McCain Slams Obama for Dissing Troops

In his latest ad, “Troops,” John McCain is trying to make hay of Barack Obama’s decision not to visit the troops in Landstuhl, Germany once he found out he couldn’t bring his campaign staff:

The key sound byte: “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.”

This strikes me as a weak attack and a poor campaign strategy. First, Obama can rightly blame the Pentagon for the canceled trip even though it’s technically true that he was free to go in his capacity as a United States Senator if he left his campaign staff and camera crew behind. Second, my guess is that those who are going to vote on the basis of such things are already in McCain’s camp.

Beyond that, using “the troops” as part of a political message risks coming across as unseemly. For that matter, “Country first” isn’t a political slogan, it’s a personal creed.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, US Politics, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    You can’t make bricks without straw, James. Sen. Obama is extremely hard to get a purchase on. Sen. McCain can’t run against Sen. Obama’s record because he doesn’t have one. Sen. Obama’s positions on quite a few issues are sufficiently vague that any attack will be equally vague and Sen. Obama has been quite skilled at keeping his positions ambiguous, cf. Israel.

    Sen. McCain can’t attack Sen. Obama’s background because it would be wrong (not to mention lose him votes). What is there to attack?

  2. Dodd says:

    I think the subject of the ad — Obama cancelling that visit when he found out he couldn’t bring the press — is entirely fair game. I don’t think this is a good ad, though. It’s ham-handed and overwrought and, as such, off-putting.

    But, then, I don’t think we’re the target audience.

  3. DL says:

    You’re of course, correct – except for one thing; elections don’t turn on reasoned, rational, positions. The big items are those things that reach down to the “common man’s gut” -the people Jay Leno interviews on the street. What appeals to them offsets all the deep thinkers votes.

    That’s why the Dems get so far on pure unadultarated lies and phoney images.
    Elections are anything but a process dominated by deep thinkers -we wouldn’t be in the trouble we’re in if that were true.

  4. JKB says:

    It depends on the audience. I believe this will play very well with mom and dad in Bucksnort, TN who have been flying a USMC flag ever since their kid deployed to Iraq. As well as their neighbors who see that flag everyday.

    Obama’s and the Dem’s argument is that they hate the war, love the troops. Oh, really? What about blowing off wounded troops when campaigning abroad? What about downplaying their role in the surge? This trip didn’t do Obama any favors in the support of the troops meme.

  5. Hal says:

    Considering the limited markets this is playing in, it’s obviously not designed to change any voter’s minds. It’s simply trying to shape the narrative in the media.

    It’s really an act of desperation from a campaign that’s floundering. All he has left is the attack ads – he has nothing positive to say what so ever… He’s just hoping to change the narrative without actually doing anything himself.

    He’s merely the anti-Obama. Kind of pathetic.

  6. graywolf says:

    READ THIS:

    http://noquarterusa.net/blog/2008/07/27/obama-using-the-troops/#more-3829D

    to see what kind of an empty suit this dork is.

  7. Hal says:

    Speaking of empty suits and the NoQuarter blog, how’d that breaking video of Michelle Obama saying “whitey” go?

    Hearing trash talk from Larry Johnson isn’t any breaking news at all. It’d be breaking news if there was anything behind it other than spite over Hillary’s loss in the primary.

    It’s quite sad to see Johnson keep sinking below the waves.

  8. anjin-san says:

    This had nothing to do with “not being able to bring the press” the issue was his staff, and the pentagon has confirmed this. Guess when you have no strong issues to run on, you just have to make crap up.

  9. Mike P says:

    It’s also a lie by the McCain campaign because Obama DID meet with troops on the first leg of the trip (the video of him hitting the jumper is with American troops).

    This is just crap from McCain.

  10. davod says:

    If the Obamites here dribble on enough the may even convince themselves that Obama visited the wounded at the same time the German reporter was fantasizing about him in the gym.

  11. Hal says:

    I think anyone who uses the term “Obamites” has pretty much already conceded the argument.

  12. davod says:

    Now that I got that out of the way, contrary to the opinions of most here, I think Obama’s lack of effort is a campaign issue.

    All Dems love the troops (Just ask them, the words pour out like water from a broken spigot), it is Bush’s policies they hate.

    When Democrat Obama had the opportunity to show his concern by visiting the wounded while in Germany makes no effort to enforce his right, yes right, Oh. and duty, to see the wounded.

    Then he choses to lie. Nice, keeps the story in the news longer.

  13. Hal says:

    Perhaps. But then he’s been doing a heck of a lot of visits to the wounded behind the scenes and that doesn’t go unnoticed in the grass roots gossip networks.

    I’m sure he would have done it differently, but I think that he’ll also effectively neutralize whatever problem there may be by visiting Reed when he gets back.

    Not sure where you get the “lie” part, but whatever.

    Still, the fact remains that there isn’t anything that McCain is saying about himself as positive. It’s all about Obama. As a strategy, it’s incredibly poor. Attacking his patriotism, effectively calling him treasonous…. I mean, the guy’s got nothing.

    I saw McCain today on This Week and it was more of the same. He keeps whining the past, whining about what his opponent does and has precious little to portray positive about himself.

    “Vote for me because I’m not Obama” may seem like an effective campaign to you, davod, but I just can’t see anyone outside of the hard core base being moved by it.

    Maybe Romney will mix this all up.

    <snort. chuckle>

  14. graywolf says:

    “Speaking of empty suits and the NoQuarter blog, how’d that breaking video of Michelle Obama saying “whitey” go?”

    Not good, but being a Clintonista (which I’m not) or a fan of Larry Johnson(which I’m not, at all), doesn’t necessarily invalidate this letter.

    Or is that concept too complicated for the Obamaniacs?

  15. Hal says:

    Well, it’s just another of Larry’s attempts at psyops which seem to fail almost before he he posted it.

    (via the carpetbagger)

    On the first point…

    “These comments are inappropriate and factually incorrect,” said Bagram spokeswoman Army Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green, who added that such political commentary is barred for uniformed personnel.

    Obama didn’t play basketball at Bagram or visit the Clamshell, she said. Home-state troops were invited to meet him, but his arrival was kept secret for security reasons.

    “We were a bit delayed … as he took time to shake hands, speak to troops and pose for photographs,” Nielson-Green said.

    …and on the second.

    An Army officer’s negative e-mail account of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s visit with the troops in Afghanistan that set the blogosphere ablaze prompted Army officials to correct aspects of the e-mail and resulted in a statement from the message’s author that “some of the information that was put out in my e-mail was wrong.” […]

    Army Times sent an e-mail to Porter, a Utah Army National Guard member assigned to the 142nd Military Intelligence Battalion, asking if he could verify that he wrote the controversial e-mail and requesting an interview.

    Porter’s reply declined the interview request, but said:

    “I am writing this to ask that you delete my e-mail and not forward it, after checking my sources some of the information that was put out in my e-mail was wrong. This e-mail was meant only for my family. Please respect my wishes and delete the e-mail and if there are any blogs you have my e-mail portrayed on I would ask if you would take it down too.”

    Or is this too unclear for you?

  16. Susan says:

    I disagree with the analysis. I believe with all the hay made of the Republicans lack of enthusiasm for McCain, this is a perfect issue to rally the base, so to speak. It speaks directly to Obama’s inability to walk the walk and it offends military members and veterans.

    Obama made a commitment to those troops…one he broke, for whatever his reasoning. He could have visited them with no fanfare whatsoever it wouldn’t have been seen as political because it wouldn’t have been “seen” period.

    It would have just been the right thing to do, but that wasn’t an option somehow?

    That is bull. He had a choice, he made it and he deserves to have it highlighted.

  17. Hal says:

    Hey, how’s that withdraw timetable coming?

  18. sam says:

    [U]sing “the troops” as part of a political message risks coming across as unseemly.

    Look, McCain and Co. got augered down pretty good on their “We dare Obama to go to Iraq” petard. And boy does it smart. So, in a feeble attempt at repoiste, we get this. Folks who think the shuck and jive in this ad is brilliant politics are in for a surprise. Think GI Bill.

  19. Fence says:

    I wonder what sort of support most troops appreciate more, a paid college education or a having some pol disturb their morning?

  20. anjin-san says:

    I think if we are going to discuss “supporting the troops” let’s remember that McCain is working to deny educational benefits for the troops that the democrats want to implement.

    Also let us remember that McCain’s good friend President Bush has fought hard to deny mental health benefits to the troops, despite soaring suicide rates among combat vets.

    I think most vets would prefer to have the health and educational benefits that the GOP is denying them to a handshake from a politican.

  21. James Joyner says:

    I think anyone who uses the term “Obamites” has pretty much already conceded the argument.

    I can never remember whether those are the ones coming from the top of the cave or the bottom. I know one holds on tight and the other with all their might, but that’s never really helped me resolve the issue.

  22. davod says:

    What is wrong with Obamites?

  23. davod says:

    “Perhaps. But then he’s been doing a heck of a lot of visits to the wounded behind the scenes and that doesn’t go unnoticed in the grass roots gossip networks.”

    True or just more Obamite misinformation (or lies).

  24. Hal says:

    I can never remember whether those are the ones coming from the top of the cave or the bottom.

    roflmao!

  25. Hal says:

    True or just more Obamite misinformation (or lies)

    Well, let’s see. If he’s been doing a heck of a lot of visits with the wounded (McCain does, too, btw), then who would be spreading the lies? Oh, that’s right. It would be the wives, sons, daughters, relatives and parents of the wounded, or even the wounded themselves!

    Now, davod, is that the kind of rumor you want to start?

  26. Grewgills says:

    I can never remember whether those are the ones coming from the top of the cave or the bottom.

    The Obamites come from the floor. You can remember because they might reach the White House. The Obatites come from the ceiling and need to hold on tight so they don’t fall on ex friends or associates.

  27. Michael says:

    Elections are anything but a process dominated by deep thinkers -we wouldn’t be in the trouble we’re in if that were true.

    No, we’d likely be in much worse trouble.

    Obama’s and the Dem’s argument is that they hate the war, love the troops. Oh, really? What about blowing off wounded troops when campaigning abroad?

    If that was the narrative McCain wanted, he shouldn’t have admitted the Pentagon’s role in his ad.

    He could have visited them with no fanfare whatsoever it wouldn’t have been seen as political because it wouldn’t have been “seen” period.

    Actually, the Press was welcome to tag along, so he could have been “seen” just fine. But he could not have brought anybody on his campaign staff, which is all the staff he brought on the trip. Logistically, it would have been a nightmare for him to try and do this without support staff.

  28. Bruce Moomaw says:

    Actually, on June 28, he DID visit wounded troops at Walter Reed — while refusing to bring cameras along. Which would seem to support Michael’s explanation. (See the “Fox News” and CNN accounts.)

    You know, this sort of thing just may explain why so many of those notorious ultra-liberal folks that Bithead hates — such as Joe Klein, Sen. Hagel, “USA Today” and Business Week magazine — are saying that they find McCain’s campaign strategy increasingly nauseating.