McCain assails snub of troops

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LONDON | Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign assailed his Democratic rival Saturday for scrapping a stop at a U.S. military hospital in Germany during his nine-day foreign tour.

Mr. McCain himself criticized Sen. Barack Obama for canceling the planned trip to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, and his campaign quickly released an advertisement placing the reversal as the Democratic candidate’s latest snub of the U.S. military.

The Obama team has said it canceled the visit after being told by the U.S. military that it was too political, an explanation Mr. McCain scoffed at in an interview with ABC News set to air Sunday on “This Week.”

“If I had been told by the Pentagon that I couldn’t visit those troops, and I was there and wanted to be there, I guarantee you, there would have been a seismic event,” he told ABC.

Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor denounced the McCain team’s actions as the work of “an honorable man who is running an increasingly dishonorable campaign.”

Also Saturday, Mr. Obama spoke for the first time about his canceled trip, which also was to have taken in Ramstein Air Base.

Mr. Obama told reporters here that while he wasn’t sure of every detail, it was not intended as a slight and said he began having second thoughts about the trip after he learned he could not bring along a campaign adviser.

“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 advisers, a former military officer, 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,” Mr. Obama said.

Rather than trigger “a concern that maybe our visit was going to be perceived as political,” Mr. Obama said he phoned some of the troops instead. He spent some of his time in Germany working out at a gym.

But Mr. McCain pointed out that Mr. Obama still could have visited Landstuhl and implied that the Illinois senator really just wanted to be photographed with wounded troops rather than be with them.

“I know of no Pentagon regulation that would have prevented him from going there - without the media and the press and all of the associated people. Nothing that I know of would have kept him from visiting those wounded troops,” Mr. McCain said.

He noted his own visits to Landstuhl and said, “I think people make a judgment by what we do and what we don’t do. He certainly found time to do other things.”

Mr. Vietor called the criticism “disingenuous,” saying that “Senator McCain knows full well that Senator Obama strongly supports and honors our troops.”

Mr. Obama “has visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed numerous times,” Mr. Vietor said. “This politicization of our soldiers is exactly what Senator Obama sought to avoid, and it’s not worthy of Senator McCain or the ‘civil’ campaign he claimed he would run.”

The Obama campaign also distributed a statement by Sen. Jack Reed, in which the Rhode Island Democrat, who was with Mr. Obama for troop visits last week in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the Democratic candidate had then “expressed his gratitude for their service without press or fanfare.”

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About the Author

Christina Bellantoni

Christina Bellantoni is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times in Washington, D.C., a post she took after covering the 2008 Democratic presidential campaigns. She has been with The Times since 2003, covering state and Congressional politics before moving to national political beat for the 2008 campaign. Bellantoni, a San Jose native, graduated from UC Berkeley with ...

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