Kerry Attacks Bush on Iraq, Veterans Issues At VFW Convention
With polls showing an increasing vulnerability for Bush over his mismanagement and lies about Iraq, John Kerry continued his offensive today on issues he is well-positioned to exploit: the Administration’s betrayal of our troops and its mistreatment of veterans and their families.
In an appearance in Bush’s backyard before the national VFW meeting in San Antonio, Kerry blasted Bush this morning for its lack of planning for the war’s aftermath, and its lack of candor with the American people for the war’s justification. He also claimed the Administration failed to heed the lessons of Vietnam in Iraq, while continuing to betray veterans and their families. And Kerry continued recent attacks from bipartisan sources that a “go it alone” attitude by Bush in sharing the burden for post-war rebuilding in Iraq was needlessly endangering our troops.
Kerry, a veteran of the Vietnam War, said as president he would get more allies involved in Iraq, improve pay for U.S. soldiers and ensure veterans the benefits they were long ago promised.
"If I am commander in chief, I won't just bring to that profound responsibility the perspective of sitting in the Situation Room. I'll also bring the perspective of someone who's fought on the front lines," the Massachusetts senator told thousands of veterans attending the 104th Veterans of Foreign Wars meeting.
In his address, Kerry suggested that the Bush administration has not heeded the lessons of Vietnam in its planning on Iraq. "Above all, we learned that the interests of the grunts on the ground come before all politics and all ideology. And what we urgently need now to protect our young men and women in uniform — and America's role in the world — are decisions based on professional military judgments and strategic vision, not politics and pride," Kerry said.
"I believe a lack of planning and the lack of candor with the American people have placed our men and women in uniform in increased harm's way." He said the Bush administration has "stubbornly refused' to allow other nations to assume risks in Iraq. Kerry urged wider involvement of the United Nations. "With the threats we face, we can never cede our security to others, but even a nation as great as the United States needs some friends in this world," he said.
On veterans’ issues, Kerry criticized the GOP-led House for seeking to cut $1.8 billion from Veterans Administration health care programs that he said are already in poor shape. More than 130,000 veterans are waiting for care at VA facilities, Kerry said, and more than 50,000 wait longer than six months for their first doctor's visit. "We shouldn't be neglecting to care for our troops and their families before, during and after the war," Kerry said.
This is one issue where Kerry can continue to gain traction over a period of months, given his military experience in relation to the rest of the Democratic field and their chickenhawk GOP opponents. He can make these attacks regarding Iraq with the full knowledge that Bush will not be changing course in Iraq by seeking outside help. Although the Administration says that the military is happy with the troop levels they have in Iraq, GOP Senators McCain and Lugar contradicted such sentiments on the Sunday chatfests, saying in essence that the Bush Administration was shortchanging the needs of our troops by going it alone, which is a confirmation of Kerry’s line of attack today.
And continued claims by the Administration that they want outside help ring hollow when the UN has already said that such outside help is unlikely as long as the US rejects UN conditions for such help. With little outside help coming in the form of a multinational effort to rebuild Iraq, the US finds itself exposed to something that the PNAC crowd said wouldn’t happen: a resurgence, rather than an elimination, of terrorism within Iraq. Such a tragedy will lead to more deaths and an open-ended and costly campaign, which the polls show is already a loser for Bush.
Kerry’s drive for the veterans’ vote is a natural for him, and although it won’t pay dividends immediately, the ongoing problems that Bush has created for himself in Iraq make Kerry’s focus on these issues a smart move for a candidate who needs to start moving up again.