One of the more odd exchanges from Friday night may turn out to harm Sen. Obama far more than he might have thought possible at the time. Call it the bracelet debate:
I couldn’t find a clip that contained the full Obama statement, so for fairness’ sake, here’s the text:
OBAMA: I’ve got a bracelet, too, from Sergeant – from the mother of Sergeant Ryan David Jopek, given to me in Green Bay. She asked me, ‘Can you please make sure another mother is not going through what I’m going through?’ No U.S. soldier ever dies in vain because they’re carrying out the missions of their commander in chief. And we honor all the service that they’ve provided. Our troops have performed brilliantly. The question is for the next president: ‘Are we making good judgments about how to keep America safe? Precisely because sending our military into battle is such an enormous step.
A fair debate, and one that certainly raises questions about who has the best interests of the troops at heart. But two issues have emerged regarding Obama’s use of Sgt. Jopek’s bracelet, which might make Sen. Obama look a little less, well, sympathetic.
First, Jake Tapper of ABC points out that Sgt. Jopek’s family is, at best, split on the subject of using their son’s bracelet for political purposes. In fact, his mother has apparently asked Sen. Obama to stop using the bracelet that she gave him for political purposes. Now, it is certainly fair to say that Obama may not have gotten the message, but if he did, it’s very poor form to use a military family for political purposes after it has asked the campaign not to do so.
Separately, Jim Geraghty raises the question of whether Sen. Obama had to look down and read the name of the fallen soldier he was about to use for political purposes. Looking again at the video (in the one inserted above, at about the 1:20 mark), it’s a fair point. Obama’s “from Sergeant, uh, uhm, [looking down at his wrist] from the mother of Sgt. Ryan David Jopek” doesn’t do much to dissuade the skeptical viewer from this opinion.
If you put on that bracelet every day, as part of your morning routine after you shower and shave, don’t you have to know that name by heart? He’s been doing that (presumably) since February.
Put it a different way. During the course of the debate, Sen. Obama knew that Fortune 500 CEOs save $700k a head under McCain’s tax plan. He knew the amount of money we give in private insurance subsidies under Medicare ($15 billion). He pronounced Georgia president Saakashvili’s name correctly, and named Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Czechoslovakia as nations concerned about Russian aggression. He never once glanced at his notes while giving these answers.
But he didn’t know the name of the fallen American soldier who was memorialized on his wrist. Not without looking first, anyway.
Of course, there could have been something else written on that bracelet, which might have thrown him off: