The Bracelet Affair, Looking Back

Barack Obama’s statement “she asked me to wear it” is technically false — though it’s a pretty fine point and I don’t think I’d have worded it quite as strongly as I’ve seen being referenced. Let me explain: (And see the Bracelet tag at right for earlier posts and links.)

Early in 2008, Mrs. Jopek waited to see candidate Obama — apparently (from a later inteview) to ask him to tone down his anti-war rhetoric. She was a big Obama supporter, but it seems that she did not like this position. She intended to give him the bracelet and ask him to remember her slain son and the sacrifices we are making in Iraq. (I’m using more words than she did, but I think the statement is a fair recap.)

When she actually met him, after waiting 45 minutes in the cold, she was crying too hard to speak to him. She wordlessly gave him the bracelet, and they embraced. (So, technically, she never asked him to wear it.)

Later, she heard him use it in a speech, and wrote to him asking him “not to use the bracelet in speeches or debates”. She acknowledged this wording much later, as this affair blew up.

The interview with her (now) ex-husband took place (March). It was pointed out during the interview that Obama was still wearing it. Brian Jopek was not happy — and strongly against pulling out of Iraq — but was not in close contact with his ex wife.

Some months later, a separate speech by Obama (and subsequent meeting backstage) was videotaped by a student. The student asked about the bracelet, and clearly Obama did not know the name and had to look directly at it to read it. He told basically the same story — that he’d been asked to wear it. Not only was this apparently not true, but by this time he’d been told NOT to.

Or, more finely, “not to use it in speeches or debates”. It is arguable that he could wear it, as long as he didn’t refer to it. Referring to it violated her wishes in any event.

Later, the debate with John McCain. I was intrigued, remembered Hillary Clinton’s use of a little girl as a prop for health care (which badly backfired) and decided to do a little research.

Late at night, the article went up. The next day Jake Tapper from ABC and apparently tens of thousands of others were on it. And the Associated Press and Obama were apparently in communication — and AP called Mrs. Jopek to “rebut” the story.

The original article that came out actually confirmed that she had told him not to use it — but that she forgave him (she was still an Obama supporter). And, since she had not heard his intervening speeches, she took Obama at his word and was “honored” by his mention of her son.

Could he use it again? She would not commit to this. Parts of this article were damning to Obama, particularly confirming that she’d asked him not to use the bracelet.

Apparently, Obama’s team and the AP talked again — for about 90 minutes later the article was replaced with one with a far happier spin — and now the mother was “ecstatic” at the mention (in the headline) instead of merely forgiving him.

Most copies of the original article were killed, and replaced with the new one that omitted any reference to her asking him not to use the bracelet.

However, both versions of the article still exist — and I think the links in these posts still work for them. (Just confirmed that I still have a good link to the original version, that begins:

After Tracy Jopek gave Sen. Barack Obama a bracelet in honor of her son who was killed in Iraq, she asked Obama not to mention the bracelet on the campaign trail.

It was the same AP writer in both versions — I’d wager that he did NOT call back and get more quotes. I’d also wager that he received a stern message to “fix” the story to look better for Barack Obama.

Regardless of what he was told, the new version was indeed a completely different spin.

So that’s the story. The candidate looked bad, and damage control was done in hours — the woman at the center of it was (happily for him) still a supporter and went along with the idea, though she was clearly not “ecstatic” about it.

Imagine if she had become a Republican in the meantime!

===|==============/ Level Head