The question of whether Sarah Palin has ever been to Iraq pushed Obama aides Saturday to accuse the McCain campaign of outright lies, distortions and distractions to the American people.
Since Republican presidential nominee John McCain tapped the Alaska governor to be his running mate on Aug. 29, questions about her experience have been fueled by her relatively brief tenure in office, as well as a dearth of foreign travel.
Palin made a well-documented trip to Kuwait and Germany last year to visit U.S. troops, and over time, the governor and her staff have revealed she also visited Canada and Mexico. Meanwhile, her aides clarified that a purported visit to Ireland was little more than a refueling stop during her trip to the Middle East.
On Saturday, a Palin aide told The Associated Press the governor also set foot in Iraq during her July 2007 trip to see members of the Alaska National Guard, although the campaign has not emphasized it since the visit was brief. The aide, who demanded anonymity before answering the question, said Palin visited a "military outpost" on the Iraq side of the Kuwait/Iraq border.
Answer contradicts newspaper report
That answer appears to contradict one provided to The Boston Globe, which reported Saturday that McCain-Palin aides had twice revised their description of Palin's visit to Iraq.
The newspaper said unnamed aides initially explained that Palin had visited a "military outpost" inside Iraq. The Globe said campaign aides and members of the Alaska National Guard subsequently explained that she did not venture beyond the Iraq/Kuwait border when she visited the Khabari Alawazem Crossing on July 25, 2007.
Lt. Col. Dave Osborn, commander of the 3d Battalion, 207th Infantry of the Alaska National Guard, who was in charge of the 570 local troops serving in Kuwait and Iraq, said Palin did not cross in Iraq.
"You have to have permission to go into a lot of areas, and (the crossing) is where her permissions were," Osborn told the newspaper during a telephone interview Friday.
That discrepancy prompted a blistering memorandum to campaign reporters by aides to Democratic nominee Barack Obama. The Illinois senator and his staff have been criticized in some party circles lately for not responding forcefully enough to McCain and Palin since her surprise addition to the Republican ticket.
"Since naming Gov. Palin as their vice presidential nominee, the McCain campaign has distorted, distracted and outright lied to the American people about her record in a desperate attempt to hide the fact that a McCain/Palin administration would be nothing more than a continuation of the failed Bush policies of the last eight years," the memo read.
Among other things, the memo cited the Iraq-visit dispute, as well as Palin's claims to be a fiscal conservative despite significant growth in the Alaska state budget.