Peals, Rumblings, and Flashes
By Joshua M. Patton
Both President Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney courted the veteran vote over a period of two days. On Monday, July 23, the President spoke to the 113th national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, NV, followed by Romney on Tuesday, July 24. Each speech’s purpose was painstakingly clear, to prove that the respective candidate was the best person for the job. However, the tone of each candidate’s speech was markedly different.
President Obama’s address to the VFW convention was a list of accomplishments and measures taken to benefit veterans. There were paragraphs dedicated to discussion of the withdrawal from Iraq (“honorably,” as President Obama put it) and the military actions taken across the glove from the death of Osama Bin Laden to the situations in Libya and Syria. However, a large segment of the speech was dedicated to outlining exactly how the President kept his promises to help the veteran community. He discussed the overhaul of the VA, pledging to clear the backlog by 2015. He promised shorter deployments with more time at home between them. He acknowledged the official 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, saying, “It was another chance to say what should have been said all along: You did your duty, and you made us proud.” At that point asking Vietnam-era Vets in attendance to stand for applause.
Romney also honored the veterans in his remarks, but briefly. After a general statement to the VFW and a moment to honor the significant number of Aurora, CO shooting victims that were veterans, he dove into a speech that took the President to task on matters of foreign policy, cutting spending, and national security. There was also a slight outburst of silliness from the media.
During the speech, many people in the audience, to include members of the press, thought they heard Romney say, “our corrupt President.” Mitt Romney’s prepared remarks indicate that the phrase was “our current President.” PBS enhanced the audio and concluded it that was a garbled version of the latter, while Joe Ralston, formerly of The Las Vegas Sun and now a freelancer with an internet presence, commented on Twitter that his producer analyzed the tape “frame by frame,” and claimed he said “corrupt.” Romney’s spokesperson in Nevada assured reporters that he only said “current,” but does it really matter? All respect in politics is cursory at best and Romney and Obama’s surrogates both are incredibly hyperbolic when referring to the other candidate.
What is more concerning about Romney’s speech is that he made no mention of his plans to see to Veterans’ issues, except in saying that he “wouldn’t let” the looming sequester of funds affect either the DoD or the VA. “This is not the time for the President’s radical cuts in the military,” Romney told the VFW. Which, given the way he’s rallied against the Administration’s spending in other areas, seems like something of a contradiction. Romney went on to say that the Defense budget was facing a cut of a trillion dollars, but he failed to mention that this is over a decade. Also, it was Congress that was mostly responsible for the impending sequester, because of their inability to reach a workable solution during the debates to raise the debt ceiling.
Oddly, despite his aversion to discussing specifics about how he would care for veterans and the hawkish nature with which Romney wants to continue to grow the military, veterans “overwhelmingly support” the former Massachusetts Governor in this election, according to US News & World Report. Despite President Obama’s practical approach to making the case for the veteran vote, it seems that if he wants to change his support amongst veterans, he still has to surmount the ability of the Romney campaign to use his record against him even when he did as he promised.
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