Published November 20, 2009
When it comes to the Sarah Palin "Rogue Tour," officials at Fort Bragg, one of the nation's largest military installations, appear to have laid down a strict set of do's and don'ts -- or did they?
Fort Bragg officials on Thursday said the news media would be barred from covering Palin's book-signing event scheduled for next Monday out of fear that it could turn into an anti-Obama rally.
Their decision reportedly also barred Palin from giving any speeches, autographs or taking photos with troops. Base officials later relented, allowing limited media coverage, but whether Palin was barred from speaking or interacting freely with base personnel and families was unclear.
"We have not put any restrictions on soldiers for taking any photos," said Tom McCollum, the public affairs officer at Fort Bragg. "Sarah Palin's people stepped forward and said she will not stop and pose for photos. That is not a Fort Bragg restriction."
McCollum told FoxNews.com that Palin did not want to make any speeches or give any interviews while on the base -- but would not say whether she would be allowed to give a talk there if she wished.
"It's not an issue," he said. 'There's no plans for her to [make a speech], so why would we address this with her?"
But apparently even on Army bases, the Sarah Rules are not uniform. Officials at Texas' Fort Hood say the VP candidate-turned-tell-all-author will be handled just like anyone else who comes by.
"We're treating this like any other celebrity book signing tour," said Bruce Zielsdorf, the deputy public affairs officer at the sprawling base in Killeen, Tex. "It's part of selling a book -- you go different places and you're popular and people come get your autograph."
Zielsdorf said Palin would be allowed to speak freely at the event as she signs and hawks copies of her memoir, "Going Rogue," which was released Tuesday by HarperCollins publishers. Troops and their families may get their pictures taken with her because she is no longer an elected official and is not engaged in a political campaign, he said.
"That's all part of having fun at the event. That's the way it's always been and always will be," Zielsdorf said. "We want to treat it as an ... opportunity for our soldiers and family members to meet the celebrity."
Ft. Hood also doesn't seem worried about the press coverage, unlike Ft. Bragg, which said it feared the media would turn the appearance into a chance for people to express political opinions "directed against the commander in chief."
"The main reason is to stop this from turning into a political platform," said McCollum, the Fort Hood spokesman. "There are Army regulations that basically prohibit military reservations from becoming political platforms by politicians."
But his counterpart at Fort Hood said that no such restrictions could be forced on Palin at the Texas base, which views her as a private citizen.
The Fort Hood spokesman compared Palin's visit to that of Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberg, who came to the base in October. Sully saved 155 lives when he safely guided his crashing plane into New York's Hudson River in January.
For Fort Hood, which is still recovering from a shooting spree two weeks ago that killed 13 people on the base, visits from musicians, authors and celebrities are a public service provided for military families.
It's been very different for elected officials. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Palin's partner on the GOP ticket, Sen. John McCain, and then-Sen. Barack Obama both visited the city adjoining Fort Bragg, Fayetteville, N.C., because they were barred from holding any political events at the fort itself.
Zielsdorf, the spokesman at Fort Hood, said there may have been an overreaction at Fort Bragg as they planned for the Palin book event and the media swarm that would accompany it.
"I know that has all been revised," he said, referring to acceptance of some members of the press at Palin's book signing. "I think it was some type of overreaction."