July 25th, 2008
01:15 PM ET
15 years ago

Pentagon was concerned with Obama visit to hospital


[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/25/art.obamaplane.gi.jpg caption="Obama canceled a trip to a U.S. military hospital in Germany."](CNN) - A top aide to Barack Obama said Friday the campaign canceled a scheduled visit to an American military base in Germany the day before because the Pentagon expressed concerns it would be viewed as a campaign trip.

The incident is representative of the delicacy with which the Obama campaign has attempted to navigate the Illinois senator's entire journey abroad - at once staging elaborate photo-ops beamed back to the American media while at the same time insisting that Obama's trip is not a political one by definition.

The Illinois senator had planned on visiting a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany - currently housing American troops injured in Iraq. The visit was expected to come after Obama's speech in Berlin. But the campaign suddenly announced Thursday the stop had been canceled, saying then Obama had determined it would be "inappropriate."

But speaking to reporters Friday, Senior Obama adviser Robert Gibbs said Ret. Major Gen. Scott Gration, currently a policy adviser to the campaign, received a call from Pentagon officials earlier in the week who expressed concern with the trip - specifically because Obama was heading there on his campaign plane and campaign staff would be accompanying him on the visit.

After speaking with Gration, the campaign decided to cancel the trip. Gibbs said Obama is "comfortable with the decision" because he did not want to make the troops part of a campaign event.

But the decision to cancel the event drew widespread criticisms from conservative blogs and the McCain campaign.

"It is never ‘inappropriate’ to visit our men and women in the military," McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters later Friday the Pentagon did not explicitly say Obama should not visit the base, but was concerned with whether his capacity there would be one of a presidential candidate, not a senator.

"We do have certain policy guidelines for political campaigns and elections. And what is appropriate and what is not appropriate in those situations. But the Pentagon certainly did not tell the senator that he could not visit Landstuhl," Whitman said.

"Generally speaking, the military tries very hard not to get involved in political campaigns," he said. "Conducting a campaign speech for example on a military installation is not something that would be appropriate to do."

In another sign the Obama campaign has at times had difficulty maintaining the notion the presidential candidate's trip is devoid of politics, it also received criticism Thursday night for distributing an e-mail to supporters that highlighted Obama's Berlin speech and included a link for online donations.

The campaign insists it was not a fundraising e-mail.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (602 Responses)
  1. TonyInKentucky

    Senator McCain should be stoned for even having the hypocrisy to question Senator Obama's dedication to our Veterans and the troops.

    Look at the voting records.

    McCain is a sham and his supporter willfully blind to his callousness regarding our vets and common citizens. They are also blind to his apparent ineptitude and limited intellect.

    John McCain is not fit to hold the office of President of The United States of America by even the wildest stretch. If this disorganized, visionless, and dim candidate is all we can have then repeal the 22nd amendment and just keep Bush, his level of competence and command of issues far exceeds Senator McCain's.

    This campaign has made it perfectly clear why Bush defeated McCain in 2000. The Senator is dangerously incapable.

    July 25, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  2. Steve Jacksonville, Florida

    The McSame campaign is totally in reaction mode. Unable to shake the Bush legacy, caught in the middle of trying to appease the conservatives and maintain his phony "maverick" image, McSame can only attack Obama with weak jabs.

    July 25, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
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