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New John McCain ad spotlights Barack Obama's derailed troop visit

July 26, 2008 |  4:15 pm

Barack Obama took his own shot at defusing the flap surrounding the canceled visit to a U.S. military hospital during his overseas trip. But John McCain's campaign isn't about to let the matter rest.

Indeed, the Republican elevated the contretemps to what passes for the height of political discourse these days: it's a key element in a new television ad (see video below).

The 30-second spot zings Obama for making time for a gym workout while in Germany earlier this week, but removing from his itinerary a planned stop at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. The ad continues:

"Seems the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras.

"John McCain is always there for our troops.

"McCain. Country first."

(The last line recently was unveiled on McCain's website as his....

... campaign's latest stab at settling on a simple slogan it will stick with.)

To take Obama to task more extensively over the canceled visit, McCain media aides today also issued a release from retired Lt. Col. Joe Repya, a veteran of three wars, that scolds the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee for stiffing the troops while "flitting from one European capital to the next." It concludes:

"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."

(No shortage of none-too-subliminal messages in those two sentences.)

Obama gave his version of the confusing chain of events that led to the cancellation in an interview that aired today with Fox News Channel's Bill Hemmer. Asked by Hemmer about "taking heat" for the nixed visit and whether it was a mistake not to make the stop, Obama replied:

"Well no, not at all. It was scheduled, we intended to go and we got wind that there was some concern that this might be perceived as political; because we were using campaign resources. And at that point, the last thing I wanted to do is to in any way distract the terrific work that’s being done in terms of treating our troops, by getting it fouled up by a bunch of politics. ... I didn’t want it to be a distraction.”

But that's exactly what it's become for Obama, and it may linger -- one can assume that McCain allies periodically will play the "he-stiffed-the-troops" card.

The various explanations seem to come down to crossed signals between Obama's staff and Pentagon officials. Bottom line: Having put the visit on the candidate's schedule, the vaunted Obama campaign team stumbled in not making sure he made good on the commitment.

-- Don Frederick

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