Military personnel have been criticized for asking President Donald Trump to autograph personal items during his trip Wednesday to Iraq, but it’s not too different from what happened when then-Sen. Barack Obama took a trip to Kuwait in 2008.
He was seen signing MAGA hats and one soldier was photographed holding a MAGA flag. Some have suggested that the soldiers who requested Trump’s autograph on MAGA items could have violated Department of Defense rules. (RELATED: Trump Had One Main Concern About Visiting Iraq)
“Troops bringing President Trump ‘Make America Great Again’ hats to sign may have violated a military rule,” CNN tweeted Thursday morning.
Trump signing MAGA hats for the troops in Iraq pic.twitter.com/bDUIk94jpR
— Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) December 26, 2018
DOD policy prohibits active duty members from engaging in “partisan political activities.” Prohibited activities include but aren’t limited to campaigning for a political candidate, participating in rallies, soliciting contributions, and wearing a uniform to a partisan political event.
However, Trump is not currently a candidate, nor was he there for a campaign event.
Conversely, then-Sen. Obama visited troops at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait on July 18, 2008, months before he defeated Republican Sen. John McCain to become the 44th president.
In the video posted below, Obama can be seen talking to military members, playing basketball, and signing autographs. It is unclear what kind of memorabilia Obama was signing, but there was debate at the time as to whether or not Obama’s visit constituted a campaign event.
Obama’s visit to Kuwait was a part of a Middle East trip intended on bolstering his foreign policy understanding prior to the 2008 election. He was accompanied on the trip by Republican Sen. Charles Hagel of Nebraska and Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, CNN reported at that time. Obama also visited Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Germany, France and Britain, according to Reuters.
An article in The Washington Post from July 19, 2008 included a quote from Obama senior adviser Robert Gibbs asserting that Obama’s visit was “not a campaign trip.” However, the article also pointed out that “McCain advisers scoff at the notion that this is not campaign-related.”