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Friday, May 11, 2007
Obama publicly scolds staff for scheduling decision

Obama campaigned in Indianola, Iowa Thursday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, told New Hampshire firefighters Friday that he was frustrated his staff did not build into his travel schedule a personal appearance before their union meeting taking place in the coastal city of Portsmouth. Instead, the presidential hopeful had to address the IAFF and Federation of State and Provincial Firefighters Association this morning by telephone.

"I have to tell you, I wish I was there," Obama said over a speakerphone. "My staff had already scheduled some things and they couldn't wiggle out if it. They heard from me a little bit because I wasn't happy I couldn't be there personally."

Obama went on to say that "having a chance to talk to you guys is important. And I'm not going to let a thousand miles between us keep me from saying what I have to say."

Obama has campaign events Friday in the equally important early voting state of Iowa and later this afternoon moves on to St. Louis, Missouri. Several of Obama's rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination will address the group in person today including New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson will appear before the gathering on Saturday.

Obama told the firefighters that theirs "is a noble calling." But he said "sometimes folks in Washington forget that...they'll honor you as heroes with words, but when it comes to deeds they make it harder for you to do your jobs."

The Illinois senator also criticized the Bush administration for trying to cut funding he said would have gone to buy masks, radios and equipment for fire fighters. Obama also vowed to work to protect firefighters pay and pensions.

-- CNN's Paul Steinhauser and Steve Brusk

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