Obama Camp Pins Scrubbed Troop Visit on Pentagon

Obama camp says Pentagon tried to limit a planned visit to troops in Germany.

ByABC News
July 25, 2008, 11:25 AM

July 25, 2008 — -- Sen. Barack Obama's campaign staff and the Pentagon are putting forth different versions of what happened before Obama cancelled a planned Friday morning visit to the Ramstein air base in Germany.

The Obama campaign has suggested the Pentagon interfered with its decision to visit U.S. troops at the Ramstein and Landstuhl U.S. military bases in Germany -- something the Pentagon denied Friday.

In the air flying from Berlin to Paris, Obama senior advisor Robert Gibbs spent 45 minutes speaking to the press over the course of three media availabilities in an attempt to clarify what appeared to be dueling reasons for cancelling the trip.

German magazine Der Spiegel published an article Thursday saying Obama's planned trip to visit troops stations in Germany, including injured troops from Iraq, had been cancelled.

Obama senior advisor Robert Gibbs initially said the senator had decided to cancel visit out of concern that the campaign-funded trip might be seen as inappropriate. But after harsh criticism of that decision from Sen. John McCain's campaign, another Obama adviser later told ABC News that the decision was made only after the Pentagon advised the campaign that the trip would be viewed as a campaign stop.

"The senator decided out of respect for these servicemen and women that it would be inappropriate to make a stop to visit troops at a U.S. military facility as part of a trip funded by the campaign," Gibbs initially told ABC News Thursday in a statement.

A staffer from McCain's campaign quickly slammed Obama over his decision to cancel the visit.

"Barack Obama is wrong," said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers Thursday. "It is never 'inappropriate' to visit our men and women in the military."

Then, Obama adviser Air Force Maj. Gen. Scott Gration (Ret.), who liaised with the Pentagon on the logistics of Obama's trip to Afghanistan, Iraq and Europe, later elaborated on why Obama decided to scratch the planned visit.

"We learned from the Pentagon last night that the visit would be viewed instead as a campaign event," Gration said Thursday. "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."

Clearly smarting from criticism over the cancelled visit, the Obama campaign again attempted to clarify its reasons for cancelling the trip Friday.

"The statement that I sent out and the statement that General Gration sent out are consistent in that what General Gration learned from the Pentagon, that the trip to Ramstein and Landstuhl will be viewed as a campaign stop," Gibbs said on the plane Friday morning. "The decision that Senator Obama made with that information was that we would not put our warriors in the position of being involved in a campaign stop. Therefore he made the decision not to make the stop."