WASHINGTON (AFP) — The Pentagon advised Senator Barack Obama's staff that he could visit a US military hospital in Germany only in his official capacity as a member of Congress, without the trappings of a political campaign, Pentagon officials said Friday.
Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, cancelled the visit Friday to wounded soldiers at the military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany after deciding the stop would be inappropriate as part of a trip financed by his campaign, a spokesman said.
Pentagon officials said the restrictions were in keeping with Defense Department guidelines aimed at avoiding the appearance of military support for any particular candidate.
"Because his visit is official only, Senator Obama may not be accompanied by members of his campaign staff," a Pentagon memo seen by AFP said. "He may only be accompanied by one member of his Senate staff, and the appropriate number of security personnel."
"While at LRMC (Landstuhl Regional Medical Center), Senator Obama may not address the media to make a campaign or election-related statement or to respond to a campaign or a campaign related event," the memo said.
A Defense Department directive issued in June 2006 prohibits the use of military installations for campaign events or speeches.
"As a matter of longstanding policy, DoD (Department of Defense) personnel acting in their official capacity may not engage in activities that associate DoD with any partisan political campaign or election candidate, cause or issue," the directive states.
Obama had hoped to meet with wounded soldiers at Landstuhl as he had in Baghdad, which he visited earlier in the week as part of a congressional delegation.
"We learned from the Pentagon last night that the visit would be viewed instead as a campaign event," said retired major general Scott Gration, an Obama adviser.
"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," he said.
Robert Gibbs, an Obama strategist, said 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 US military facility as part of a trip funded by the campaign."
Republicans including Obama's rival for the White House, John McCain, leaped on the cancelled visit, saying it was never inappropriate to visit US troops.
Obama last weekend visited soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, but that portion of his trip was as part of a congressional delegation -- not an official campaign swing.
The Democratic presidential hopeful arrived in Paris on Friday, for a six-hour visit, the penultimate stop of his tour of Europe and the Middle East, before returning home from London on Saturday.
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