President Obama returned to the Veterans of Foreign Wars annual convention for the first time since his 2008 presidential campaign to address a variety of issues, including the flawed Veterans Affairs department and impending defense budget cuts.
“I’ve got your back. I’ve got your six,” the president told the VFW in a speech intermittently interrupted by applause. There was little indication of the anger over his failure to appear last year or provide a “first-tier” speaker to address the 2011 convention, which the VFW described at the time as “an insult of the highest magnitude.”
Obama touted his national security record early in the speech with particular reference to the death of Osama bin Laden. “as a candidate, I said if had Osama bin Laden in our sights, we would act,” he reminded the VFW convention, adding that bin Laden was killed “thanks to the courage and the skill” of the United States Armed Forces.
“Given all the rhetoric lately — it is political season — lets also set the record straight on the budget,” Obama said, turning to the issue of the sequestration. “Those big across the board cuts . . . If the choice is between tax cuts that the wealthiest Americans don’t need and funding [for] our troops that they definitely need to keep our country strong, I will definitely stand with our troops every time.”
Obama also addressed the major backlogs in the Department of Veterans Affairs for military benefits. “In my first year, we achieved the largest percentage increase in the VA budget in 30 years,” he said. “When I hear about veterans waiting months and years for your benfits, it is unacceptable, and we are doing something about it.”
The president’s return to the VFW convention comes after he skipped the annual National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which he has not attended since 2009.
“Battleground states like Virginia and North Carolina are home to disproportionately large populations of military families — making their support that much more desirable for both presidential candidates,” CBS News said in a walk-up to Obama’s speech today. “Veterans and service members have a historical tendency to favor the Republican Party, and a May Gallup poll shows Romney leading Mr. Obama 58 to 34 percent among registered veteran voters.”
The president’s return to the VFW convention comes after he skipped the annual National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which he has not attended since 2009. “The people here overwhelmingly supported President Obama, would have loved to have President Obama here, Dedrick Muhammad, director of the NAACP’s Economic Department told Buzzfeed. ” So there’s definitely some disappointment about that.”