UPDATE BELOW: McCain Camp Backs Off Charge
For four days, Sen. John McCain and his allies have accused Sen. Barack Obama of snubbing wounded soldiers by canceling a visit to a military hospital because he could not take reporters with him, despite no evidence that the charge is true.
The attacks are part of a newly aggressive McCain operation whose aim is to portray the Democratic presidential candidate as a craven politician more interested in his image than in ailing soldiers, a senior McCain adviser said. They come despite repeated pledges by the Republican that he will never question his rival's patriotism.
The essence of McCain's allegation is that Obama planned to take a media entourage, including television cameras, to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany during his week-long foreign trip, and that he canceled the visit when he learned he could not do so. "I know that, according to reports, that he wanted to bring media people and cameras and his campaign staffers," McCain said Monday night on CNN's "Larry King Live."
The Obama campaign has denied that was the reason he called off the visit. In fact, there is no evidence that he planned to take anyone to the American hospital other than a military adviser, whose status as a campaign staff member sparked last-minute concern among Pentagon officials that the visit would be an improper political event.
Despite serious and repeated queries about the charge over several days, McCain and his allies continued yesterday to question Obama's patriotism by focusing attention on the canceled hospital visit.
The New York Times , meanwhile, publishes an editorial calling the ad "a false account of what occurred."
UPDATE: McCain's campaign seems to be backing off some of their more spurious charges. Ben Smith reports:
McCain's camp, accused in the New York Times and the Washington Post this morning of distorting Obama's canceled trip to a military hospital in German, seems to have backed off the core of the charge: That he canceled the trip because "the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras."
"It does now seem that Barack Obama snubbed the troops for reasons other than a lack of photo-op potential," writes McCain blogger Michael Goldfarb this morning, contradicting his campaign's televised ads and his candidate's statements.
But as the media swings around to contradict McCain's story, the campaign is trying to stay on offense, blaming the press for the confusion:
"[T]he initial reports were less clear," Goldfarb writes.