NYT wonders: Why didn’t Obama leave his aides behind and visit those wounded troops alone?

posted at 4:10 pm on July 29, 2008 by Allahpundit

Gooooood question. One that’s been asked before. Repeatedly.

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…

[O]ne question remains: Why didn’t Mr. Obama leave his aides behind, even the retired general, and make the visit by himself?

“Even him going alone would likely be characterized by some as a political event,” Mr. Gibbs said in an interview on Monday, adding, “He decided not to put the troops in that position.”

Really? Then why’d he meet with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, or at Walter Reed a few weeks ago? He has every right to go in his capacity as senator, minus his campaign apparatus. And if they were so worried about perceptions of politicking, why did Gibbs himself tell the media pool on the plane that the visit had been planned “for a long time”? Surely they’d already weighed that factor and decided it was worth going — until Gen. Gration was turned away, whereupon the whole plan changed. Team McCain wants answers, too:

Today, Command Sergeant Major Craig Layton, USA (Ret.) — who served as the Command Sergeant Major at Landstuhl — issued the following statement on Barack Obama’s canceled visit to Ramstein and Landstuhl:

“Having spent two years as the Command Sergeant Major at Landstuhl Hospital, I am always grateful for the attention that facility receives from members of Congress. There is no more important work done by the United States Army than to care for those who have been wounded in the service our country. While Americans troops remain engaged in two hot wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a steady stream of casualties to the hospital, and a steady stream of visitors who wish to meet with those troops and thank them for their service.

“Senator Obama has explained his decision to cancel a scheduled visit there by blaming the military, which would not allow one of his political advisers to join him in a tour of the facility. Why Senator Obama felt he needed an adviser with him to visit U.S. troops is unclear, but if Senator Obama isn’t comfortable meeting wounded American troops without his entourage, perhaps he does not have the experience necessary to serve as commander in chief.”

Isn’t the most plausible explanation at this point that Gration’s ego was wounded by the Pentagon deciding he couldn’t go, and Obama, forced to choose between leaving him behind and soothing his ruffled feathers by canceling the trip to see the troops, chose the latter?


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One of the things about being in the Army I miss today is that everyone in the Army had identifiable rank insignia and a name tag on their uniform. Thus, when my troops told me that “someone” over at Brigade or Division said A, B, or C, I asked them who “someone” was…by name and rank. A simple question to answeer, really.

So, who was the “someone” at Landstuhl who allegedly told a serving US Senator that he was not welcome? [Not to parse this thing to finely, but was Obama personally prevented from making a private visit to wounded troops at Landstuhl, and by whom?]

coldwarrior on July 29, 2008 at 6:12 PM

What are you talking about? What evidence is there that Obama tried to get around the rules? He probably just assumed he could bring members of his campaign team.

[Tom_Shipley on July 29, 2008 at 5:17 PM]

Oh, I don’t know, maybe that he had his staff arrange his visits before and the rules were read to them before? How about maybe the military has a rote policy of informing politicians of what the ground rules are when politicians call to plan a visit?

People talk like this is the first time this issue has ever come up and the military was caught by surprise that Obama is the first politician who didn’t know the rules and made the military made a mistake of not walking them through all the hurdles or want the details so that they can host the politician’s visit.

You make it sound like no arranging was done, no calls to the hospital, no staff, campaign or senate, working out the details? The Obama visit plan consisted of Barack assuming he’d go?

Your take on this may play well with the naive, Tom, but not me. What evidence do you have for your preferred scenario that Barack just assumed he could go — the six different explanations from the campaign in defense of this fiasco? He knew enough to go by himself to Walter Reed before the World Tour, why not now?

Dusty on July 29, 2008 at 6:12 PM

What do you imagine someone at the hospital said, Tom Shipley, to make Obama think right wing bloggers might attack him?

It has been pointed out that Obama got virtually no criticism from anybody about visiting wounded troops before. There is no reason to believe that was suddenly going to start.

MayBee on July 29, 2008 at 6:14 PM

Perhaps Obama needed the services of the good general as an interpreter? Seeing as they were in Germany, there’s a chance that those US troops only spoke German?
Next excuse………………..

GarandFan on July 29, 2008 at 6:14 PM

Hey I know lets make this turd CinC!

elduende on July 29, 2008 at 6:15 PM

Quisp – I love that argument too. I also love the correlated argument, that the press following it so closely was called for because McCain had questioned Obama’s CinC and Foreign Policy credentials.
As if following someone on a world tour, rather than investigating and reporting on his credentials, is the best way to go about it.

MayBee on July 29, 2008 at 6:17 PM

If Obama knew he was going to take heat either way, which seems to be the theme among the defenders, why not at least let the hospitalized soldiers benefit? “A visit is the least of what I owe to those men, and how dare you try to politicize my private conversations with those brave warriors” is a way better position than “well, I just didn’t want it to seem political.”

Quisp on July 29, 2008 at 6:18 PM

Quisp @6:18- exactly.

MayBee on July 29, 2008 at 6:21 PM

Quisp on July 29, 2008 at 6:18 PM

And he would have come out of all of this smelling like a rose, too. Obama made a choice. He made a choice. His decision. Or is Obama playing the victim card?

coldwarrior on July 29, 2008 at 6:21 PM

Isn’t the most plausible explanation at this point that Gration’s ego was wounded by the Pentagon deciding he couldn’t go, and Obama, forced to choose between leaving him behind and soothing his ruffled feathers by canceling the trip to see the troops, chose the latter?

If that’s what happened, I can’t wait until this dunce is in charge of delicate foreign policy negotiations and life and death issues of national security.

Buy Danish on July 29, 2008 at 6:21 PM

Oh, I don’t know, maybe that he had his staff arrange his visits before and the rules were read to them before? How about maybe the military has a rote policy of informing politicians of what the ground rules are when politicians call to plan a visit?

Do you know the answer to both of these.

But you’re right, there’s as much evidence that he assumed he could bring handlers as there is that he tried to skirt the rules.

But what I layed forth is honestly what I think the most plausible explanation is.

It seems the Obama campaign was caught off guard by the mention that their visit could be perceived as a political stop. I don’t think he would have a problem going by himself. And I don’t think he would not go so he wouldn’t hurt the feelings of his military adviser. It really does seem that somehow it got in their head that this could be perceived as exploiting the troops for political purposes. And even though he was welcome to go on his own, they didn’t want to risk it so scrapped the trip.

Tom_Shipley on July 29, 2008 at 6:25 PM

And how is Obama going to act/respond when it comes to real situations and real issues where his being President requires him to make difficult or unpopular choices without having to depend on handlers and spin doctors? Had he pulled himself up in a manner as described by Quisp…basically pulling rank…and demanded personal private time with the troops…my opinion of Obama would have grown in a much more positive direction.

But, he made a choice…and after a myriad explanations, he has made me move to a less positive assessment of his capabilities.

coldwarrior on July 29, 2008 at 6:30 PM

The answer’s simple: The primary purpose of Obama’s trip was to produce video and photographs to be used in future campaign propaganda productions, like television spots, closer to the election. True to the edicts of Lakoff (and if you dig a little deeper, Goebbels), his is explicitly not a campaign of ideas, but of “presidential” imagery and evocative words, and the intent here was the creation of source material. In Obama’s eyes, going anywhere save the men’s room without cameras would have served no purpose.

Blacklake on July 29, 2008 at 6:36 PM

It seems the Obama campaign was caught off guard by the mention that their visit could be perceived as a political stop.

Please, tell me what you think someone at the hospital (which was awaiting his visit, I’ll add) might have said to make them think this for the first time that night.

MayBee on July 29, 2008 at 6:37 PM

I served in uniform and later overseas in a foreign service capacity.

We often developed and had “talking points” and briefing books for ANY visit that involved ANY US government official above the rank of deputy assistance undersecretary. Tghehse were living documents, subject to change at a moments notice, so all sorts of exignecies had to be identified and courses of action laid out in detail. The staff officers serving the intended visitor were consulted all across the board on every aspect of each trip. All scenarios were planned for, especially at the higher ranks and even moreso for US Senators or Cabinet Secretaries, so there would be no “surprise” or embarassing situations. Focal point officers on each end were identified and kept in 24/7 contact with each other until the subject was safely back in the States at the end of the visit. Coordination at all levels was demanded and vital.

Obama had a huge Senate staff with him on the Iraq and Afghan legs of his trip, and he had a huge campaign staff with him when he hit Europe, and none of these staffers, handlers or advisors had even thought for even a moment that transitioning from US Senator on a Senate junket to a campaigning candidate for President would involve a change of applicable rules, and require a different level and focus of coordination?

If this is the level of expertise Obama shuttles around with now, one has to seriously wonder who he will have around him should he become President?

coldwarrior on July 29, 2008 at 6:40 PM

Tom:

So what you are saying is that Obama was kinda sorta wondering around Germany and then it occurred to him that there was this military hospital and so he thought what the hey, I’ll give the boys a thrill and show up for a visit with a few dozen of my closest friends. and then once again, out of the clear blue sky, he was turned away and trudged off all hurt and stuff.

If this guy was so incompetent that he could not manage to plan and carry out a visit to a hospital as you seem to think he was, then he can’t handle this job. That is for sure.

Terrye on July 29, 2008 at 6:41 PM

The really telling argument is the one that goes, “He saw plenty of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan,” like they’re some species on display, and not individual men and women putting their lives on the line for the country. Visiting wounded men and women who are far away from home is not about the visitor, it’s about bringing comfort and cheer to those hospitalized. For a man who wants to be commander in chief to walk away from that opportunity for any reason not related to national security is abysmal.

Quisp on July 29, 2008 at 6:49 PM

Wow, Quisp. I am just agreeing like crazy with everything you say.

MayBee on July 29, 2008 at 6:54 PM

[Tom_Shipley on July 29, 2008 at 6:25 PM]

Nope, I don’t. You are right, I don’t have evidence for mine. I’m going on what my impressions are and what I think is likely.

Your example is plausible, too. I can understand your estimation based on your sensibilities. Maybe he did get into a sticky-wicket by the way things played out. It happens sometimes. As you can tell from my “naive” remark, I’m pretty cynical when it comes to politicians but I put a much lower probability on your scenario because they so often prove my cynicism valid, especially when it comes to campaigns.

Maybe my initial comment should have been “the Obama campaign’s convenient interpretation of the rules” rather than placing the emphasis on Obama himself, but I consider him the boss and that’s where the buck stops.

Call me wrong because I’m too cynical, and I’ll be fine with it. :-)

Dusty on July 29, 2008 at 7:02 PM

Thanks Dale….can i ‘borrow’? Too funny in context.

dustoffmom on July 29, 2008 at 4:50 PM

yes, please do…..

Dale in Atlanta on July 29, 2008 at 7:04 PM

Dusty,

I won’t call you wrong because you’re too cynical — I think cynicism gets a bad rap personally. I was cynical of the claims that Obama didn’t visit the troops because the press wasn’t allowed, and it turns out I was right to be.

I think just think one needs to combine common sense with cynicism. I think this is a case of the correct answer being the most obvious one (ie… the explanation Obama’s team has been giving). It makes the most sense to me.

Tom_Shipley on July 29, 2008 at 7:23 PM

He had to shoot some hoops.

Johan Klaus on July 29, 2008 at 7:46 PM

If BigO’s so worried about ruffling Gration’s feathers, then why is he letting him be the fall guy for this kerfuffle?

Quisp on July 29, 2008 at 4:50 PM

Not a reassuring trait for a wannabe Commander/Leader.

HE DIDN’T BECAUSE HE DIDN’T

You know, my ten-year-old niece would know better than to put forth such circular logic. She’s also past the foot-stomping stage. Long past in kid years.

Why does this dead horse continue to be beaten?

Dave Rywall on July 29, 2008 at 5:54 PM

See my first statement.

baldilocks on July 29, 2008 at 7:54 PM

For a man who wants to be commander in chief to walk away from that opportunity for any reason not related to national security is abysmal.

Quisp on July 29, 2008 at 6:49 PM

This is the reason for the “dead horse beating” illustrated again.

baldilocks on July 29, 2008 at 8:02 PM

Re psot by coldwarrior on July 29, 2008 at 6:40 PM.

READ IT!!! He/She speaks the truth. Nothing is left to chance on these visits. Been there. Done that. Got that T-Shirt. Hooah.

Dingbat63 on July 29, 2008 at 9:24 PM

I could have swore that before this trip Sen. Obama stated it’s main purpose was not a campaign trip, but fact finding trip for him as a Senator. The fact that he had 10 times as many campaign staff to his normal senator staff shows how much of a lie that was.

JeffinSac on July 30, 2008 at 9:32 AM

Let’s all climb on the NY Times for asking the great probing questions of our times … and then as true GOP followers, complain about them when they ask the same probing questions of the GOP candidates.

Never has an ad which ran only 6 times gotten so much air play by the so called “liberal” media.

Monkei on July 30, 2008 at 10:11 AM

Isn’t the most plausible explanation at this point that Gration’s ego was wounded by the Pentagon deciding he couldn’t go, and Obama, forced to choose between leaving him behind and soothing his ruffled feathers by canceling the trip to see the troops, chose the latter?

If that is the even remotely the case, it does not speak well of a potential commander-in-chief when he may have to order fine men and women into harm’s way to protect the nations and its citizens. This would seem to indicate that BO’s priorities are out of balance and unbecoming of this nation’s commander-in-chief.

Wildcatter1980 on July 30, 2008 at 10:31 AM

Yes Obama made a poor decision but his handlers are advising him. I am not pro Obama or pro McCain one of these two canidates are going to be the next President they need to get their “ACTS” together. Neither is instilling confidence in me…especially after their hispandering tour. I am an Independent. I read the above article at the top, about the undecideds among Democrats and Republicans, what about the Independents? How many of us are undecided?

Dr Evil on July 30, 2008 at 11:21 AM

is going to be the next president.

Dr Evil on July 30, 2008 at 11:21 AM

After exhausting all excuses, all of a sudden the dave_rywalls and Tom_Shipleys revert back to form.

Snapping turtles

HE DIDN’T BECAUSE HE DIDN’T
Dave Rywall on July 29, 2008 at 5:54 PM

And “Just the facts, madam”

You don’t know what was said.
Tom_Shipley on July 29, 2008 at 5:58 PM

If only liberals stick to the FACTS all the time.

Sir Napsalot on July 30, 2008 at 11:32 AM

uh oh … sounds like a time for an UPDATE to this fabricated story!

http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0708/McCain_campaign_backs_off_cameras_charge.html

Monkei on July 30, 2008 at 1:01 PM

Well, even if there were no cameras and no flocking press monkeys clammoring to get in, and it was just Obama…why didn’t he just walk in the front door of the Landstuhl Medical Center and spend time with the wounded troops?

As each day passes, the “official” Obama camp explanation becomes more and more convoluted the more they try to make it some sort of simple misunderstanding…the essence of a lie.

But the bottom line…IF Obama wanted to visit the troops Obama would have visited the troops. He chose not to. All the rationalizations in the world, in the real world, and in the Obama world, will not still that fact. He made a choice. He had his priorities.

coldwarrior on July 30, 2008 at 1:46 PM

coldwarrior on July 30, 2008 at 1:46 PM

Of course with your reasoning he would be damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.

McCain’s campaign straight talking express has jumped the shark. But at least you will have 8 years of Obama in the WH to blame for the last 8 years.

Monkei on July 30, 2008 at 8:36 PM

Don’t know me very well, do you?

IF Obama had the stones to tell the Commanding Officer of the Landstuhl Medical Center that he[Obama] was a serving US Senator and wished to spend some private off the record time with wounded troops and he wanted to do it right now, the Colonel would have allowed it [I’ve yet to meet a full bird refuse a request from a US Senator in that sort of situation, ever…]. Obama would have gained a lot of cred among the US military community in Germany and perhaps even here in the States as well, once the troops sent their letters and emails home or facebooked their own pictures.

Instead, Obama balked. And has spent the past week having to parse and re-parse every imaginable rationale for not going to Landstuhl, thus amplifying the misstep he chose to make.

coldwarrior on July 30, 2008 at 8:57 PM

Isn’t the most plausible explanation at this point that Gration’s ego was wounded by the Pentagon deciding he couldn’t go, and Obama, forced to choose between leaving him behind and soothing his ruffled feathers by canceling the trip to see the troops, chose the latter?

I think this almost has it right.

Obama CANNOT risk trusting himself to himself in extemporaneous matters, such as an unscripted visit to a military hospital (or a visit to anywhere) He cannot be left to his own devices, without advisors to reign in his flailing mouth, and inability to speak not when he shouldn’t.

seanrobins on July 30, 2008 at 11:37 PM