After meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown today, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, came before the microphones and took a few questions from the press.
I asked him to explain the controversy about his canceled trip to visit with wounded troops at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.
The campaign had initially said that Sen. Obama had said he thought it might be inappropriate to visit the troops since the campaign was funding his European swing.
Then after reports that the Pentagon had expressed concerns to the Obama campaign about the political aspect to the visit, the Obama campaign issued a statement from Maj Gen. Scott Gration (Ret.), a foreign policy adviser to Obama, saying that the Pentagon told him the visit to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center would be viewed as "a campaign event.”
"Senator Obama did not want to have a trip to see our wounded warriors perceived as a campaign event when his visit was to show his appreciation for our troops and decided instead not to go,” Gration said.
But the Pentagon said that wasn’t true, that Obama was more than welcome to come, it was just that he couldn’t bring the media or campaign staff.
So here’s what Obama said about it all:
"The staff was working this so I don’t know each and every detail but here is what I understand happened," Obama said. "We had scheduled to go, we had no problem at all in leaving, we always leave press and staff off — that is why we left it off the schedule. We were treating it in the same way we treat a visit to Walter Reed which I was able to do a few weeks ago without any fanfare whatsoever. I was going to be accompanied by one of my advisors, a former military officer."
Continued Obama, "And we got notice that he would be treated as a campaign person, and it would therefore be perceived as political because he had endorsed my candidacy but he wasn’t on the Senate staff. That triggered then a concern that maybe our visit was going to be perceived as political. And the last thing that I want to do is have injured soldiers and the staff at these wonderful institutions having to sort through whether this is political or not or get caught in the crossfire between campaigns."
"So rather than go forward and potentially get caught up in what might have been considered a political controversy of some sort," Obama said, "what we decided was that we not make a visit and instead I would call some of the troops that were there. So that essentially would be the extent of the story."