Monday, August 04, 2008

The Devil You Know

I've been following with some interest the rise of the new meme, the Presumptious Nominee:
The candidate's crowning demonstrations of hubris, according to those building a case, came during his extended trip to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East and Europe. Recall the pundits demanding the freshman Illinois senator prove he could be presidential in the foreign arena?

So he appeared at ease with world leaders, talked animatedly with beaming American troops and drew huge civilian crowds. Then the pundits -- who had been taking a round of bashing for supposedly going easy on Obama -- told Obama he needed to beware of appearing too presidential.
You'd think the media would welcome a Presidential wannabe who actually acted as if the job itself was more important than the campaign to get it, but that's a small digression.

After eight years of Bush acting completely UNPresidential despite actually, you know, being President, Obama's grace and ease with foreign leaders and with foreign audiences (as I mentioned last week) is probably less a function of Obama's demeanor and poise than it is the simple acknowledgement that a man who feels no compunction about sexually assaulting world leaders is unwelcome and it's about damned time America got rid of the creep.

And that would be the least of the gripes they'd have with Bush, that "Old Europe"!

The most curious trope to arise from this meme is that somehow, Obama was screwed during his visit to Germany by declining to visit Landstuhl Hospital, where Iraq invaders and Afghan warriors are nursing their wounds and receiving treatment:
Opponents would like to put the Democrat in another can't-win box over his "failure" to visit wounded troops at a military hospital in Germany. Obama canceled a visit to the Landstuhl hospital and was accused of being self-centered.

What if he had appeared at the hospital? David Kiley reported in BusinessWeek magazine how a Republican operative described plans to attack Obama for -- that's right -- using wounded troops as campaign props, if he had gone through with the visit.
Now, here, I agree with the critics: he should have gone.

Yes, he was doomed in a "damned if I do, damned if I don't" kind of way. But here's the thing: The GOP has successfully painted nearly every candidate for President as "soft," mealy-mouthed liberals who won't or can't stomach war and won't do what is necessary to defend you and me from "them", whomever "them" was: Soviets, Cubans, Al Qaeda, Iraq, Panama, Grenada, and so on.

In this instance, Obama was, I believe, wrong to skip the troops. Yes, we've heard a few somewhat confusing rationales, making his plight all the more difficult. He really needs to find someone who can get on message faster. David Axelrod is not doing the job.

He didn't want to politicize the troops. He was told he couldn't bring the media. He couldn't visit with campaign staffers. So on.

So what?

You might recall this little trope:
President Bush's day-old reelection advertising campaign generated criticism and controversy yesterday, as relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes charged that television commercials using images from the attacks were exploiting the tragedy for political gain.

Or this image:

Yes, in both instances, Bush was accused, correctly, of politicizing the troops. The charges had no effect on the course of the campaign, and Bush won re-election. More devastating was painting his opponent, John Kerry, into a box that forced Kerry to expend precious resources defending himself, unable to make the case for why he should replace Bush.

In Obama's case, this is one time the devil you DON'T know, visiting the troops, would have been the correct choice. He could defend his decision by pointing out his Senate subcommittee positions made this a point of protocol, and damn the campaign for a few hours. He could have walked in practically alone (they don't send even a secretary with him?) and spent a few moments on one ward.

It would have been the right thing to do, especially if you are going to make the case that you opposed the war from the get-go.

See, one of the lasting images of the Vietnam conflict is of veterans returning home to be villified and hated by the anti-war protestors. By directly linking himself as a spiritual descendant of the "No More War" crowd-- and I count myself proudly among their numbers-- he has left himself open to the darker side of that crowd.

He's already been painted as a radical sympathizer through his connection, albeit tenuous, to William Ayers and Bernadette Dohrn...oooh, he met them at a local strategy event! Oooh, they co-served on a board somewhere!...who were notorious radicals in the Weather Underground.

Ayers and Dohrn deserve our contempt. The bombs they helped make, the one that blew up the townhouse they rented, were intended to hurt innocent Americans and American troops. Much like Al Qaeda today.

Not visiting the troops gives that ridiculous charge of involvement with "known radical terrorists" an inadvertant ring of truth.

Already, the story line for the fall election is that Obama is aloof and above the fray: elitist in a way that makes John Kerry (who ran a pizza parlor, fercrissake!) look like a regular Joe in the eyes of the GOP.

I'm not suggesting that he has to, you know, hoist a glass of scotch at a gin mill to show he's a man of the people, or in any way shape or form run his campaign as an offset to this idiotic idea that a man can be TOO ambitious or TOO intelligent to be President.

Just don't give them a freebie, is all I'm saying.