Sunday, July 27, 2008

Choose Your Poison: The Landstuhl Pseudo-Controversy

Apparently, the Obama campaign did not realize that its scheduled visit to Landstuhl Air Force Base to see wounded soldiers was going to be the stuff of new political pseudo-controversy.

But they should have seen it coming.

Nobody knows all the facts yet. But the issue boils down to this. The pro-Obama story is that "Pentagon officials" derailed Obama's visit because they didn't want Obama using stories of his "visit with wounded troops" as campaign fodder. The anti-Obama story is that the visit got scuttled in a petty dispute over whether Obama could bring in a couple of campaign aides.

In other words, the Obama visiting the troops story is a typical political "pseudo-controversy" in which McCain was able to get out an attack ad and there has been plenty of media blather about an "issue" of no consequence.

This was a "heads I win, tails you lose" moment for the McCain campaign and the conservative blogs. Either way, Obama was going to look bad. Either Obama was going to fall into Trap A and look like a "typical politician" eager to use wounded American troops as a prop for his presidential campaign or Trap B and look like a "cynical politician" who decided not to visit wounded American troops when he couldn't use them as a prop for his campaign.

What should Obama have done? Actually, he should have fallen into Trap A and let himself be accused of using the soldiers as props. That's because a visit to Landstuhl Air Force Base would uld have been a positive thing for the wounded soldiers. Obama and his campaign staff should have had enough of a sense of the soldiers' enthusiasm for Sen. Obama that they would have known that the wounded soldiers would have really wanted to meet him. A visit from a celebrity candidate like Obama would have been a big deal. It would have been a welcome break in the routines of convalescence and it would have been something soldiers could have bragged about to their families.

Sometimes politicians just have to choose which artificial "pseudo-controversy" they're going to be embroiled in. In this case, Obama should have visited the wounded troops.

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