Phoning it in: Obama calls wounded troops at Landstuhl after skipping visit

Something’s better than nothing but the disappointment is palpable: “Everyone was excited about Obama’s visit. It’s a shame.” After googling around for details about what happened, precisely, I think John McCormack at the Standard has it right. It wasn’t the absence of media that led Obama to cancel the trip, it was the fact that two of his top military advisors, most notably Ret. Gen. Gration, couldn’t go with him because they’re technically campaign personnel and DoD regs prohibit political campaigning at military bases. Why Obama simply didn’t leave the two of them behind and make the trip anyway, your guess is as a good as mine.

On the media angle, see this exchange on the plane between one of the pool reporters and Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs:

Q: The schedule was for this plane, with us in it, to fly to Ramstein. By the way we were expected to pay for the flight, what were you suppose to do with the entourage then?

Gibbs: You would have stayed on the plane.

Q: We would have stayed on the plane, would there have been any pool report?

Gibbs: there may have been, I don’t know if we ever came to a decision on that.

So the press (possibly) wasn’t going to join them in the hospital. Contra the predictable conspiracy theorizing of some nutroots bloggers, who seized on the fact that the military didn’t inform them that this would be regarded as a political event until Wednesday night, Gibbs said he didn’t think the Pentagon had “set them up” and acknowledged that Team Obama has been aware of the political complications for awhile:

Q: When did you originally decide to go?

Gibbs: I have to get you an exact date but it has been on the schedule for a long time.

Q: Did it not occur to anybody that this might be viewed as a political stop?

Gibbs: 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.

As Geraghty notes, by Talking Points Memo’s own admission, the DoD regulations about campaigning are “longstanding.” Sounds like they didn’t give this nearly as much thought as they should have, and then when Gration allegedly tried and failed to pull rank and wrangle an eleventh-hour exception to the regs for himself, someone inside the campaign threw a tantrum and decided to call the whole thing off. What was it I was saying earlier today about the efficiency and professionalism of his organization? Gulp.