Here's Robert Gibbs, Obama spokesman:
Gibbs said Obama had decided several weeks ago he wanted to visit wounded troops in Germany. Asked whether either the senator or aides had considered that the trip might be viewed as political, he replied, "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."
But after hearing from the Pentagon, he said, "We decided,decided having made that decision he was far more willing to take the criticism from some political people or political opponents in a political atmosphere than to put our troops in the middle of our campaign back and forth."
Sen. John McCain's campaign spokesman Brian Rogers criticized the decision, saying, "is wrong. It is never 'inappropriate' to visit our men and women in the military."
Gibbs brushed that aside, and said Obama would have faced criticism if the trip had taken place.
Isn't the whole point of the criticism that Obama cancelled his visit because he was afraid of being criticized for using wounded soldiers as "a campaign stop"? And isn't that exactly what Obama's camp just confirmed?
Oh, sure...on the surface it looks like Obama's trying to protect the soldiers. But read through that quote above again, and ask yourself what it really says.
We wanted to make a good-looking political move by
kissing babiesvisiting wounded troops in Germany, and fully believed it wouldn't look too obvious.
After the Pentagon told us we had to restrict any political activity on the visit, we figured we'd be better off taking the heat for not going than wasting our time on a pointless visit.
John McCain said "Man, are you stupid. Don't you realize that it's much worse politically to look like you're ignoring and unconcerned about American servicemen than to look like you're using them to help your image? Did I mention I was a soldier and a POW?"
Gibbs said "um...hello? If Obama had visited the soldiers, he would have been criticized. We didn't want that."
One line in the article is particularly telling:
At the Pentagon, spokesman Bryan Whitman said Obama was told he could go to Landstuhl, but the visit would have to conform to Defense Department guidelines that restrict political activity on military installation. That meant campaign staff would have been barred from accompanying him, he said.
Yes, that's right--after being told by the Pentagon that he couldn't turn this into a photo op (which, as the article makes clear, Obama's camp failed to mention initially), he then made the decision not to go.
And that's what it comes down to in the end--Obama made a decision that he would rather protect his political image than visit wounded American servicemen. This is exactly what he's being criticized for.
Let's not pretend his decision was out of concern for the troops, shall we? Everybody knows that this "fact-finding mission" was nothing of the sort. I'm not seeing him adjusting any policies in light of this trip; it's the same old same old. The only fact that seems to have had any impact is Obama finding out that troops are watching Fox News. No, this trip was to help get rid of an image of Obama as someone weak and uninformed on foreign policy.
I'll leave you with this thought: If Obama wanted to visit wounded troops without the impression that it was a "campaign stop," he had plenty of time to do that before he became a nominee for president. You know...when McCain and many other politicians did it.