Obama Rejects Military Town Hall Meeting

This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," July 16, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HEATHER NAUERT, CO-HOST: A group of military and veterans advocates is putting on a major town hall meeting for the candidates right near one of the largest U.S. military posts in the world, Fort Hood, Texas. John McCain says he's in for the August 11 match-up which is supposed to be aired on CBS in front of nearly 6,000 military families who would be in the audience. But Barack Obama says that he won't be able to make it because of a scheduling conflict.

With me now on the phone is the manager of the event. Her name is Clarissa Pickard and her husband is a member of the U.S. Army. He is currently deployed in Iraq. Clarissa, thanks a lot for joining us.

So when you reached out to these candidates and asked them to show up for this town hall meeting, what did you say to them about why it was important that the candidates show up there?

CLARISSA PICKARD, PRESIDENT, MILITARY SPOUSES FOR CHANGE (on the phone): Well, we felt that this was just incredibly timely, given that we have engaged and used our forces for six years and it doesn't look like that's going to change at any time soon. So we have put tremendous hardships on our military families, and we have asked them to make tremendous sacrifices. And they've come back with a variety of wounds, physical and emotional, mental, and we felt that there needed to be a conversation with the candidates, and with these families about what they felt this country should be doing about those wounds and for these families - to support these families and what they were going to do with the military. And -

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NAUERT: OK. Now, tell me this story. I understand that John McCain agreed to this. It was supposed to happen on August the 11th. CBS Network agreed to broadcast the entire thing. But what's the story with Obama?

PICKARD: You know, Obama - you know, we tried to - before we went public, we tried to get them to commit to doing the event. We asked them for alternate dates, and there -

NAUERT: So you tried to give them dates and they have not been able to commit to anything. But have they given a definitive no?

PICKARD: No, not necessarily.

NAUERT: OK. But they haven't yet committed to anything despite the fact that John McCain has. So what would you want to say to the Obama folks if they're listening tonight about how you feel about them not committing to anything just yet?

PICKARD: I think that it is doing a bit of a disservice to his own campaign, because there are just many veterans that support him and service members who support him and believe that he would do very, very well in this format. And I believe it's doing a disservice to the veterans and military families who would like the American public to watch this event and see these issues be discussed.

NAUERT: All right. Clarissa Pickard, I appreciate you joining us tonight. Best of luck to you in your endeavors in trying to get this town hall meeting put together, and we appreciate your husband's service to our country. Thank you so much.

PICKARD: Thank you.

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