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July 26, 2008

"Fawning" Foreigners: Obama Big, McCain Small
Posted by Ari Melber

The McCain Campaign has finally found its line of attack against Barack Obama's widely heralded global tour. Ever since Obama canceled a trip to visit wounded soldiers in Germany, based on logistical disagreements with the Pentagon, McCain has used the snafu to argue that Obama -- you guessed it -- does not support the troops.  A new ad, released on Saturday, assails Obama for prioritizing limelight and exercise over honoring American soldiers:


And now, he made time to go to the gym, but canceled a visit with wounded troops. Seems the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras.


The ad is running in selected markets in Colorado, Pennsylvania and DC. The campaign would not release the overall ad buy; the limited run suggests it is more focused on shaping the media narrative than directly persuading voters around the country.

The McCain camp is energized, however, about using the canceled visit as a chance to reframe Obama's entire trip. Aides have been pushing a statement from a veteran chiding Obama that "visits with world leaders and speeches to cheering Europeans shouldn't be a substitute for comforting injured American heroes." McCain spokesperson Tucker Bounds is hammering that contrast between homegrown heroes and foreign crowds, telling The Nation on Saturday that Obama:

...failed to recognize the need to visit wounded combat troops, instead choosing to continue on with a schedule that included meeting with international leaders and fawning Germans.

He added that the canceled visit was one of "two key takeaways that spoke to [Obama's] inexperience or judgment." (Bounds said the other was Obama's declaration that he will not be "refining or redeveloping" his foreign policy positions.) And rather than leave the superficial sniping to surrogates, John McCain jumps into the act on Sunday, telling ABC News' "This Week" that if the Pentagon interfered with his plan to visit troops, "I guarantee you, there would have been a seismic event."

The McCain Campaign's melodramatic attack is wrong on two levels. First, it is false to suggest that the trip was canceled over "cameras" or the "gym." The trip was spiked during discussions with the Pentagon over whether a defense aide could accompany Obama and how to prevent the trip from being politicized. (Both Obama and McCain have recently made closed-press trips to visit wounded soldiers.)

Second, these trip logistics have nothing to do with being president. The related attacks, just like attempts to measure patriotism by lapel jewelery, are a complete diversion from the actual foreign policy issues at stake. Every candidate kisses babies and visits soldiers, but the rituals reveal nothing about our potential leaders. McCain has often talked about his commitment to running a campaign based on issues. Yet now he is seizing on a meaningless non-event, exploiting American troops by casting them as victims in this petty squabble, and impugning an opponent who just addressed soldiers, international leaders and foreign citizens to outline a new course for America in the world. Obama's trip clearly made Obama look big. It took McCain's reaction to make McCain look so small.

From The Nation.

Update: Obama spokesperson Tommy Vietor just released a response to the McCain ad on Saturday evening:

John McCain is an honorable man who is running an increasingly dishonorable campaign. Senator McCain knows full well that Senator Obama strongly supports and honors our troops, which is what makes this attack so disingenuous. Senator Obama was honored to meet with our men and women in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan this week and has visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed numerous times. This politicization of our soldiers is exactly what Senator Obama sought to avoid, and it's not worthy of Senator McCain or the "civil" campaign he claimed he would run.


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