(Note: Many of you have complained that this is a lousy transcript full of typos and other problems. I accept full responsiblity and apologize. This is a transcript derived from campaign embeds who type it out feverishly on the plane, always on a blackberry where typos are common, and then blast e-mail it to reporters covering the campaign. I received this transcript and hurriedly tried to proof it before posting it. I wanted to post it as quickly as possible becuase I wanted to give full voice to Obama's side of the story. I appreciate there are cleaner transcripts out there. That puts me at a competitive disadvantage and I've hurt myself with this sloppy posting. Please understand I have no help with transcripts or other material for this blog and I post between live shots, script writing and radio reports. It gets a bit hectic. And for those critical of posts on this issue at all, what I have tried to do is provide information about a public disagreement between Obama and the Pentagon on a topic that may prove interesting to some. I'm not trying to flog this issue or editorialize, but simply provide all of the information I've obtained from the interested parties. In that pursuit, I posted a garbled transcript and that was a mistake. Please accept my apologies.)
Robert Gibbs, a senior communications adviser to the Obama campaign, briefed reporters on the plane today. I just received this transcript as I am in London, having leap-frogged ahead due to requirements for live shots here.
This is the full transcript about the Obama camp's perspective on the back-and-forth with the Pentagon about the canceled visit to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.
Q: Do you think the Pentagon set you up?
Q: The statement that you sent out said it was the senator’s judgment to not go visit...
Gibbs: The statement that I sent out and the statement that General Gration sent out are consistent in that what General Gration learned from the Pentagon that the trip from Ramstein to Landstuhl would be viewed as a campaign stop. The decision that Sen. Obama made with that information was that we would not put our wounded men and women in that position of being involved in a campaign stop and therefore he made the decision not to make the stop.
Q: Inaudible question
Gibbs: Based on the information that we received from the Pentagon that the environment of, anybody on the staff that was related to the campaign, including General Gration, (who is) a two-star general and two-sate Air Force (general). This apparatus that would have flown us to Ramstein, campaign advance people that the trip would be viewed as a campaign stop. He could go as a U.S. Senator ok. But it was pretty clear from the people at the Pentagon that the trip would be seen as a campaign stop.
Q: Inaudible question:
Gibbs: Given the information that we had received, Senator Obama had made the decision that we were not going to have wounded men and women become involved in a campaign event or one that might be perceived as a campaign event. So he made the decision that we wouldn’t go.
Q: How is the Pentagon perception different than just the set of facts? You are saying that the Pentagon told you in what it perceived as a campaign stop. Why is the Pentagon’s perception what governs your decision rather than actually what happens and you perception? Because there is no change in facts?
Gibbs: They pointed out, they interpreted their rules to denote that this would be a campaign event.
Q: So there was an official determination made
Q; How were those determinations made?
Gibbs: the point of the contact for General Gration, I don’t have exact names, but was legislative affairs for the office of Secretary of Defense.
Q: How was that determination made, the official designation that this would be a campaign stop?
Gibbs: Let me check and see if the word "official designation" was the accurate word. They cited regulation. Again and here’s what governed our making of choices, was the perception that anything, that we would be doing anything that would put our wounded men and women in the position of rightly or wrongly for whatever the determination into a situation where the back and forth would mean that this looks like a campaign event. As you know, several weeks ago Sen. Obama made a visit to Walter Reed. He did it very quietly, as you all will remember. On Monday, Sen. Obama stopped into a combat support hospital in the green zone of Baghdad, some of you may have seen the show on HBO called Baghdad ER, that was this hospital. We had every intention of stopping at this hospital and we had no intention of not making it. And quite frankly, that even in the event we were going to be that forthcoming about what happened. It was his desire and continuing desire to visit the men and women that have served our country and sacrificed.
Q: Can I ask you- can we forget about the Pentagon for a minute. When did Obama decide to go visit Ramstein?
Gibbs: Denis (McDonough, a senior foreign policy adviser) made a call, Denis and Gration made calls when we landed. We determined when we were in the air that we weren’t going to do this.
Q: When did you originally decide to go?
Gibbs: I have to get you an exact date but it has been on the schedule for a long time.
Q: Did it not occur to anybody that this might be viewed as a political stop?
Gibbs: We had taken some of that into consideration, but we believed that it could be done in a way that would not create, it would not be created or seen as a campaign stop.
Q: The schedule was for this plane, with us in it, to fly to Ramstein. By the way we were expected to pay for the flight, what were you suppose to do with the entourage then?
Gibbs: You would have stayed on the plane.
Q: We would have stayed on the plane, would there have been any pool report?
Gibbs: there may have been, I don’t know if we ever came to a decision on that.
Q: Inaudible question
Gibbs: Here is what I understand and I will double check this. Sen. Obama could have gone and seen anybody from Illinois. As a United States Senator from Illinois, that is what I understand. But let me be clear. We believed that based on the information we received that any, we believed that any presence even his own and only his own would get into a back and forth about wether or not even his own presence was a campaign event. That is what caused us not, to decide that we would not put our troops in that position and ended up not going.
Q: If you had not made this decision, the decision that you did, was there (inaudible)
Gibbs: We made a determination based on the information that we had that we did not feel comfortable getting to a point where that might be a case.
Q: Robert when did you tell the Pentagon that you were going to make this decision?
Gibbs: I have to get back to you. It has been on schedules for as long as I know.
Q: But when did the Pentagon actually know?
Gibbs: For a number of weeks.
Q: For a number of weeks they’ve known that you are planning to do this?
Q: And when did they tell you that it would be a campaign event?
Gibbs: General Gration received information sometime on Wednesday evening.
Q: Was that the first time you had been warned of this? Had you gotten any informal prior?
Gibbs: I don’t know what to make of it other than, again, when that came up as a potential we decided at that point, or not too long after that point, we just didn’t want to put people in an awkward position.
Q: And when you made those plans, who did you deal with at the Pentagon?
Gibbs: Again our point of contact throughout this has been the legislative affairs office of the Secretary of Defense.
Q: And it is several weeks ago you said?
Gibbs: Let me find out the exact, see if I can get a better date. It is not something that was added in the last few days.
Q: Why not just say it is never inappropriate to visit men and women in service- what is your response to that?
Gibbs: Again I would reiterate that we would not want to put anybody who had been wounded in service to our country in the potential position to be part of the political back-and-forth. Let me finish the question. It is entirely likely that someone would have attacked us for having gone and it is entirely likely and it has come about that people have attacked us for not going. We decided, Sen. Obama decided having made that decision he was far more willing to take the criticism from some political people or political opponents in a political atmosphere than to put our troops in the middle of our campaitn back-and-forth. That is the decision we made and we are comfortable with it.
Q: on Wednesday was the first time you had heard from Pentagon that there might be an issue (inaudible)
Gibbs: We got guidance that the involvement of General Gration that having had people obviously campaign apparatus like a plane go there. Again we are landing at an air force base, we are not landing at a public airport and that the involvement of staff of making the movements, some of those movements possible was to be perceieved as a campaign event.
Q: Did that lead to a prohibition on the visit
Gibbs; We believe it led us to a prohibition on the visit from the perception that this was going to be viewed by some as a campaign visit.
Q: inaudible question.
Gibbs: As I understand it, and I will double-check on this that what we were told is that he could visit in a capacity as a senator of Illinois and see people in the facility that might be there from Illinois.
Q: And you would have been able to make the trip?
Gibbs: Yes, but hold on let me be very clear, we believe that at that point whether or not he could go in any capacity would be seen and viewed by the Pentagon and it would be transmitted to others as a campaign event. At that point Sen. Obama decided that that was not a position that we wer e going to put troops in and therefore.
Q: Inaudible question.
Gibbs: We believe that his presence would have been perceived as a campaign event. Based on the fact that there was any iota of chance that this could be perceived as a campaign event we decided not to risk putting our men and women who had been put in harms way in the middle of what was going to be perceived as a campaign event.
Q: Senator Obama was comfortable making the trip (inaudible) the Pentagon communicated otherwise and ….so they believed you could do this trip appropriately.
Gibbs: We believe we didn’t want to put anyone in the position of it being perceived as a campaign event. Therefore we decided that we would not go.
Q: Had advance people already gone out to the place to set up?
Gibbs: Let me double check on that, I believe I know the answer but, I don’t want to give something that is incorrect.
Q; I just want to make sure that if you did have some advance people there is no other indication?
Gibbs: Again I think that is true but I want to check on it.
Q: the point is if the Pentagon
Gibbs: You are asking me if we would have gotten previous notice than Wednesday night.
Q: Those guys must of known days ahead of time that you were planning on coming.
Q: Inaudible question.
Gibbs: This is all local time in Germany we made the decision in the air to not go. In the air from Tel Aviv, we talked about this on the ground, it was a very quick decision and as far, and I will double check this, I believe the call was made once we landed that we were not going to go.
Q: Who made that call?
Gibbs: I have to check on that.
Q: No from yesterday?
Gibbs: I don’t remember it would have been, I cant remember what time wee landed in Berlin it would have been 10- 10:30 ish.
Q: Do you think that does create awkwardish for the troops that this has become such a political?
Gibbs: Yes and we sought to minimize that by not going because it is pretty clear that, I mean even now going would have been we are in the middle of a campaign back-and-forth and he enjoys visitng the troops. He did it most recently in Baghdad, we did it not long ago at Walter Reed and we simply weren’t going to put, we did not want to put anybody in that position.
Q: Inaudible question.
Gibbs: Let me double check but I assume that, you know we were planning on going up until very recently. I mean this was not a surprise, I don’t think this would have been categorized as a surprise.
Q: Inaudible question.
Gibbs; I will double check but I believe that we were under the impression that we were going to go.
END OF TRANSCRIPT ON LANDSTUHL