled the visit to Ramstuhl screwed up, but for some reason Team Obama doesn't want to come right out and say that. Instead, they keep trying to push back against the McCain campaign's spin, which doesn't do anything in terms of undercutting the fundamental narrative that Obama cancelled a visit with wounded troops and instead went to work out with an awestruck German reporterette.

Behind all this is the inescapable fact that Obama's nine-day foreign trip was never anything other than a gigantic publicity stunt, dreamed up by his campaign staff in a moment of hubris. As I said a month ago, when this trip idea first leaked out to the press:
WTF? Are Plouffe and Axelrod daft? How the heck does it help convince independent voters that Obama can be trusted to fix the economy for ordinary Americans to turn on their TVs and see the candidate in London, Paris or Tel Aviv? . . .
Let me go ahead and predict that one of three things will happen. Either (a) this talk of a foreign trip will be quietly shelved, at the behest of Democratic elders; (b) the plan will be seriously scaled back to no more than 4 days, with maybe a quick London stopover en route to Iraq, and a quick stopover in Paris on the way back; or (c) Team Obama will go ahead with this grandiose scheme and suffer a brutal P.R. beating as a result.
Looks like it's (c), huh?

UPDATE: Rather like the Obama campaign itself, DRJ at Patterico is seeking a sort of objective moral truth in this story. From a strictly political standpoint, however, truth and morality are irrelevant. What counts in politics (and Hunter S. Thompson saw this clearly, if no one else does) is perception.

Politics is a game in which the spectators ultimately choose the winner, and the spectators base their choices on their own perceptions. It's like "American Idol" -- a strictly objective judge might conclude that two or three singers who were eliminated in the quarterfinals were actually better than the guy who wins, but the viewers at home have the final say-so.

So this back-and-forth over the exact decision-making process whereby the Landstuhl visit was canceled -- the quest for verifiable truth, however nuanced and complex -- is almost certainly a waste of time and energy. The political truth (i.e., the perception) is simple enough to sum up in three words: "Obama disses troops."

Liberals have complained for years that their nuanced truth keeps getting stomped by the simple lies of Republicans. But how is "Obama disses troops" less nuanced than "Bush lied, people died" or "war for oil"? Democrats know perfectly well that simple slogans are effective, and they use them whenever they can. It's only when they're on the losing end of one of these narrative conflicts that they start whining about "nuance."

1 comment:

  1. And speaking from oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico wouldn't be a publicity stunt. Jeebus, you'd think these guys are running for President or something...