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Obama reveals Biden not going overseas with him; it's Hagel, Reed

July 12, 2008 | 11:37 pm

Perhaps inadvertently, Sen. Barack Obama tonight lifted a bit of the secrecy surrounding his upcoming trip overseas, telling reporters aboard his campaign plane that Sen. Jack Reed might accompany him to Iraq along with sometimes Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel.

When a reporter asked what might make Sen. Joe Biden and Hagel good traveling companions to Iraq, Obama made a very revealing correction:“It’s actually Sen. Hagel and Sen. Reed who may be coming with us.”

Well, now! So Biden, who says he doesn't work for anybody else, is not going with Obama? What's that do to the guessing game about the freshman Illinois senator's vice presidential pick, which had previously focused on Biden's foreign policy experience and his reported upcoming travels with Obama?

Democratic presidential nominee to be Barack Obama answering press questions on his campaign plane

And does this put Reed of Rhode Island, a three-term ex-House member, two-term senator and ex-Army Ranger, into the VP mix?

Obama's comments came during an infrequent 20-minute exchange with reporters at the back of his plane en route from Chicago to San Diego, a late-night media availability which will help keep him in the news on an otherwise quiet news weekend when his opponent, Republican John McCain, is inactive.

Obama is scheduled to speak to Latino voters in San Diego on Sunday. He also was asked about recent fundraising figures and a crude comment made about him.

Obama went on to say that both Reed and Hagel are foreign affairs experts who “reflect a traditional bipartisan wisdom when it comes to foreign policy.”

“Neither are ideologues," he added, "but try to get the facts right and make a determination of what is best for U.S. interests.”

Then he added: “And they are good guys.”

Obama didn’t want to confirm a trip to Afghanistan, where....

...he's never been, or provide details of the journey late this month to the Middle East and Europe.

And, after all, secrecy does make people want to know things even more.

Obama also offered that he wouldn't try to negotiate with Iraqi officials over any timetables for American troop withdrawals because it's not his place as only a presidential candidate.

“We have one president at the time,” Obama said. He reiterated his position on Iraq, “that we need a timetable for withdrawal, not only to relieve pressure on our military but also to deal withRhode Island Democratic senator Jack Reed the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.”

Another part of his trip –- a potential speech/photo op by Berlin's historic Brandenburg Gate –- became controversial in recent days when German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman expressed her displeasure over plans to use the monument as a backdrop for a foreign political campaign speech.

Obama said his campaign didn’t yet have a particular site in mind for the visit. “I want to make sure my message is heard as opposed to creating a controversy,” he said.

During tonight's conversation, Obama refused to talk about his vice presidential process and said he didn't speak with Sen. Hillary Clinton when she appeared in Chicago on his behalf earlier in the day.

Responding to a question about Jesse Jackson, who recently made a crude reference to what he would like to remove from the senator's body, Obama instead reiterated his views on parental responsibility, especially among black fathers –- the subject that prompted Jackson’s angry comment about Obama "talking down" to blacks.

“When more than half of African American children are growing up without a father in the house and often times not even knowing their father,” Obama said, “that is a problem. And I’m not going to back down one bit from asserting that is a problem. We have to be honest about that.”

He also dismissed as "wildly off" a recent report in the Wall Street Journal that his campaign raised $30 million last month, an amount described as “underwhelming.”  He wouldn't, however, reveal the actual figure, saying his campaign would release it soon.

Looking at his San Diego address, Obama said he's not as well known among Latino voters as he would like. “Right now, I think we’re doing well in the polls," Obama said, "but I tend not to trust polls and I think that we’ve got to work hard.”

--Louise Roug

Photo credits: Mark Wilson / Getty Images (top); Office of Sen. Jack Reed (bottom).