"No Conversations" About Troop Ad: McCain Camp--BND's Further Thoughts

Given the McCain campaign’s vehement denials about ever discussing an ad/messaging strategy that would have bashed Sen. Barack Obama for visiting wounded troops in Germany this month [The New Normal: McCain’s Desperate Ad Hours], I thought it fair to hear in detail the McCain campaign’s explanation, and to go back to my original source for elaboration. I also sought, unsuccessfully, to find secondary sources to back up my original source.

I spent quite a while on the phone with Taylor Griffin, a spokesman for the McCain campaign.

The McCain campaign insists that no conversations took place about ads or campaign communication that would have cast Senator Obama in a bad light for visiting the troops while on a campaign trip about which the McCain campaign has been highly critical.

Griffin cites the following reasons why this couldn’t and wouldn’t be true.

1. The McCain campaign was not aware of the Obama visit to the troops in Germany beforehand, and neither was the traveling press with Obama. Therefore, the campaign could not have prepared a strategy around the trip. By the time they were reacting to his skipped visit of the troops, there was no reason to have talked about any other scenario.

2. Barack Obama has frequently visited the troops, including wounded troops at Walter Reade Hospital, as well as in Afghanistan and Iraq. Sen.. McCain has always praised him for doing so. The campaign has said that there is never a reason not to visit the wounded troops, which is why it reacted so strongly to his decision not to see the troops in Germany.

3. John McCain visited the same hospital in Germany during his last trip to Europe, so it would have been crazy to criticize Sen. Obama for doing so. [It is worth noting here that Sen. McCain, according to his spokesman, was on a Senatorial trip, not spending campaign funds as Sen. Obama was. The rules for visiting troops are different when spending campaign funds.]

I went back to my original source with whom I spoke last weekend to make sure I had understood what he was saying. He clarified that he’d heard about discussions of a possible ad from a McCain adviser, not literally that a script was in place. My language about an ad “ready to go,” was meant to be figurative to describe the campaign’s willingness to rip Obama no matter what he had done, according to the campaign adviser to spoke with my source. It may be worth noting that I originally called this source, an experienced GOP lobbyist and strategist, to ask him his viewpoint about the sharp turn the McCain campaign had taken in much more negative attacks on Obama. The information was not fed to me deliberately or proactively. However, I have not been able to find a secondary source to back up the original source. Subsequent calls to a couple of other sources today were greeted with a much greater sense of nervousness because of the intense scrutiny around this issue inside the McCain campaign.

This leaves me with little ammunition to buttress the original assertion, especially in the face of the fierce denials by the McCain campaign.

There is a huge amount of smoke being blown by both campaigns, each trying to define the other in the most negative terms possible. Indeed, my original blog-post enumerated some of the examples of other media outlets and www.factcheck.org citing the McCain campaign in recent days for broadcasting ads that just don’t hold up to even basic scrutiny. The Obama campaign has at times also drawn fire from media outlets and www.factcheck.org. The campaign reflexively disregards any organization that calls them on the facts.

But I do admit that my source’s original assertion should have been backed up by reliable secondary and tertiary sources before going into the blog entry, especially since it hit close to the bone for the McCain campaign.