Speaking from a real podium to real soldiers at a real Army base, a real president told his Fort Bliss, Texas, audience on Friday that the United States will remain focused on the mission in Afghanistan while working toward ending the war in a responsible way that protects everything its military members have sacrificed for there.
In this one speech at Fort Bliss, a president who did not start this war, a president who does not want to prolong it one minute more than absolutely necessary, addressed the war in Afghanistan head-on and discussed it openly and frankly.
What a contrast with how the Republican presidential nominee and his party -- the party of an administration that started the war and a party that apparently wants to continue it indefinitely -- totally ducked this issue of paramount national importance during three days of discussing how to "take our country back" at their National Convention.
Even the Republican Party's nominee to become commander-in-chief, "[i]n an almost 45-minute speech...didn't find a moment to mention Afghanistan...With no new plans and evasion about his real plans, Mitt Romney leaves this convention no stronger than he came," according to CNN.
In an Obama campaign web video released Friday, the narrator points out "at a time when 84,000 American men and women are fighting for their country in Afghanistan," Romney's speech included "not a single mention of how or when to bring them home safely."
One person, however, although talking to an empty chair, did manage to say something about this critical national security issue. Actor Clint Eastwood asked the empty chair, after mentioning that president Obama had a "target date" for bringing the troops home, "Why don't you just bring them home tomorrow morning?"
But of course the commander-in-chief will not bring the troops back tomorrow morning.
Again, speaking to real soldiers -- not imaginary soldiers in imaginary little skits -- the president did bring up Afghanistan, did bring up their courage and their sacrifices, and did not dodge the issue.
In a nearly 30-minute address to these soldiers, the president said, among other:
I just had the opportunity to meet with some of our Gold Star families, and our message to them is this: Your loved ones live on in the soul of our nation and we will honor them always.
Because of their sacrifice, because of your service, we pushed the Taliban back. We're training Afghan forces. The transition to Afghan lead is underway, and as promised, more than 30,000 of our troops will have come home by next month.
Just as in Iraq, we are going to end this war responsibly. Next year, Afghans will take the lead for their own security. In 2014, the transition will be complete. And even as this war ends, we will stay vigilant so Afghanistan is never again a source for attacks against America. Never again.
So we're not just ending these wars. We're doing it in a way that keeps America safe and makes America stronger. And that includes our military.
So here's my pledge to you. In a world of serious threats, I will never hesitate to use force to defend the United States of America or our interests.. At the same time, I will only send you into harm's way when it is absolutely necessary. And when we do, we will give you the equipment and the clear mission and the smart strategy and the support back home that you need to get the job done. We owe you that.
And, after praising our troops once again, he concluded:
That's who you are. That's who we are. We are Americans. We pledge allegiance to the same proud flag. And we all love this country and all it represents to the world -- the hope, the opportunity. And we stand united in support of our troops and your families. And when we stand together and when we work together, when we take care of each other, we remind ourselves there's nothing we can't do, America's greatest days are yet to come, and that we remain the greatest force for freedom that the world has ever known.
So God bless you. God bless all our men and women in uniform. And God bless the United States of America.
Now, those were not empty chairs the president was talking to. Those were flesh-and-blood, real American heroes. They are fighting and dying for us in the God-forsaken deserts and mountains in Afghanistan, in a war that cannot be ignored, a war that must be discussed and debated by any aspiring commander-in-chief and a war that must be brought to an end, not tomorrow morning, but soon and honorably.
White House Photo