White House hopeful Barack Obama returned from a triumphant, presidential-looking foreign tour on Saturday but immediately faced a new assault from rival John McCain over his cancellation of a visit with wounded US troops in Germany.
Obama sailed through the biggest tests of his trip, in Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel, apparently gaffe-free, and captured an unprecedented photo-op for a presidential candidate, speaking before a staggering 200,000 people in Berlin.
Republicans however branded his tour, also including Kuwait, France and Jordan, as a shallow political stunt.
And McCain’s team sought to highlight Obama’s failure to visit wounded troops from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars at the Landstuhl US military hospital in Germany on Friday — probably the only real hiccup of the trip.
“I think there have been nine different excuses out of Barack Obama’s campaign as to why that trip and that visit never took place, and all of them fundamentally ignore one fact, which is that he couldn’t make time in his schedule to meet with wounded combat troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan,” McCain’s spokesman Tucker Bounds told Fox News.
“He prioritises throngs of fawning Germans over meeting with wounded combat troops in Germany,” Bounds said.
And even before Obama got off the plane in Chicago, McCain already had created a television ad raising the issue.
“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,” the ad goes.
Obama’s tour was seen as an attempt to reduce voters’ doubts over his credentials as commander-in-chief — one of the few policy areas in which he trails McCain.
Latest opinion polls in the US show McCain chipping away at Obama’s national lead, which stands at between one and six points, and closing in some key battlegrounds.
McCain, who has struggled to get media coverage in the United States during Obama’s trip, delivered a sarcastic verdict on Obama’s travels in his weekly radio address.
“This week the presidential contest was a long-distance affair, with my opponent touring various continents and arriving yesterday in Paris,” he said. “With all the breathless coverage from abroad, and with Senator Obama now addressing his speeches to ‘the people of the world’, I’m starting to feel a little left out. Maybe you are too.”