Military men stump for Obama in Vinton
Retired Gen. Wesley Clark led the political discussion at the Vinton War Memorial.
By Mason Adams
Retired four-star Army Gen. Wesley Clark and two other high-level retired military officials discussed a matter of strategy Wednesday at the Vinton War Memorial — not to win a battle but this fall’s presidential election.
The town hall-style event with Clark, retired Maj. Gen. James Kelley, retired Rear Adm. Jamie Barnett and about 25 local veterans, family members and Democrats served to launch “Military and Defense Leaders for Obama” — a group of high-ranking retired and former military and defense officials who are supporting incumbent President Barack Obama against Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
They credited Obama for withdrawing troops from Iraq, for health care overhauls that will benefit veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and brain trauma, and for making the call last year that led to the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. And they blamed Congress for a deal last year that could result in hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to the country’s defense budget over the next decade if Democrats and Republicans can’t come to an agreement on reducing the budget deficit.
“This fight is about keeping 21st century America intact,” Clark said. “To do that, we’ve got to get the president re-elected, and we have to have a Congress that will deal realistically with the budget and the growth problems in the American economy.”
Michael Short, state communications director for the Republican National Committee, presented another view in a statement responding to the event.
“It’s hard to say which has been a bigger letdown, the president’s performance on the economy or his record with our veterans,” Short wrote. “Despite President Obama’s promise to ‘cut those backlogs, slash those wait times, [and] deliver your benefits sooner,’ the accumulation of paperwork at Roanoke’s Poff Federal Building became so immense that they were declared a threat to the building’s structural integrity. And as if that wasn’t enough, President Obama continues to play politics with draconian cuts to our military that his own Defense Secretary described as ‘devastating.'”
This wasn’t the first visit by Clark to the Roanoke Valley on Obama’s behalf. In 2008, he stumped for Obama at Jefferson Center in Roanoke just weeks before Election Day.
There’s even more emphasis on Virginia than even just four years ago, as both Obama and Romney visited the Roanoke Valley in recent weeks, as well as sending surrogates for events on a regular basis. In addition, both presidential campaigns and a variety of unaffiliated political action committees have saturated local television with ads, to the point that MSNBC has regularly listed the Roanoke-Lynchburg market as one of the hottest in the country for political spending several months running.
Clark, who unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 2004, acknowledged Virginia’s importance.
“Your vote in Roanoke is one of the critical votes in the entire presidential campaign,” Clark said. “There are a few states where a few votes make a huge difference.”