Is Sarah Palin justified in using son's arrest to attack Obama's vets record?

Sarah Palin chose to use a Donald Trump rally to call into question President Obama's respect and support for veterans.

Brandi Simons/AP
Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin speaks to a crowd as she introduces Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a rally in Tulsa, Okla., Wednesday, Jan 20, 2016.

Speaking at a rally for Republican Donald Trump Wednesday, one day after endorsing the presidential hopeful, Sarah Palin talked of her son’s recent arrest related to domestic violence.

The former GOP vice presidential nominee and Alaska governor related her son's legal problems to his military service, talking about post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and accusing President Obama of doing too little to support veterans.

While some have lauded Ms. Palin’s willingness to address the emotive issue of PTSD, there are those, including veterans themselves, who have protested at her laying blame on Mr. Obama.

“My son, like so many others, they come back a bit different, they come back hardened, they come back wondering if there is that respect for what it is that their fellow soldiers and airmen and every other member of the military so sacrificially have given to this country,” Palin said at the Tulsa, Okla., rally.

“So when my own son is going through what he goes through coming back, I can certainly relate with other families who kind of feel these ramifications of some PTSD and some of the woundedness that our soldiers do return with."

Track Palin served with the US Army’s Stryker brigade, deployed to Iraq for a year in 2008. He was arrested Monday at his mother’s Wasila, Alaska, home, where he lives, after his girlfriend called 911 to report he had punched her in the face.

He was also carrying an AR-15 rifle, according to his girlfriend, which she was afraid he might use to harm himself.

Charges were filed against Mr. Palin Tuesday, the same day as his mother’s endorsement of Mr. Trump, but it was only at the rally the following day that Sarah Palin made mention of the incident.

She began her comments on PTSD by addressing “the elephant in the room."

She talked to the 8,000-strong crowd of the respect for what the military does, the sacrifices they make, as having to start “from the top."

“The question, though, it comes from the top, the question, though, that comes from our own president where they have to look at him and wonder: ‘Do you know what we go through? Do you know what we’re trying to do to secure America and to secure the freedoms that have been bequeathed us?’”

She went on to say that it was “now or never” for the United States to have a commander in chief who will “respect” and “honor” those who serve.

“When I talk about a commander in chief who will never leave our men and our women behind, let me get a little bit personal on this. I’m talking about not leaving our wounded warriors behind also, our wounded warriors who come home from the battlefield bringing new battles with them."

Some people, such as Republican candidate Ted Cruz, have taken exception to the media’s coverage of Track Palin’s arrest.

“You should leave our family members out of it,” said the Texas senator Thursday. “It’s dirty, it’s unprincipled, it’s wrong, and I’m sorry that Sarah and her family are going through it.”

For others, though, it was Sarah Palin’s attack on Obama that caused dismay.

"It's not President Obama's fault that Sarah Palin's son has PTSD," said Paul Rieckhoff, head of the non-partisan Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). "PTSD is a very serious problem, a complicated mental health injury and I would be extremely reluctant to blame any one person in particular."

Championing this as an opportunity for Sarah Palin to reach a wider audience about PTSD itself, Mr. Rieckhoff nonetheless cautioned against “the urge to politicize” the matter, according to NBC News.

Indeed, a producer for MSNBC, Steve Benen, disagreed with the fundamental notion that Obama has been lax when it comes to offering support to veterans, citing a huge expansion of treatment options in recent years.

“In other words, this line of attack isn’t just ugly; it’s also untrue”, concluded Mr. Benen.

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