Obama Plays Up the Politics in Speech to Veterans in Orlando
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With his poll numbers sinking and looking more and more like a lame duck early in his second term, President Barack Obama on Saturday made his second trip to Florida in recent weeks, delivering a speech peppered with his political agenda to the Disabled American Veterans’ (DAV) national convention in Orlando.
Last month he spoke at the Jacksonville Port Authority about economic opportunities through logistics and manufacturing.
“Since I took office, we’ve made historic investments in our veterans,” Obama said. “Even in these tough fiscal times, we’ve boosted the VA budget by more than 40 percent. We now budget for veterans’ health care a year in advance. And I’ve proposed a further increase in veterans' funding for next year.”
Obama waded into politics by weighing in on the federal sequestration, slamming it as “reckless, across-the-board budget cuts called the sequester that's hitting a lot of folks hard,” which have “cost jobs” and is “hurting our military, slashing investments in education and science and medical research.”
Obama insisted, “Your veterans benefits are exempt from this year’s sequester" and called for Congress to follow his lead on fiscal issues.
“Congress needs to come together and agree on a responsible plan that reduces our deficit and keeps our promises to our veterans and keeps our promises to future generations,” Obama said. “That’s what I’m fighting for. That’s what you deserve.”
Obama also used the opportunity of talking to the veterans to paise his signature piece of legislation.
“Now, on the subject of veterans' health care, you may have noticed there’s still a lot of misinformation out there about the new health care law -- Affordable Care Act,” Obama said, before taking aim at his political opponents. “Some folks are out there trying to scare people, including veterans. So let me say this as plainly as I can: If you already have health insurance, or health care from the VA, you do not have to do a thing; your VA health care does not change, it is safe; there are no new fees. Don’t let them hoodwink you.”
Obama’s appearance marked the second time he has addressed the DAV as president. He praised the veterans for their service to the nation and insisted progress was being made in Afghanistan and in improving veterans’ services, but he also ventured into politics. While Republicans across Florida attacked Obama before his speech in Jacksonville last month, they remained quiet before and after Obama spoke in Orlando.
“Like all veterans, you carry in your hearts the story of brave service that took you to every corner of the Earth,” Obama said. “As young men and women, you left home, left everything and everyone you ever knew because storm clouds gathered far across the sea. You had your whole lives ahead of you, but you were willing to risk all of it for this land that we love. Because you know, from hard experience, what we must never forget -- our country endures because in every generation there are Americans like you who stand beside her and guide her and protect her.
“I think of all the inspiring wounded warriors that Michelle and I have met -- their resilience, their resolve, their determination to push through and to carry on,” Obama continued. “That’s the fighting spirit of our wounded warriors. That’s the spirit of DAV, dedicated not just to your own recovery, but to taking care of each other. Every day you work to ensure that America is fulfilling its promises to our men and women who have served. That’s your mission. And I want you to know it is my mission, too.”
Obama insisted the war on terror was starting to wind down, claiming “this time of war that we've been in is coming to an end.”
“For nearly 12 years -- ever since we were attacked on that clear September morning -- our nation has been at war,” Obama said. “Our fight in Afghanistan is now America’s longest war. At the same time, our troops fought courageously in Iraq for nine long years. And among us today are proud veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, we’ve marked another milestone in Afghanistan. As of this past June, Afghan forces have taken the lead for security across their entire country. Instead of leading the fight, our troops now have a different mission -- supporting Afghan forces. Our war in Afghanistan has entered the final chapter. More of our troops are coming home. This winter, we’ll be down to 34,000. By the end of next year, the transition will be complete -- Afghans will take full responsibility for their security and our war in Afghanistan will be over.”
Obama also pledged to continue improving veterans' claims processing. He included in his remarks the GI Bill and other educational benefits for veterans, and he urged businesses to hire more veterans.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.