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Richard Klass

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Failing the Commander in Chief Test

Posted: 09/01/2012 11:01 am

Governor Willard "Mitt" Romney seeks the Commander in Chief role. But in accepting the Republican nomination for president, he showed no understanding or concern for the men and women who served this country or interest in the national security issues that face this nation.

This judgment is based on Mr. Romney's words -- or lack thereof -- to the Republican Convention in Tampa. The words "veteran," "Iraq," "alQaeda" and "Afghanistan" appeared nowhere in Mr. Romney's speech or in Congressman Paul Ryan's. And, as near as I can tell in plowing through the turgid tome called the Republican Party Platform, does the word "veteran" appear.

What! The party that used to flay the Democrats for being weak on national defense cannot have their platform deal with veterans while finding room for the gold standard and domestic fertilizer production? You betcha.

Now some of this is perfectly rational. Why mention the war in Iraq when the president who started it is also unmentionable. And, if mentioned, it would have to be acknowledged that President Barack Obama ended that war. And worse, in a torrent of claims of Obama's broken promises, it would not do to highlight that he kept his promise to end that war. But you would think that Mr. Romney might acknowledge that we still have a war going on in Afghanistan and that young Americans are still dying there.

But then he might have to mention President Obama's decisions to increase troop strength and his strategy to wind down that too long conflict, while he has criticism but no alternative. The promise thing also nixes mentioning alQaeda or, quiet now, Bin Laden. People might remember that Mr. Romney said that it did not make sense to spend millions to get "one man" or, worse, that the President kept his promise and did it.

Failure to acknowledge this nation's debt to veterans also raises awkward questions about promises kept. President Obama pledged to fulfill the "sacred trust" between the nation and our veterans. It would not be helpful to mention that promise was kept by the largest increases in the Department of Veterans' Affairs budgets in years, appropriations Congressman Ryan voted against. And someone might notice that Mr. Ryan also voted against the New GI Bill of Rights that is honoring today's veterans with educational opportunities akin to those that sent their grandfathers to college after WWII. It would also not do for someone to mention that the word "veteran" does not appear in Mr. Ryan's budget that is supposed to outline a future for America. I suppose it is possible for Mr. Ryan to imagine an American future without veterans. I cannot. And, though a mumbling Clint Eastwood could be tolerated, mentioning ending "don't ask, don't tell" would get you booed off the stage.

So Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan, when you are asking whether we are better off today than four years ago, I have some suggestions of some people to ask. Ask military members and their families if they are better off without multiple tours to Iraq and painful family separations. Ask veterans if they are better off with the educational opportunities offered by the New GI bill of Rights. Ask the vets who were excluded from earned veterans' care by the policies of the unmentionable previous president. Ask the spouses who have found it easier to transfer professional credentials to new duty station states due to the work of Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden. Ask the formerly homeless vets who have been the beneficiaries of another Obama promise kept. And, stealthily of course, no sense stirring up the bigots, ask the thousands of gay and lesbian servicemen if they are better off not having to live a lie.

Mr. Romney, you raised the canard of an Obama "apology tour" that never happened and said you were going on a jobs tour. Hold that thought. You need to go on another tour first, a tour to apologize to our troops and our veterans for snubbing them so egregiously.

Mr. Romney, you have not the faintest idea of the struggles that military members and their families face. And you do not understand that their lives are much better than four years ago. You have not experienced anything like the trauma of war and its aftermath. Before you can claim to be qualified as Commander in Chief you need to talk to the troops and the vets and listen to their stories, their hopes and their fears and ask your sidekick to do the same. You owe yourself that privilege and you owe them the opportunity to educate you.

 
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