As a combat veteran of two tours in Vietnam with twenty-two years of service as a Republican member of the U.S. House and Senate, I endorse President Barack Obama for a second term as our Commander-in-Chief. Candidates publicly praise our service members, veterans and their families, but President Obama supports them in word and deed, anywhere and every time.
As a Vietnam vet, one of the reasons I support President Obama is because he has consistently shown he understands that our commitment to our servicemen and women may begin when they put on their uniform, but that it must never end.
This decision is not easy for any lifelong Republican. In 2008 I voted for Barack Obama, the first time I ever voted for a Democrat, because the Republican Party was drifting toward a dangerous path that put extreme party ideology above national interest. Mitt Romney heads a party remaining on that dangerous path, proving the emptiness of their praise as they abandon our service members, veterans and military families along the way.
What really set me off was Romney's reference to 47% of Americans to be written off - including any veteran collecting disability like myself, as a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) veteran.
Behind closed doors with his donors, Romney made clear he'd write off half of America - including service members and veterans - because, as he said "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility for their lives." But there's no greater personal responsibility than to wear your country's uniform and defend the rights we all enjoy as Americans. We don't sow division between "us" versus "them." The Commander-in-Chief sets the bar for all to follow and fight for the entire country. Mitt Romney fails that test. As a veteran I feel written off.
Just as revealing is what Romney actually says publicly. As a former Foreign Service Officer, I find it offensive that Romney, Congressman Paul Ryan and their Republican Party are politicizing the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other brave Americans who lost their lives in Libya. Being Commander-in-Chief requires a resolve and steadiness that's immune to politics and fear mongering. Mitt Romney fails that test.
And along with high-profile Republican surrogates, Romney and Ryan are pandering to election-year politics rather than focusing on pending cuts to military spending. Strategy should drive our military priorities, not party purity.
We are a nation at war - the longest war in our nation's history - and we must remember the sacrifice that so many have given for the protection of our country and our values. That's why it's so surprising that Republican nominee Mitt Romney has given five speeches on foreign policy - and will be giving another one today - and has yet to outline any plan to end the war in Afghanistan or bring our troops home. That's unacceptable for anyone running to be Commander-in-Chief.
President Obama ended one war, is ending another and meeting our national security needs with support of our military leaders. He's laid out a clear plan that would reduce the deficit and prevent the mandatory military spending cuts that no one wants. But today's Republican Party, including Ryan who voted for the deal that would trigger the cuts, is willing to bring our country's defenses to the fiscal cliff - just so a multimillionaire doesn't have to pay a single extra penny in taxes. And the real lack of leadership? Failing to own up to your role in racking up a record debt from two unpaid wars and two massive unpaid for tax cuts. Mitt Romney leads the party that fails this leadership test.
And as former member of the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and Chairman of the then Commerce Committee, I came to know the federal budget in detail. I'm disappointed that just as our troops are returning home after a decade of war, Romney and Ryan might gut by up to 20 percent investments in the Department of Veterans Affairs - and even suggest privatizing the veterans' health care. Again, they would short change our national security and the education, health care and employment benefits our veterans have earned and deserve just to cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans.
Let's be clear, Romney and Ryan would be disastrous for America's service members, veterans and military families. Public praise rings hollow when you fail to mention an ongoing war in accepting your party's nomination to be president, or veterans in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a so-called jobs plan or in a budget that should be a blue print of our nation's values.
Meanwhile President Obama recognizes our sacred trust with those who serve starts when they take their oath and never ends. He's enacted tax credits to spur businesses to hire unemployed veterans and wounded warriors. He implemented and improved the post-9/11 GI Bill, the largest investment in veterans education since the original GI Bill over sixty years ago. He's proposing a Veterans Jobs Corps that would put returning service members to work as police officers, firefighters and first responders. As part of his achievable plan to keep moving our country forward, the President would use half the savings from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to help pay down our debt and invest in nation building here at home, putting Americans back to work - including our veterans - fixing our roadways and runways, bridges and schools.
And something that hits close to home, President Obama also secured the largest increase in VA investments in decades so our veterans get the care and benefits they earned, like treatment for PTSD and traumatic brain injury. As someone with service-related PTSD, I meet with younger veterans weekly to help them through the treatment and transition to a productive civilian life. It makes a difference for them knowing their President has their back.
That's the difference in this election. In word and deed anywhere and every time, President Obama never forgets that standing by those who serve is the heart, soul and core value of this country. As a life-long Republican, I stand by him as he stands by all of us, putting national allegiance ahead of party affiliation. I endorse President Obama for reelection in 2012.
by Larry Pressler, former Republican US Senator from South Dakota.