Although Muammar Qaddafi is still on the loose and no one knows who will replace him in Tripoli, multiple left-wing and “mainstream” media sources lament that President Obama is not getting enough credit for his “success” in Libya. But Obama is by far the worst offender in not giving credit where it is due. The president has refused to address the Veterans of Foreign Wars‘ annual convention, or to send a top-tier speaker in his place, for the first time since the organization’s founding.
This contemptuous low represents another regretful historic first of the Obama administration. But it is merely one front of Obama’s hostility toward the military — a lifelong obsession that includes everything from threatening to withhold veterans’ pensions, to launching pointless and unconstitutional wars, to denying them the wherewithal to succeed in their mission, to not assuring they have the opportunity to participate at the ballot box.
Obama to the Veterans: Sorry, It’s Not a Campaign Year
VFW National Commander Richard Eubank said, “It is an insult of the highest magnitude that for the first time in the history of the VFW, the White House has apparently decided that this great and iconic organization of combat veterans and all of its members are not worthy of its notice by not at least offering a first-tier speaker from the administration.”
The post has since disappeared from the VFW’s website, because it also criticized Texas governor Rick Perry for not attending the convention. Perry ultimately deigned to “adjust his schedule” and address the gathering.
An unnamed administration official told Fox News that Obama made “every effort” to send a top-tier speaker, but “in all instances, the VFW declined those offers.” But the speakers he offered were less than stellar. He attempted to dispatch such leading lights as United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, the Air Force secretary, the Air Force chief of staff, and the National Guard director. In the end, he sent no less a celebrity than W. Scott Gould, the Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs, to address the gathering.
However, Obama was not always averse to stumping on the VFW’s platform. Candidate Obama had no trouble addressing the VFW’s 2008 convention in Orlando, just after John McCain spoke there. Obama used the opportunity to accuse milquetoast McCain of questioning his patriotism. (Just a month earlier, Obama had called George W. Bush “unpatriotic” for adding $4 trillion to the national debt in eight years, the same amount he has amassed in less than half the time.) “If we think that we can use the same partisan politics where we just challenge our opponent’s patriotism to win an election, then the American people will lose,” Obama said. “I will let no one question my love of this country.” The New York Times described the 2008 convention attendees’ response as “polite but not enthusiastic.”
Obama addressed the VFW again in 2009. He sent Vice President Joe Biden in 2010.
The media have dutifully reported that Barack Obama did not break a 112-convention-long tradition out of disrespect for veterans. Not. At. All. White House spokesman Adam Abrams explained, “The president receives many speaking requests throughout the year, but he is unable to meet them all.” Abrams added, “The president and his administration continue to have deep respect and appreciation for our service members and veterans, and this can be clearly seen in his administration’s policies and actions.”
Obama’s absence from the VFW convention perfectly symbolizes how dismissive his policies have been of veterans’ concerns.
Obama’s War Against Veterans
Despite his protests that he adores the military, Obama has consistently threatened veterans’ benefits and military pay, jeopardized the functioning of the armed forces, and failed to secure the right of overseas soldiers to vote.
The president made not a whimper when Senate Democrats held military funding hostage last year in an unsuccessful attempt to pass the DREAM Act. When the newly elected Republican Congress refused to acquiesce to his debt ceiling demands, Obama threatened to hold up veterans’ pensions. If the new “Super Congress” fails to agree on a deficit reduction plan, the military faces a minimum of $600 million in mandatory spending cuts.
Although the vast majority of enlisted men and women, past and present, oppose open homosexuality in the armed services, Obama made the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” the cornerstone of his military policy. The Obama administration sabotaged its own “defense” of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Immediately upon DADT’s repeal, Obama approved a program of values-bending re-education, instructing soldiers in the deadliest regions of Afghanistan, “If a Marine spots two men in his battalion kissing off-duty at a shopping mall, he should react as if he were seeing a man and woman.” The policy makes no exemption for conscience based on religious convictions.
As commander-in-chief, he has forced the troops to continue nation-building in Afghanistan but refused to send the number of soldiers Gen. Stanley McChrystal deemed necessary lest we risk failure. The New York Times reported Obama denied the general’s request out of “sticker shock, watching his domestic agenda vanishing in front of him.”
In the interest of full disclosure, this author went to college in large part thanks to a scholarship from the VFW. Having spoken at countless VFW halls and met their members — who are some of the best people to grace this earth — they say without fail that their fondest hope is that someday their organization will cease to exist. Obama, literally singlehandedly, frustrated that hope.
Despite his antipathy to the military, the personal-pronoun president has not shied away from stealing credit for their actions. His supporters shill about his “success” in Libya, arguing Obama deserves credit for the soldiers’ prowess in dragging the inept rebels to a teetering, kinda-sorta victory. It was a repeat of the president’s performance after Navy SEALs executed a plan to assassinate Osama bin Laden, made possible by the policies of Obama’s predecessor. After the military’s selflessness and courage got America’s most wanted criminal, Obama’s minions began to spin that he made a “courageous” decision (after dithering for 16 hours), and this should seal his re-election.
But are the soldiers not the ones who deserve the most credit for the wars our politicians start? Are they not the ones who bear the scars of the wars politicians since 1945 seem incapable of ending militarily? And do they not, at a minimum, deserve the peace of mind that comes from knowing their president will not hold up their pension checks as a political stunt or allow state officials’ incompetence to deny them the ability to vote?
Disenfranchisement: An Obama Strategy?
Admiral Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr. gave a stirring address to the Heritage Foundation earlier this month. “What could be more important than ensuring that those individuals who are charged with defending our democracy are able to participate in it?” he asked. “I’m here today because, although retired from the military, it is difficult to stand on the sidelines when our service members are not being afforded one of their most basic rights as U.S. citizens.”
In 2008, more than 17,000 active military men and women were disenfranchised. In many cases, ballots did not reach them in time, or other clerical errors prevented their votes from being counted. To remedy this, Congress passed the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act in October 2009, requiring states to send overseas ballots at least 45 days before any federal election. However, the admiral noted:
[A]lmost two years after the enactment of the MOVE Act, there are 10 states that have not changed their laws to fully implement this federal requirement. These states are Rhode Island, Louisiana, Alaska, New York, Wisconsin, Georgia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Maryland, Nebraska, and the District of Columbia. New York is still under a federal court consent decree, because even after they received a waiver from the Department of Defense, they still failed to get the ballots out by even the later date permitted by the department.
A study released by the Overseas Vote Foundation found one-third of all overseas voters were disenfranchised in 2010. A report from the Military Voter Protection Project, which focused more narrowly on military voters, found 22 percent of overseas voters who asked for a ballot by FAX or e-mail did not receive one. A full 16.5 percent of those who received ballots received them too late to be counted. Even receiving a ballot is no guarantee one will be able to vote. The Overseas Vote Foundation reported that hundreds of people received an incorrect ballot or a ballot marked “sample,” while others did not receive a secrecy envelope for return post. While Obama has been hyperactive on behalf of expanding the voting rolls of his core constituencies, it remains to be seen if the Justice Department will assure the MOVE Act is fully implemented before the 2012 presidential election.
In case one is puzzled by Obama’s inaction, veterans and military voters traditionally favor Republicans by a 60-40 margin.
During his speech at Heritage Admiral Giambastiani said these voiceless service members “are taking the same oath that I took: to support and defend our Constitution.” Barack Obama took the same oath, but he seems more interested in defending the interests of the Democratic base than the liberties of those who fight to secure them.