No Charitable Explanations on the Right

See Update at the end of this post.

Yesterday, Ed Morrissey picked up on a news item about Sen. Obama cancelling a planned visit to wounded American soldiers at two U.S. military bases in Germany. Noting that military personnel at the base did not know why the visit had been cancelled, Ed came up with his own explanation… er, make that explanations, plural, via multiple updates:

  1. Obama had scheduling problems, and visiting wounded American soldiers was a low priority for him.
  2. Obama wanted to “hold a political rally for Germans and go shopping in Berlin.”
  3. Obama felt that “a visit to Landstuhl would have been ‘inappropriate’ for a campaign trip.”
  4. Obama didn’t really think his European tour was a campaign trip, so number 3 wasn’t his true reason and he won’t tell us what his true reason was.

This morning, Ed put up another post, seizing on a single, unconfirmed quote from a nameless “military official” to invent a new explanation:

One military official who was working on the Obama visit said because political candidates are prohibited from using military installations as campaign backdrops, Obama’s representatives were told, “he could only bring two or three of his Senate staff member, no campaign officials or workers.” In addition, “Obama could not bring any media. Only military photographers would be permitted to record Obama’s visit.” —MSNBC, First Read

This makes the decision track very clear. Obama and his team set up the visits to military installations before going overseas. After seeing how the media got excluded in Iraq and Afghanistan, they decided it wasn’t worth traveling to Ramstein and Landstuhl to visit the severely wounded troops because they couldn’t bring the campaign and get the photo ops they wanted. Instead, Obama went shopping in Berlin. — Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

Ed wasn’t alone. A merry crew of wingnut bloggers — the very same ones who are so quick to decry the lack of “charity” in explaining John McCain’s endless bloopers — leaped to conclusions and assigned the worst possible reasons for Obama’s change of plans with no attempt to contact reliable sources who could have told them what was going on.

As Greg Sargent found out by calling the Pentagon, the truth is that Obama got last-minute notification from the Pentagon that he could only visit the military bases as a senator, with Senate staff — not as a presidential candidate with campaign staff.

A Pentagon spokesperson confirms to me that because of longstanding Department of Defense regulations, Pentagon officials told Obama aides that he couldn’t visit the base with campaign staff. This left Obama with little choice but to cancel the trip, since the plan to visit with campaign aides had been in the works for weeks.

The Obama campaign yesterday announced that it had decided to cancel the visit to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, saying that it would be “inappropriate” to make such a visit as part of a campaign trip.

The McCain camp has nonetheless been using Obama’s canceled trip to insinuate that he’s anti-troops. “Barack Obama is wrong,” McCain spokesperson Brian Rogers said in a statement yesterday. “It is never ‘inappropriate’ to visit our men and women in the military.”

But it turns out that the Pentagon did in fact tell Obama that in this case, it was not only “inappropriate,” but against DOD rules, for him to conduct the visit with campaign staff.

“We have longstanding Department of Defense policy in regards to political campaigns and elections,” Pentagon spokesperson Elizabeth Hibner told me. “We informed the Obama staff that he was more than welcome to visit as Senator Obama, with Senate staff. However, he could not conduct the visit with campaign staff.”

I’m sure it won’t surprise anyone that right-wing bloggers are not accepting this explanation.

Don Surber‘s was typical:

Obama had an easy choice.

He could have walked in alone.

He could have left the campaign behind for a few minutes.

He could have visited those troops and talked to them and he could have found out what it is they need, and then go back to Washington and tend those needs.

In other words, he could have been for one brief moment a senator.

And how would he have done that when the Pentagon did not tell him that his planned visit would look campaign-related until he was in Europe, with his campaign staff, in his role as a U.S. presidential candidate, to meet the United States’s European allies? In that context, a visit to Landstuhl would have looked political with or without campaign staff accompanying him. Which is, apparently, the major reason he decided not to go to Landstuhl:

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama dropped a plan to visit wounded U.S. troops in Germany on Friday amid concerns the stop would be viewed as a political event.

Planning for a stop at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center had been in the works for three weeks. But an Obama adviser said he was told in recent days by the Pentagon that the military would consider it a campaign event.

As usual, John Amato observes, right-wingers looking for something to make Obama look bad end up instead looking foolish:

Any candidate would go out of his way to make a trip like this. Hey, guess what? The same thing happened to McCain:

From CNN:

With Department of Defense rules prohibiting political campaigning on military bases, it was determined that in some cases McCain could visit the installations as a senator but could not engage in any political activity or have news media present. McCain campaign officials said Thursday they intentionally did not campaign on military property.

“We follow the rules,” said senior McCain adviser Steve Schmidt.

Red State’s Erick Erickson looks really foolish with his graphic contest, but it’s Red State. RedState Graphic Design Contest 3: Obama Ditches Wounded Troops For Shopping in Berlin.

There was also another smear against Obama that has been debunked too.

Army officials refute claim of Barack Obama snub in Afghanistan.

Another Republican non-issue.

UPDATE: NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski has a post up at First Read indicating that a retired military officer on Obama’s staff may have been the reason why the visit to Landstuhl was cancelled. Obama wanted to bring two campaign staffers with him on the trip — retired Major General Jonathan S. Gration and Jeff Kiernan. The Pentagon nixed that, and Maj. Gen. Gration apparently was angered by that.

Pentagon officials say Gration was the campaign’s point of contact at Landstuhl in arranging Obama’s visit and “got torqued” when he was told he would not be permitted to join Obama. It was Gration who later suggested to reporters that the Pentagon short-circuited Obama’s visit.

Are there some in the Pentagon or military resentful because Gration has climbed on board the Obama campaign? Did Gration overreact? As a former policy director for the US European Command, he would surely be disappointed — if not offended — by being excluded from the visit. It’s also been my experience that even retired generals do not want to hear the word “no.”

21 Responses to “No Charitable Explanations on the Right”

  1. Rick Calvert says:

    accuse me of picking nits if you like but this quote from the Obama campaign stood out for me

    “The Obama campaign yesterday announced that it had decided to cancel the visit to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, saying that it would be “inappropriate” to make such a visit as part of a campaign trip.”

    Doesn’t that mean they had originally scheduled the visit as part of a campaign trip and before receiving this notice from the pentagon felt that it was appropriate?

    I’m not addressing the timing of the notice from the pentagon. It very well could be they only notified the Obama camp of this policy at the last minute, however that is not what the quote you have listed above says.

    I am not impugning Obama’s motives for canceling the visit or suggesting any new theories, just pointing something out.

  2. Kathy says:

    The Obama campaign could have been clearer about why they cancelled the Landstuhl visit. I don’t know why they chose to give such an elliptical explanation rather than just saying that the Pentagon informed them at the last minute that they didn’t want him to visit as a presidential candidate.

    The quote does not say anything at all about when the Pentagon notified them, because it doesn’t mention even the fact that they *were* notified, at all. That created confusion, and the right took advantage of said confusion to invent explanations that had no basis in reality.

  3. gcotharn says:

    If Obama went to Landstuhl w/o campaign staff and w/o media, it would’ve been viewed as a respectful, uplifting visit with injured troops. Such a visit is simply the right thing to do.

    For Obama’s staff to claim such a visit would “look political” is pure deception and horse manure. A quiet, respectful visit does not look political. Without news photographs of Barack inside the hospital, nothing would look political.

    This NYT quote, from Obama advisor Maj. Gen. Scott Gration, is misleading:

    “But an Obama adviser said he was told in recent days by the Pentagon that the military would consider it a campaign event.”

    NO ONE ever said this would be considered a campaign event if the Senator showed up w/o campaign staff and w/o media. For the Obama campaign to imply differently is deceptive, and is not even logical. The Pentagon is not in the business of denying U.S. Senators access to hospitalized soldiers. The Pentagon is also not in the business of advising electoral candidates as to how their actions will or will not “look”. And there are, at this point anyway, military spokepersons commenting on the record.

    Obama’s cancellation of the Landstuhl visit offends me as a citizen. His campaign staff’s subsequent lies are reprehensible.

  4. dualdiagnosis says:

    This policy has been in place forever, the “Pentagon” doesn’t care if he shows up only because it helps him politically or not. They do not want politicians striding through these hospitals with campaigners filming him and setting up just the right photo. They can visit in their official capacity, and the men and women there would have been delighted to meet the Obama.

    Photos are allowed, you have seen the pics of politicins that the military releases to the press, haven’t you?

    He decided it wasn’t worth the hassle if he couldn’t get the stagecraft.

    No biggie, he can make any choice he pleases.

  5. tas says:

    For Obama’s staff to claim such a visit would “look political” is pure deception and horse manure.

    It’s ironic that you mention horse manure in your comment.

    Anything on a campaign is political — hence a political campaign. Duh. And had Obama gone against the wishes of the Pentagon and made this trip alone, you people would still complain that Obama made a political gesture during a campaign. So you can take your sanctimonious horse manure and shove it.

  6. y7 says:

    The point you are missing is that no matter how or when Obama was notified, his original intent was to use the visit and soldiers as a campaign backdrop. Every subsequent explanation from his campaign proves that point.

    Remember, he didn’t take any of his senate staffers on the trip…

  7. gcotharn says:


    Obama would not have “gone against the wishes of the Pentagon” if he had visited. The Pentagon said: “no campaign staff; no media.” The Pentagon DID NOT say: “we do not want you to visit.”

    The Pentagon has no reason to dissuade a U.S. Senator from visiting hospitalized soldiers. It is nonsensical to believe they would do so – yet that is the very lie which the Obama campaign is using to defend Barack’s cancellation of the visit. Reprehensible.

    Those are heroes lying in those hospital beds. We live under the umbrella of safety they provided us with their very broken bodies. You are d@#$%& right I’m sanctimonious about this. The amazing thing is you are not.

    Maybe I’m being uncharitable. Maybe you just do not see the truth. It is this:
    the Pentagon was happy to have Obama visit. Obama did not want to visit if he could not politically benefit from visiting.

  8. Kathy says:

    A few points:

    1. Tas is 100 percent correct. Obama could not have won no matter what he did. He’s already been accused of “campaigning for Europe’s vote.” If he had visited Landstuhl, with or without his campaign staff, it would have been used against him to accuse him of “pretending” to be pro-military when in reality, he “wanted to lose the war,” he was a “surrendercrat,” and he “refused to give any credit to U.S. troops for the ‘success’ of the surge.”

    2. It is completely irrelevant that the Pentagon did not say “We do not want you to visit.” (And if they had, you would have said it was understandable, given number 1.) No doubt the people at Landstuhl did want Obama to come — why wouldn’t they? — but when the Pentagon tells Obama’s campaign staffer who happens to be a retired major general, and at the very last minute, when they’re already in Europe on a campaign-related trip, that neither he nor any other campaign people can accompany Obama, then clearly Obama is reasonable in concluding that a visit will look political even without the campaign staff.

    I mean, let’s get real here for a moment. IF Obama had visited Landstuhl without any campaign staff, by himself, supposedly as a senator, although he didn’t have any Senate staff with him and wasn’t in Europe to begin with as a senator, *every wingnut in the blogosphere would have exclaimed triumphantly, “Ha! Obama wanted to make it a campaign opportunity political event photo op, but the Pentagon said, Oh no, not while we’re here you’re not going to exploit these soldiers for political gain, so now Obama wants us to think he’s pro-troops because he spent a few minutes talking to wounded soldiers, but everyone can see through that.”

    Now the wingnuts are saying that Obama did not want to visit if he could not politically benefit from visiting. But if he HAD visited, according to the Pentagon’s rules, the wingnuts would now be saying, “Obama wanted to reap political benefits from his visit to Landstuhl, but the Pentagon wouldn’t let him.”

    3. The wounded soldiers lying in those beds are not heroes. They are brave men and women who trusted their government to tell the truth and not to ask them to make the ultimate sacrifice when it was not absolutely necessary to keep Americans safe. In the case of this war, it was not necessary at all to keep us safe. This war was started and is still being fought for venal, mercenary reasons. Many soldiers already have realized that. Others still believe in what they’re doing, and the fact that they do still believe their government is sincere in its need for them to risk their lives is to their credit. It does not reflect badly on them that they believe their political leaders would not send them to their deaths for frivolous reasons. It reflects badly — abominably — on those leaders.

    A hero is someone who risks his or her life or who makes enormous personal sacrifices to save, protect, or otherwise help people who would otherwise die or come to great personal harm or have to exist in great suffering and hardship. This war has *caused* great personal suffering — on both the American and the Iraqi sides — and has helped no one except oil companies and defense contractors.

    Here is a hero: Irena Sendler. I wrote about her in another post, as I’m sure you will recall. Irena Sendler was a hero. Raoul Wallenberg was a hero. Oskar Schindler was a hero. The firefighters and Port Authority police officers who died in the wreckage of the World Trade Center trying to save lives were heroes. The three American nuns who went to El Salvador to help the poorest of the poor and were raped and murdered by government paramilitaries were heroes. The man who jumped onto subway tracks to save a man in the midst of an epileptic seizure from being run over by an oncoming train, both miraculously surviving, is a hero.

    I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.

  9. tas says:

    Y7 and gcowhatever, give me a fucking break. You assholes will say anything against Obama no matter what he does — that’s the point. Any instigation that you would do otherwise is too laughable to even contemplate. So go lick your thumb and shove it up your ass for all I care.

  10. Hold_That_Tiger says:

    As I cruise around the right wing blogosphere I have come to the conclusion that most Conservatives have so little of substance to say against Obama that they leap on every mistake, real or imagined, he says and pronounce it the reason that he shouldn’t be President. This boondoogle about why Obama didn’t visit wounded Soldiers is just the latest canard to be exploited.

    Consider the nonsense about his “forged Birth Certificate,” or the fact that he was bone tired one time and accidentally referred to “57 States.” Then there are the rumors of his secret Islamism (beyond the incredible stupidity of the charge in face of Obama’s oft professed Christianity, is the sheer bigotry of it), and so forth. Almost never will you find a discussion of Obama’s Political Positions (I doubt if most right wing bloggers have bothered to read Obama’s proposals.) The latest “talking point” is McCain’s outrageous charge of Obama preferring to “lose” the War in Iraq in order to secure his Presidency.

    The rational voter recognizes these attacks as being born of sheer desperation…especially as the Republican’s Candidate brings no new ideas to the table, and keeps pushing the same mantra of low taxes, deregulation, trickle down prosperity, and Free-Trade that has ill served this Country over the past 7 1/2 years. Beyond Bush 43, A larger point needs to be made by Progressives that the House of Cards that was Reagan’s Voo Doo economics has finally collapsed, and should not be resurrected. But how to convince the low information voter of that?

    The more savvy Conservative mouthpieces know that to bring up substantive issues is to possibly expose that the McCain “Plan,” and indeed Reaganism, truly has no “there there,” that lower income taxes do not increase tax revenue, that favoring the rich shifts an undue tax burden onto the middle-class, that having almost 50 million people with little or no access to Health Care is simply bad, and down the road, costly Public Policy, and so forth. And so the Conservative hierarchy encourage the right wing bloggers to type on their merry way bringing up the extraneous and the ludacris knowing full well that the army of Conservative Zombies will buy it whole hog….

  11. gcotharn says:

    Egads, Kathy, you’ve made your point. I hope, for your sake, you will especially reconsider point #3. It is, at a minimum, uncharitable.


    Your assertion:

    “You assholes will say anything against Obama no matter what he does — that’s the point.”

    is simply wrong, and it’s a shame you do not know it. Your assertion allows you to dismiss all reasoning which does not closely conform to your own. As time goes by, your failure to consider challenging logic will only serve to make you dumber; will only serve to dull your ability to converse at a logical level; will leave you only armed with manure, ad hominem, and “asshole”. You will become, essentially, mattbastard. I hope you will fully consider these perils. We assholes serve an evolutionary purpose: we keep your enlightened big brain honed and toned, with synapses firing.

    Certainly there are illogical, overemotional persons on all sides of all issues. However, most of us “assholes” are interested in truth – including truth about Obama – as opposed to slander.


    I said, in the 9:08 AM comment, Obama didn’t want to visit Landstuhl if he could not politically benefit. New information (in Kathy’s update and in other reports) points to pique as a possible reason for Obama’s cancelling the visit with wounded troops. I stand corrected.

  12. gcotharn says:

    Hold that Tiger,

    First, “Geaux Tigers!”.


    You wrote a thoughtful comment. Excepting the birth certificate and the 57 states assertions, I disagree with all the rest of it.

    I reject your premise that the Landstuhl cancellation was meaningless. It spoke to character. Obama allowed pique to stop him from visiting wounded troops. Then Obama’s staff lied about the incident via accusing the Pentagon/Landstuhl of culpability for Obama’s own decision. Landstuhl was a revealing moment. B/c Obama has little track record, b/c everyone is trying to ascertain how he will operate as POTUS: such moments are notable.

    Also, in your wondering/speculating about how Landstuhl suddenly rose up like a fast brush fire: b/c I and others believe the troops are heroes, and b/c we believe Obama and his staff were disrespectful to those heroes, we have personal, heated emotion attached to this particular incident.

  13. Hold_That_Tiger says:

    Neverthless, Obama had a tight schedule and the DOD sent him mixed signals about the issue. I have heard previously that the Administration had told the Military NOT to help either Candidate politicize their visits. It is what it is. You know what will REALLY help and honor our troops? Ending active combat and occupation in Iraq and bringing more of our troops home.

    As for Obama “lying” or not going in a fit of pique, that is YOUR speculation and has little to do with reality, IMO. We really don’t know what happened. Andrea Mitchell, who was traveling with the Obama campaign, said that Obama called and talked to the troops at Landstuhl privately so he is hardly the uncaring bastard of your narrative.

    I would also point out that John McCain could be called “uncaring” for our troops when he voted NO on several Bills over the years that would have increased funding for the Veteran’s Administration and he voted NO 4xs on the Webb GI Bill giving returning Vets educational Opportunities until he was shamed into endorsing it.

    Each Candidate must prioritize right now. There will be time for Obama to honor our troops when he is really in a position to help them…that is when he becomes President.

  14. Kathy says:

    Good points, Hold_That_Tiger.

  15. gcotharn says:

    I said Obama’s staff lied – and they undeniably did, before seeing the media trap closing and then beginning to back away from their previous statements.

    Do I also think Obama lied? Yes, I do. But I haven’t said it, until now, b/c it’s only speculation.

    In this interview, Obama says:

    1. We were scheduled to go
    2. They said my aide could not go
    3. It triggered concern that maybe my visit was going to be perceived as political.

    Conflating 2 and 3 is a non sequitur, and therefore I don’t believe Obama when he says this was his thought process. If the aide is not going, the visit will not be perceived as political. End of story. You guys can believe him if you want to. I think this was the best explanation he could come up with, and I think it is weak. We’ve all heard 5 year olds do much better.

    As to your rest:

    -I agree we don’t really know what happened. And why is that?

    -Obama called troops the next day, after the s@#$ storm had begun.

    -I note your McCain points. Is it your allegation that McCain is uncaring about veterans? You can use facts to argue that Sen. McCain made unwise choices in particular cases, but – whether his choices were right or wrong – it seems harsh to argue his choices were motivated by lack of compassion.

    -I note your “prioritize” point.

    I counter that Obama is a United States Senator. He is unwise if he is counting on ever having more power than he has right now. Life is too iffy.

    Further, even if Obama’s story about his political concern is correct (roll eyes here), it still means he chose his own political fortunes over fulfilling his promise. He is not covered in glory – though he did indulges his belief he can sell virtue in all his actions – in this case via saying(quoting from memory) “I didn’t want to distract from the wonderful care being provided to our troops.” Maybe we can at least laugh together about Barack and his selling of his own virtue in so many instances, i.e. I am refusing federal funding b/c I am so virtuous. Heh! Yes? It’s funny, right? Can I get a small “heh”? 🙂

  16. Kathy says:

    Conflating 2 and 3 is a non sequitur, and therefore I don’t believe Obama when he says this was his thought process. If the aide is not going, the visit will not be perceived as political. End of story.

    Obama’s explanation is exactly the reason I had guessed at, and obviously I was right. “If the aide is not going, the visit will not be perceived as political” is such a laughably absurd thing to say that it really defies belief. How do you know it would not have been perceived as pollitical? You have no way to know that. Clearly, Obama thought that it would be, and it was perfectly reasonable for him to think that. If he had gone in without the aides, he might have been criticized for WANTING to go in with an aide, or for having PLANNED to go in with an aide.

    I’ve known many five-year-olds who believe that if you do what you’re told to do, it’s impossible to get into trouble, but most have abandoned that naive and literalistic way of thinking long before they reach adulthood.

    No “hehs” small or otherwise from me. With that last line you just proved my point. If refusing federal funding doesn’t make Obama virtuous, why would visiting soldiers without campaign aides stop the wingnuts from accusing him of playing politics? “I am not taking my aides with me, so my visit won’t be seen as political.” Heh! Yes? It’s funny, right? Can I get a small “heh”?

  17. gcotharn says:

    It’s not the refusing of the federal funding, it’s trying to sell himself as virtuous for breaking his word after criticizing Hillary over the issue. He could’ve said: “Look, I’m raising so much money that I’ve just got to refuse federal funding. Doing anything else just makes no sense.” But he didn’t. Instead, he said “I am refusing federal funding b/c I am so virtuous and I am helping the nation by refusing federal funding.” His self important justification for breaking his word is not even a LITTLE BIT funny to you? Dang. This is a tough room.

  18. Kathy says:

    What’s funny to me is your insistence on believing that if Obama had said this instead of that or done it this way instead of that way, you would be praising him instead of condemning him.

  19. y7 says:

    tas – “Y7 and gcowhatever, give me a fucking break. You assholes will say anything against Obama no matter what he does — that’s the point. Any instigation that you would do otherwise is too laughable to even contemplate. So go lick your thumb and shove it up your ass for all I care.”

    Very cogent argument, tas! Yea for you!

    Kathy, there are plenty of quality arguments against Obama. He has no experience firstly. His speeches (though they sound wonderful) are generally devoid of any substance and ignore the harsh realities of a cruel world. And when there is substance, shallow as it may be, it is not original. Take his “black men need to take more responsibility” speech. There was no reason to give that speech at that time but I do remember when Bill Cosby gave the same admonition. I remember how white conservatives applauded him for it and how black leaders reviled him for it. It was not original but helped with white voters…hmmm.

    He has triangulated Bush hatred, Iraq hatred, and inside-the-beltway hatred and has tailored his speeches to those knowing that no one will dispute his positions without suffering the same withering attacks from the media and blogoshere that consevatives have suffered the entire Bush era. You can’t tell me that you know what he thinks about an issue, his positions are “refined” by “inartful” statements too many times. But, guaranteed, he knows what you think!

    With his posters, logo, and big rallies…basically, you want to elect a pop star. Instead of songs, he gives you speeches. It is funny, sad, and scary that so many people are falling for it.

    Now when I say that, liberals generally come unglued along the “bush lied, people died” meme. To which I reply…you got tricked on that one too!

    Be a different kind of liberal: read the relevant UN resolutions, as I did, and make an informed opinion. While you go through make particular note of what Iraq was required to do, then compare that to the text of Blix’s final report with particular focus on the text following the word “Regrettably.”

    Since I know by your support for Obama you may have comprehension problems, let me paraphrase.

    Resolution 687 was a cease fire. Resolution 1441 declared Iraq in material breech of 687, gave Iraq one month to comply with the provisions of 687 restated in 1441, and instructed Hans Blix to issue the report in the third link. Failure to comply would result in serious consequences. “Regrettably” Iraq did not comply.

    Think of all the emotion you have invested in the Iraq War (if you are a typical liberal, and most of you are pretty typical) without reading these documents. It is irresponsible to hate that much based on so little information.

    But you like the song!

  20. y7 says:

    You guys ever gonna publish my response to being called an asshole and being told to stick my thumb in my ass? Or is speech free for thee but not for me?

    Of course, I realize my response is a touch more thoughtful and informed than tas’s. Perhaps that is the problem.

  21. DrGail says:

    My apologies, y7. Your comment went into moderation, perhaps because of the presence of links in it. We don’t censor comments here at CommentsFromLeftField, no matter the vehemence or the sentiment expressed (a simple perusal of other people’s comments should make that very clear), but sometimes we’re a bit slow to review the ones in the moderation queue.


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