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McCain Ad Says Obama Visited Gym Instead of Troops

By Michael D. Shear
Sen. John McCain lashed out at his Democratic rival in a tough new television ad Saturday, accusing him of "going to the gym" while in Germany instead of visiting wounded soldiers, and of doing so because the hospitals would not let television cameras film the visits.

The Republican senator also repeats the charge in an interview to be aired Sunday morning, saying on ABC's "This Week" that "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."

In the ad, an announcer says: "And now, he made time to go to the gym, but cancelled a visit with wounded troops. Seems the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras. John McCain is always there for our troops. McCain. Country first."

The ad, which the campaign said would air in "key" states, was created quickly to seize on a controversy just days old. During his trip to Germany, Obama was scheduled to visit the American hospitals at Ramstein and Landstuhl, but cancelled the trips after being told by Pentagon officials that he could only visit in his official capacity as a senator, not as a candidate.

Obama's campaign called the attack a "wildly inappropriate accusation" and said Obama had been trying to avoid letting the wounded soldiers get dragged into a political campaign.

"The last thing [Sen. Obama] wanted was to have injured soldiers get pulled into the back-and-forth of a political campaign," said Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor. "Senator Obama and Senator McCain share the belief that we must do everything we can to honor and support our troops, which is why Senator Obama has met with our men and women in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan this week and visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed numerous times."

But McCain's advisers seized on the fact that Obama and his aides have given several different versions of why the visits to the soldiers were canceled.

Initially, Obama said the visits were scrapped out of respect for the troops and to avoid making the visits part of the campaign. A later statement blamed the cancellation on Pentagon rules that bar such visits, but a military spokesman later said Obama would have been welcomed as long as he came without a campaign entourage or media.

That's when the McCain campaign jumped, accusing Obama of choosing not to visit because he couldn't bring the hordes of media that had followed him across Europe.

"Several explanations were offered, none was convincing, and each was at odds with the statements of American military leaders in Germany and Washington," retired Lt. Col. Joe Repya, a Vietnam veteran, said in a statement issued by the McCain campaign. "For a young man so apt at playing president, Barack Obama badly misjudged the important demands of the office he seeks. Visits with world leaders and speeches to cheering Europeans shouldn't be a substitute for comforting injured American heroes."

By Washington Post Editor  |  July 26, 2008; 10:11 PM ET
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