Neither President Obama nor Vice President Biden managed to attend the Veterans of Foreign Wars' annual conference this year, a perceived slight that has gravely offended the organization. The White House is in damage-control mode:
The White House responded [this week] to a broadside by the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars who claimed the absence of the president and vice president at their national convention in San Antonio was the highest insult. Organizers of the San Antonio VFW event criticized the White House for not sending President Barack Obama or Vice President Joe Biden or a “first-tier speaker.”
Nonetheless, Richard Eubank, the VFW national commander, called the absence of Obama and Biden “an insult of the highest magnitude,” and the first time the organization has been so snubbed in its history. The criticism drew a rebuke from the White House. “The president and his administration continue to have deep respect and appreciation for our service members and veterans, and this can be clearly seen in his administration’s policies and actions,” said White House spokesman Adam Abrams. Abrams said the president receives many speaking requests throughout the year, “but he is unable to meet them all.”
As VFW officials vented frustrations about the insult, two Republican presidential contenders -- Rick Perry and Mitt Romney -- addressed the group earlier this week. Romney's appearance was especially notable for his pointed lambasting of "career politicians" -- a line many construed as a veiled attack on Perry.
The Obama administration should have arranged for a "top tier" speaker to attend VFW's national confab. If every other administration has found a way to do so, every single year, for the entire lifespan of the group, this White House certainly had the capacity to do the same. Was Vice President Biden really too busy talking up "clean energy" in Vegas to make an appearance in San Antonio to address our veterans? Poor form. That being said, Obama shouldn't get too much of a bum rap on this one. He delivered a moving speech to the American Legion yesterday, hailing America's warriors -- especially those who've served with valor in a post-9/11 world:
President Barack Obama Tuesday hailed the "9/11 generation" of US veterans and 6,200 service members who perished in the "hard decade of war" spawned by the September 11 attacks. Obama, speaking to the 93rd annual convention of the American Legion, paid tribute to millions of servicemen and women who had signed up after the world's deadliest terror strike 10 years ago killed nearly 3,000 people.
"Today, as we near this solemn anniversary, it's fitting that we salute the extraordinary decade of service rendered by the 9/11 generation -- the more than five million Americans who have worn the uniform over the past 10 years," Obama said. "Today we pay humble tribute to the more than 6,200 Americans in uniform who have given their lives in this hard decade of war. We honor them all."
The VFW snub looks like a combination of logistical oversight, poor planning, and myopic priorities. The White House probably deserves to sustain a few knocks for not making it happen, but it would be unfair to cast this kerfuffle as evidence that Obama "doesn't care" about America's veterans. In that vein, I've embedded video of the president's remarks to the American Legion. His stirring tribute to the "9/11 generation" of soldiers comes near the middle of the clip, but don't skip past his commendation of Vietnam War veterans at the 7:15 mark: