THE EARLY WORD: MCCAIN'S FOREIGN TRIP

By MICHAEL FALCONE From Nytimes.com/politics Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.) John McCain begins the second day of his Latin...

By MICHAEL FALCONE From Nytimes.com/politics Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.)

John McCain begins the second day of his Latin American trip today by meeting with government ministers and visiting a naval hospital in Cartegena, Colombia. The Associated Press reports that McCain will also take a tour of Colombian drug interdiction programs before flying to Mexico City this afternoon.

On Tuesday he sat down with President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia, and at a news conference afterward, McCain said the two discussed trade issues and human rights, among other things, report The Timess Elisabeth Bumiller and Simon Romero:

“McCain had promised before the trip that he would not publicly criticize Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, on foreign soil, saying political partisanship ended at the waters edge. But his pledge did not include a session with reporters on his campaign plane en route to Colombia, he called Obama ``a protectionist” and cast him as ignorant about economic forces in the United States.

“We just have a difference of opinion,' McCain said, 'and I’m a student of history.' He added: 'An overwhelming majority of historians will tell you that protectionism and isolationism were a major factor in one of the greatest depressions in the modern history of this country. I’m not going to sit by and see that happen.”'

En route to Colombia, McCain also weighed in on the simmering controversy over remarks made by one of Barack Obama’s surrogates, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, that appeared to diminish McCains war record. He called for Clark to step aside: “I think it’s up to Obama now to not only repudiate him, but to cut him loose,” McCain told reporters on his plane. Throughout the campaign, the Arizona senator has walked a fine line when it comes to associating himself with President Bush. The Wall Street Journal’s John D. McKinnon notes that Bush’s low approval rating is making life more complicated in the McCain campaign. Even so, Bush has been helping Republican candidates, including McCain, fatten their campaign war chests, USA Today’s David Jackson reports.

With his Republican opponent overseas, Obama has the United States all to himself. Obama will deliver a speech on the importance of national service in Colorado Springs this morning. Among the proposals on Obama’s agenda, according to his campaign, are expanding the AmeriCorps and Peace Corps program, integrating service-learning into school and universities, and expanding service opportunities that engage disadvantaged youth.

On Tuesday Obama touted his plans to expand federal faith-based programs – one of President Bush’s signature policy initiatives. The Times’s Jeff Zeleny and Michael Luo have the details:

“In embracing the same general approach as Bush, Obama ran the political risk of alienating those of his supporters who would prefer that government keep its distance from religion. ‘`But Obama’s plan pointedly departed from the Bush administrations stance on one fundamental issue: whether religious organizations that get federal money for social services can take faith into account in their hiring. Bush has said yes. Obama said no.”

The Los Angeles Times’s Michael Finnegan and Cathleen Decker report today on how Obama and McCain are coming down on opposite sides of a measure on the California ballot that seeks to ban same sex marriage. Obama is opposed to it, while McCain is a supporter.

The Washington Post reports that Obama received a discounted home loan to pay for his family’s $1.65 million mansion in Chicago, but the Obama campaign says the deal was above board.

the Politico’s Roger Simon, watching Obama’s style as a candidate and his campaigns tactics, observers that Obama “has decided to run as a candidate for president and not as the leader of a movement.” Simon adds: “Movement candidates often fail when the demands of the movement come in conflict with the demands of politics.”

Campaign Trail Roundup:

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Barack Obama delivers a speech on national service at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs.

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John McCain visits a Colombian naval hospital and base in Cartagena, followed by a media availability. Later he flies to Mexico City.

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July 2, 9:02 a.m.
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