Press Excluded from Biden Meeting: What Are They Thinking?

Woe hen Governor Sarah Palin, the GOP vice presidential nominee, engaged in her whirlwind tour of heads-of-state earlier this week, the McCain campaign sought to exclude reporters — but not photographers and television cameras — from being in the room. By doing so they expressed a total lack of confidence in Governor Palin to perform appropriately on the world stage, totally undermining any political benefit from the photo opportunity. Instead, they handed the Obama campaign a gift: it wasn’t the “left-wing media” or political opponents undermining their vice presidential candidate — it was Senator John McCain’s own campaign doing the damage.

One might expect Senator Barack Obama’s campaign to keep the story alive as long as possible, emphasizing the difference between Governor Palin and the Democratic party vice presidential nominee, Senator Joe Biden.  Senator Biden’s foreign policy credentials comes from long experience, proven expertise and bi-partisan respect, not meaningless proximity to a desolate portion of Russia.

One might expect the Obama campaign to emphasize this difference, but that’s not what’s happened. Instead, when Senator Biden held a meeting with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashivli today in Wisconsin, reporters were excluded from the room — but not photographers and television cameras. The reason, according to the Obama campaign and as reported by the Associated Press, is that “It’s a private meeting between the senator and a head of state.”

So what? Last month Senator Bident and President Saakashvili met in Georgia in the aftermath of the Russion invasion of the country. Maybe the campaign was thinking this was simply a continuation of that meeting. Senator Biden is, after all, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. This would take the meeting out of the realm of politics.

No way. Senator Biden is running to be Vice President of the United States. If this was a private “official” meeting, exclude the photographers along with the reporters. If there’s a photo opportunity, reporters should be allowed in the room as well. It’s all or nothing.

Instead, the Obamacampaign gives the McCain campaign a “get out of stupid decisions free” card. When criticized for excluding reporters from Governor Palin’s meetings with heads of state, all the McCain campaign needs to say is, “Senator Biden does it, too.” In one act, the Obama campaign turned a major snafu by the McCain campaign into just another example of business as usual.

A spokesman for the Obama campaign noted, accurately, that the “transparency between the Biden campaign and the Palin campaign is worlds apart.” Unlike Governor Palin, who campaigns in a bubble through which few unscripted moments are allowed to pass, Senator Biden is accessible to the public and the media. That speaks highly of Senator Obama’s selection of Senator Biden as his running mate. And it reflects poorly on Senator McCain’s selection of Governor Palin.

That may be true, but by imitating the McCain campaign’s handling of reporters during photo opportunities, the bama campaign diminishes the relevancy of that difference.

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Who Elected McCain President?

Presidential candidate Senator John McCain told Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili that Americans support his country against Russia. According to the Associated Press, Senator McCain said, “I told him that I know I speak for every American when I said to him, today, we are all Georgians

This is Senator McCain being presidential, of showing strength and leadership. But I’m sorry, don’t we already have a president who is supposed to speak for the American people on these issues? There’s no doubt a lot of activity going on at the State Department to resolve the situation. Maybe they should be allowed to speak for the American people?

True, it is a campaign season, and one can’t expect Senator McCain to remain quiet about an international incident. After all, his campaign is based on the fact that he can pick up the phone and call the president of Georgia (of course, his opponent, Senator Barack Obama talked to President Saakashvili, too).

But what’s hypocritical about this, is that Senator McCain just spent the better part of three weeks blasting Senator Obama for being presumptuous. Yet isn’t it a bit presumptuous of Senator McCain to be stepping into the shoes George W. Bush is still wearing to inform a foreign head of state of total support for his country’s position (this being the country that precipitated the flare-up by moving troops into a province on the first day of the Olympics).

I know Senator McCain is desperately trying to show leadership, but can you imagine what the spin masters in the McCain campaign would be saying if Senator Obama had said the exact same thing first? Can you imagine the apoplexy on the right wing radio shows if Senator Obama dared to speak on behalf of the American people in such a way?

Hypocrisy is not new to presidential politics and Senator McCain has demonstrated his mastery of the skill. But the timing of this is a bit amusing.  Especially since it comes from a military man who should understand the concept of the chain-of-command. After all, there can only be one commander-in-chief. Unfortunately, the one we got is the aforementioned George W. Bush. Nonetheless, the White House is no doubt actively seeking to work through a difficult situation. They might, just maybe, prefer to have one person speaking on behalf of the American people — perhaps maybe even the one constitutionally assigned that role.

Instead of trying to prove their ability to answer the phone at 3:00 am, one of the candidates might wish to display true leadership and point out that in times of crisis it’s important to make clear who is in charge of the country — even if that person isn’t up to the job. Although then the press might then accuse him of being weak. And we can’t have that. Not when there’s phone calls to make — and to take.