AMMAN, JORDAN–The Obama campaign is planning a big public rally in a major park in Berlin on Thursday. Thousands of Germans are anticipated to attend when presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) delivers what is being billed as a “substantive” speech on Trans-Atlantic relations. Yet campaign top advisors Robert Gibbs and David Axelrod insist this is not a campaign event though it is conceived, organized, financed and executed by the campaign.
This seems to be a matter of parsing, for what reason I can’t imagine.
The Obama trip to Iraq and Afghanistan is taxpayer-funded official government business. The rest if paid for by the campaign. But all the travel is still a political swing, no matter who pays the bills, done in the context of Obama’s presidential candidacy premised in large part on expertise in getting U.S. combat troops out of Iraq and redeployed to Afghanistan.
Tuesday in Amman, Axelrod continued the rhetorical torture when asked to confirm a report that the campaign may use the Berlin video for ads or other Obama promotional purposes. There was a bit of a testy exchange between reporters and staffers once they started, at a morning briefing, telling us how the Berlin speech is not a campaign event.
(The campaign routinely has a staffer on the road with reporters to tape almost everything for the Obama website; if higher quality video is anticipated, ad man Jim Margolis and his crew is often on the scene.)
Said Axelrod, “The answer is that, of course, any event outside of a CODEL is a campaign event. But it is not a political rally. He will not engage his American political opponents. It is a speech to our allies and the people of Europe and the world. And as such, we wanted it to be open to the public and not just invited guests.”
I’ve covered Obama speeches for his entire 17-month presidential campaign. Most often when he has a policy speech, Obama makes it inside and with an invited–usually handpicked and sympathetic–audience.
This word play started last week when, Gibbs said of the whole nine-day, seven country trip that it “is not a campaign trip, a rally of any sort.”
The campaign does expect a worldwide audience for the Berlin speech.