Pentagon told Obama no campaign trappings

July 26, 2008|Peter Spiegel and Michael Finnegan

U.S. military authorities told advisors to Barack Obama this week that he could not bring press or campaign staff on a visit to wounded troops from Iraq and Afghanistan at a hospital in Germany, a Pentagon spokesman said Friday.

After advisors learned of the restriction, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee canceled his scheduled visit Friday to the military's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in southern Germany.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell cited a military directive that activities "reasonably viewed as directly or indirectly associating the [Defense Department] with a partisan political activity" should be avoided.

The military was prepared to accommodate Obama's traveling press and campaign staff at the passenger terminal at Ramstein Air Base, the U.S. Air Force base where his campaign's chartered Boeing 757 had been cleared to land, Morrell said.

But, he said, only Obama and his Senate staff could visit the hospital.

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs initially released a statement saying the senator had decided to cancel out of respect for the troops, because it would be inappropriate on "a trip funded by the campaign."

That statement said nothing about the Pentagon restriction. Gibbs later said it became apparent the Pentagon "would have tried to politicize this, and then others would try to politicize this."

Presumptive GOP nominee John McCain criticized Obama on Thursday for canceling the visit, saying it was never inappropriate to visit U.S. troops.

-- Peter Spiegel and Michael Finnegan

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