Report from the Democratic Convention: Democrats Surge on Veterans
I’m back home in Colorado and recovering from the Democratic National Convention. I had the honor of hanging out with several young veterans and they wore me out. It’s been three days and my feet have finally returned to their normal size. The young Vets were eager to experience everything the convention had to offer and my time there was all the more valuable because of them. They and the other veterans I encountered during the week were passionate, informed, and believed they could change the world. After spending time with them, I’m convinced they will; which brings me to what I’d like to blog about.
Last Friday, Governor Romney was on Fox news. When asked about not mentioning Afghanistan and/or the war during his acceptance speech, he replied:
“…when you give a speech, you don’t go through a laundry list. You talk about the things you think are important, and I described in my speech my commitment to a strong military, unlike the president’s decision to cut our military. I didn’t use the word ‘troops,’ I used the word ‘military.’ I think they refer to the same thing.”
When I heard those comments, I flashed back to the 1960’s when his father was the leading contender for the Republican nomination for President until he changed his position on the Vietnam War. As stated in Wikipedia:
“In a taped interview with Lou Gordon of WKBD-TV in Detroit on August 31 1967, Romney stated, “When I came back fromViet Nam [in November 1965], I’d just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get.” He then shifted to opposing the war: “I no longer believe that it was necessary for us to get involved inSouth Vietnam to stop Communist aggression inSoutheast Asia,” he declared. Decrying the “tragic” conflict, he urged “a sound peace inSouth Vietnam at an early time.” Thus Romney disavowed the war and reversed himself from his earlier stated belief that the war was “morally right and necessary.”
Those “brainwashed” comments torpedoed his campaign. He never recovered. In this era of “sound bite” media coverage it’s difficult to get a sense of where a particular politician stands on various issues. I believe if you listen very carefully to major speeches you can gain some insight. What I got from Governor Romney’s comments on Friday was a sense the military was important but not necessarily the troops. You can’t have one without the other. When President Reagan assumed office one of the first things he did was give military personnel a big raise. Because of that, for the first time I any many others were able to live comfortably on a military salary. The situation wasn’t perfect and many of the enlisted troops still had to work a second job but it meant a lot to me that the President appreciated and understood the needs of military troops.
He didn’t just speak about having a powerful military. He also wanted to attract and keep the best personnel. I’m retired now but wonder how active duty military personnel fighting the war inAfghanistanfeel about not being considered important enough to be mentioned in an acceptance speech?
At the Democratic Convention, all Veterans from all eras were treated as Super Stars. One could argue they were just making a push for votes and I’m sure that was some of it but I believe most of the attention came from the heart. There were numerous speeches on Veterans problems and steps the administration was taking to solve the problems.
To me the speech that made the most impact was given by retired Lt. Col Tammy Duckworth, a former high ranking Veteran’s Administration official, who is currently running for Congress. She lost three limbs in Iraq. She mentioned that while in the hospital many politicians came to take pictures with the Veterans but it was fairly obvious it was a photo op for them at what she and fellow injured Vets jokingly called “the Amputee Petting Zoo”. She said there were three exceptions, of which two were politicians who visited without fanfare and stayed a long time: Senator Bob Dole ofKansasand a new Senator assigned to one of the Veterans Committees, Barack Obama. I’m of the mind you can judge a lot about a person’s character by what he or she does when no one is watching.
Gail Harris is a Truman Security Fellow.