CNN's Bash declared as fact McCain view that Obama "stumble[d]" in Landstuhl decision, not noting CNN analysts' position that he was in no-win situation

››› ››› TOM ALLISON

Dana Bash pronounced Sen. Barack Obama's decision not to go through with a visit to U.S. troops at a military hospital in Germany a "stumble," asserting that as a result of Obama's decision, "the McCain campaign got something they could use -- an Obama stumble." Simply presenting McCain's reported take on the issue as fact, Bash made no mention of comments made earlier in the day by CNN analysts Bill Schneider and Gloria Borger, who agreed with the view articulated by an Obama spokesman that the Illinois senator "felt like he was in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation."

During a July 25 Anderson Cooper 360 report on Sen. Barack Obama's decision not to go through with a visit to U.S. troops at a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, CNN correspondent Dana Bash pronounced Obama's move a "stumble," asserting that as a result of Obama's decision, "the McCain campaign got something they could use -- an Obama stumble." Simply presenting the McCain campaign's purported take on Obama's decision as fact -- that Obama "stumble[d]" -- Bash didn't note that two of her CNN colleagues earlier that day expressed agreement with the view articulated by an Obama spokesman that the Illinois senator "felt like he was in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation."

During the July 25 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, senior political analyst Bill Schneider reported that Obama had visited with troops earlier in his trip, but according to a campaign spokesman, canceled the Landstuhl visit because he did not want to "put our troops in the middle of our campaign back-and-forth." Schneider continued: "Obama's spokesman said, just as the candidate has been criticized for not visiting the troops in Germany, he would have been criticized if he had met with them. Probably true. That's what happens in a campaign."

Later in the Situation Room broadcast, senior political analyst Gloria Borger asserted: "But it's one of those damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situations. Because you never want to make going to visit the troops look like a political photo opportunity, ever."

From the July 25 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360:

BASH: With those sound bites, McCain is trying to make up for what he lacked all week in imagery, from this golf cart to this grocery store, McCain struggled to find the right backdrop to counter Obama's overseas images. Minutes after his rival's speech in Berlin before a sea of people, McCain was in front of a German fudge house in Ohio. Yet finally, the McCain campaign got something they could use -- an Obama stumble.

Obama abruptly canceled a visit to see U.S. troops stationed in Germany and offered a series of evolving explanations. First, an Obama spokesman said, "The senator decided out of respect for these servicemen and women that it would be inappropriate to make a stop to visit troops at a U.S. military facility as part of a trip funded by the campaign." Later, another statement from retired Major General Scott Gratian traveling with Obama. "We learned from the Pentagon Wednesday night that the visit would be viewed instead as a campaign event." But Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell tells CNN the military had already arranged for Obama's campaign plane and staff to land at the air base and for the senator in his official capacity to visit troops. Morrell said canceling the trip was, quote, "based on their own calculation and had nothing to do with any judgment by us about the nature of the trip."

McCain campaign aides eager to make this fight Obama v. Pentagon, not Obama v. McCain, were more short and to the point than usual. A spokesman saying, "Barack Obama is wrong. It is never inappropriate to meet with troops." And privately, McCain aides, at last, found some joy with one Obama moment captured in this photo in a German newspaper, Obama leaving the gym, not visiting with U.S. troops.

A spokesman for Obama said the Democratic candidate felt like he was in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation and decided in the end it was best to avoid the perception of making wounded troops part of a campaign event. Dana Bash, CNN, Washington.

From the July 25 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

SCHNEIDER: A controversy broke out after Obama canceled plans to visit wounded members of the U.S. military in Germany. His campaign issued a statement saying, "The senator decided, out of respect for those servicemen and women, that it would be inappropriate to make a stop to visit troops at a U.S. military facility as part of a trip funded by the campaign."

The McCain campaign was quick to respond. "Barack Obama is wrong," the McCain spokesman said. "It is never inappropriate to visit our men and women in the military." In fact, Obama did visit the troops elsewhere, with the congressional delegation, which he called the highlight of his trip.

OBAMA: Everywhere we went in Afghanistan and Iraq, they were just really eager to tell their story of what they were doing. And -- and it was moving.

SCHNEIDER: Bloggers immediately picked up on the canceled visit to the military hospital in Germany. An Obama adviser issued a statement that: "We learned from the Pentagon Wednesday night that the visit would be viewed instead as a campaign event. Senator Obama did not want to have a trip to see our wounded warriors perceived as a campaign event."

A Pentagon spokesman says that Obama was welcome to go to the hospital as a sitting senator, not as a candidate. Asked why they canceled the visit, Obama's spokesman said: "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. That is the decision we made, and we are comfortable with it."

Obama spokesmen said, just as the candidate has been criticized for not visiting the troops in Germany, he would have been criticized if he had met with them. Probably true. That's what happens in a campaign.

[...]

BLITZER: Gloria, I want to just change subjects for a second because we've got a limited amount of time. You heard Bill Schneider's report on this controversy that Senator Obama had time to do a lot of stuff in Germany, including work out, but he didn't have time or he decided that it wasn't a good idea to go to meet some of the wounded troops at Landstuhl at Rammstein in Germany. And this is causing an uproar, especially among the conservative bloggers out there. His explanation is, you know what, it would have been a political event and it was really probably not appropriate.

BORGER: You know, the Obama campaign tells you that they were discouraged from going over there because it was a campaign event. And the Pentagon says, we didn't discourage him, we just discouraged bringing the campaign, that he could have gone by himself. And of course, the McCain campaign is saying, it's never inappropriate to go visit the troops. I think this is one of those situations where we need to kind of know the full story here. But it's one of those damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situations. Because you never want to make going to visit the troops look like a political photo opportunity, ever.

Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Dana Bash
Show/Publication
Anderson Cooper 360
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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