McCain campaign admits Palin never visited Iraq


IT WAS, she said, the "trip of a lifetime". The young governor from the remote state engaged in her own brand of shuttle diplomacy in the summer of 2007, even posing, gun in hand, with some of her loyal troops in a far-off land.

But this weekend, the story of Alaska governor and Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin's trip to Ireland, Germany, Kuwait and Iraq began to shrink under scrutiny. Interrogated about hazy details of the itinerary - the first time she had travelled outside of North America - campaign officials acknowledged that Ms Palin had not entered Iraq, but had instead visited Alaska national guard troops on the Kuwait border.

"You have to have permission to go into a lot of areas, and [the border crossing] is where her permissions were," Alaska national guard colonel Dave Osborn told the Boston Globe. As for the trip to Ireland, that was little more than a refuelling stop.

The admission by the McCain camp further dents her foreign policy credentials. The campaign has made much of her experience dealing with Russia and Canada, countries that border Alaska. But in an interview broadcast last week, her first since becoming Mr McCain's running mate, Ms Palin indicated that her knowledge of Russia was restricted to being able to see it from Alaska. It now appears that her knowledge of Iraq is based on her having been able to see it from Kuwait.

The latest revelation about Ms Palin's travels came as several newspapers continued to investigate her tenure as the mayor of a small town in Alaska and her two years as state governor. The New York Timesaccused her of cronyism and carrying out vendettas against her political foes.

Undaunted, or perhaps buoyed by the controversies surrounding her candidacy, Ms Palin campaigned alone for the first time at the weekend in Nevada, a crucial swing state. Both she and the Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama were due to campaign in Colorado, another western swing state, today.

Meanwhile, despite a week of adverse opinion polls, the Obama camp announced it had raised a record $66 million (€46 million) in August. The latest figures may bolster expectations of a money advantage that Mr Obama could have over Mr McCain in the final two months before the election. Opinion polls show that the race is dead even.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said the August figure was helped by 500,000 new donors. The tally for the latest month exceeded the $55 million for February, which marked a record for Mr Obama and an all-time high for any candidate in a primary.

After far surpassing Mr McCain in private fundraising, earlier this year Mr Obama opted against taking public funds for the final stretch of the campaign.

Mr McCain, who chose to take public financing, has access to an infusion of $84 million from a government presidential election fund for the period between the Republican convention and the November 4th election.

In August, his last month of private fundraising, Mr McCain took in $47 million, a record for his campaign and an amount that was helped by his announcement of Ms Palin as his running mate.

Despite his prodigious private fundraising, Mr Obama may not have as much of an advantage as he could when it comes to advertisements and get-out-the-vote efforts. Mr McCain benefits from money contributed to the coffers of the Republican National Committee, which has been more successful at raising money than the Democratic Party. - ( Guardianservice; additional reporting Reuters)