by Mark Impomeni
Jul 25th 2008 11:00AM
Filed Under:eBarack Obama, 2008 President, Gaffes, Media
One casualty of Sen. Barack Obama's busy schedule on his foreign trip was a planned visit to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a U.S. military hospital located at the U.S. air base in Ramstein, Germany. The cancellation left Obama with a gap in his official schedule this morning in Berlin before he boarded a plane to fly to Paris for a five-hour stop over en route to London. Obama was to visit with troops receiving treatment for wounds inflicted in Iraq and Afghanistan at Landstuhl. Now, the cancellation, and the Obama campaign's shifting explanations for it, are raising questions.
Obama adviser Robert Gibbs initially said that the visit was canceled because the campaign thought, "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." That remark drew sharp criticism from Sen. John McCain, who said, "Barack Obama is wrong. It is never inappropriate to visit our men and women in the military." The McCain campaign also pointed out the Sen. McCain paid a visit to wounded troops on his last trip to Iraq. In response to increased questioning on the cancellation from the press, and perhaps to Sen. McCain's criticism, the Obama campaign later said that it was the military that requested that Obama not make the trip to the base. "We learned from the Pentagon last night that the visit would be viewed instead as a campaign event," a campaign adviser said.
But the military is disputing that explanation. A spokesman for the base told NBC News that the base was prepared to host Sen. Obama, as long as some conditions were met.
"[H]e could only bring two or three of his Senate staff member, no campaign officials or workers. Obama could not bring any media. Only military photographers would be permitted to record Obama's visit.
We didn't know why [the trip was canceled]. He was more than welcome. We were all ready for him."
Obama's campaign has steadfastly refuted the characterization of his trip as political. But the campaign's original explanation for removing the military hospital stop was based on the perception that the visit would be viewed as political. This is a pretty serious mistake by the campaign. The controversy will have no impact on the leaders and crowds Obama will encounter on the remainder of his trip. But it will resonate in the United States, and especially among those whom the trip was intended to convince that Sen. Obama had the experience to be the leader of the free world. Furthermore, the shifting explanations for the cancellation will cause the press to be more skeptical of the campaign's statements. That is something no candidate can afford, much less one who has enjoyed a largely uncritical relationship with the mainstream press.