Obama Camp Pins Scrubbed Troop Visit on Pentagon

Gibbs said Gration had been in contact with the Pentagon for three weeks during the planning of the visit. On July 15 or 16, he said the campaign received a PPR, a "prior permission required" -- which was required to land a nonmilitary aircraft (Obama's campaign plane) at an airbase in Germany.

But on Wednesday, Gibbs said, Gration received new information from the Pentagon, saying that this visit would be viewed as a campaign stop.

He said the Pentagon said Obama could visit wounded troops from Illinois in his capacity as a senator, but that was it. Gration dealt with the legislative affairs office within the office of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

"He could go as a United States senator, but it was pretty clear from the guidance that we received from the Pentagon that the trip would be viewed as a campaign stop," Gibbs told reporters Friday. "Given the information that we had received, Senator Obama made the decision that we were not gonna have wounded men and women become involved in a campaign event or what would be perceived as a campaign event."

Gibbs said Obama made the final decision to cancel the visit after consulting with advisers on his Thursday flight from Tel Aviv to Berlin.

Gibbs then said either way -- if they kept the visit on their schedule or not -- it would have been criticized. "We might have gotten criticism for going, [but] we have been criticized for not going."

At the Pentagon, spokesman Bryan Whitman denied that the Pentagon had discouraged Obama from visiting the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Obama was "absolutely" told he could visit the troops at Landstuhl, said Whitman.

However, the issue of his visit was dealt with by hospital officials and military officials in Europe familiar with Pentagon guidelines for visits to military installations by a political campaign.

Whitman said Obama is "certainly welcome to visit a military medical facility any time he wants to," as long as that visit was consistent with that of a sitting senator.

He added, "We do have certain policy guidelines for political campaigns and elections and what's appropriate and not appropriate in those situations. But, the Pentagon, to use your words, certainly did not tell the senator that he could not visit Landstuhl."

The spokesman said that because Obama is both a sitting senator and a political candidate, any visit to Landstuhl would have had to be undertaken within the restrictions that apply to both.

"When you are doing things like a visit to Landstuhl you need to do it in your sitting capacity or you have to do it within the restrictions that apply to any other candidate that might be running for office that is not a sitting senator. So you have to be able to draw those distinctions. Generally speaking the military tries very hard not to get involved in political campaigns."

According to Whitman, Senate staffers could have accompanied Obama, but not campaign staffers. "It would be appropriate to do that with your Senate staff and obviously not with your campaign staff." He added that it would be easy to differentiate the two, "either you work for the senator's staff or you work on the campaign staff, it's very different."

Any discussion of cameras or photographers accompanying Obama was "off the table," said Whitman, who stressed that because of privacy issues, no photography is allowed at Landstuhl.

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