From the start, and long before he became a national political figure, President Obama opposed the war in Iraq. On the eve of the US-led invasion of Iraq, Obama – then a young state senator in Illinois – called it “dumb” and “rash.”
As the GOP’s vice presidential candidate in 2008, Sarah Palin lambasted the Obama-Biden ticket for flying “the white flag of surrender” in outlining a phased withdrawal from Iraq. She was an enthusiastic supporter of the US military “surge” in Iraq, and she speaks proudly of her son’s US Army service there.
But Obama and Palin agree on one big thing regarding the war in Iraq (and in Afghanistan), and that’s the need to support the troops as well as take care of them and their families when they return home.
At Fox News broadcaster Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington Saturday, Palin said: “If you look for the virtues that have sustained our country you will find it in those who wear the uniform.”
In his weekly radio/Internet address Saturday, Obama said: “Our nation’s commitment to all who wear its uniform is a sacred trust that is as old as our republic … a moral obligation to uphold.”
For all the rhetorical harshness between Republicans and Democrats these days – Obama and Palin included, as well as media personalities like Beck on the right and Keith Olbermann on the left – there has been little to divide them on how American war veterans should be treated.
The needs are considerable, as this recent Monitor report shows. The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been scrambling to keep up, particularly with what have been dubbed the “signature injuries” of combat today: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Under the leadership of Obama and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, a retired Army general and former Army Chief of Staff who was twice wounded as a young officer in Vietnam, the VA is streamlining the process for soldiers seeking help and filing claims for PTSD and TBI.
In his radio address Saturday, Obama pointed to advances in care for veterans.
“We’re directing significant resources to treatment, hiring more mental health professionals, and making major investments in awareness, outreach, and suicide prevention,” he said. “We’ve guaranteed new support to caregivers who put their lives on hold for a loved one’s long recovery. We’re funding and implementing the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which is already helping some 300,000 veterans and their family members pursue their dream of a college education. And for veterans trying to find work in a very tough economy, we’ve devoted new resources to job training and placement. I’ve directed the federal government to hire more veterans, including disabled veterans, and I encourage every business in America to follow suit.”
One can argue over whether US “honor” needs to be “restored,” as the theme of the Glenn Beck rally put it. It’s a fuzzy (and ultimately political) assertion. But on one of the rally’s major themes – honoring and supporting US military personnel and their families – Sarah Palin and Barack Obama can certainly agree.