CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The Democratic National Committee accused Republican Mitt Romney of snubbing the nation's wartime veterans for skipping the VFW's annual convention in Kansas City this week. Citing a conflict, Romney turned down an invitation to speak. The DNC took potshots at Romney as weak on veterans' issues and said he idiotically had equated military duty in Iraq to working as a flunky on his campaign staff. In other words, he was both AWOL and insulting to those who wore the uniform of their country. Meanwhile, the two leading Democratic presidential candiates, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, were both present and accounted for.
The VFW's announcement of its invitations to the presidential candidates said it wanted to hear them discuss their plans for prosecuting the war on terrorism, plus their intentions for caring for those who served when called to defend the nation. VFW Commander-in-Chief Gary Kurplus -- a Vietnam combat vet --said:
"Poets and scientists and scholars help to define a great society, but our nation was created and continues to exist only through the service and selfless sacrifice of our citizens who don the uniform."
Sen. Hillary Clinton spoke Monday and received what some accounts described as applause in a half-empty hall. The New York Democrat emphasized health care for vets, and said it was time to bring U.S. forces home from Iraq. Sen. John McCain, the only presidential candidate who has actually served during wartime, acknowledged the Iraq War was poorly managed, but warned that withdrawal would only strengthen Al Qaeda. The Arizona Republican has favored adding troops to Iraq. He was a Navy pilot who spent years in a North Vietnamese prison after being shot down during the Vietnam War. McCain was tortured.
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama addresses the VFW Tuesday, as will former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, who is not a presidential candidate but is expected to enter the GOP primaries within weeks. The VFW invited the leading candidates from both parties. Obama and Clinton accepted. Rudy Giuliani and Romney begged off citing prior commitments -- which made it look like the GOPers blew off the vets during a war.
Here's a snippet about McCain's speech, and there is this news brief about Hillary's appearance, which did not go badly despite her stance that the troops must come home quickly. The VFW's leadership has supported Bush's surge.