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Memorial Day: A Contrast

Barack Obama must be the most gaffe-prone politician in memory. Today, he delivered a Memorial Day speech in New Mexico. After greeting the local Democratic Party dignitaries, he began:

On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes — and I see many of them in the audience here today — our sense of patriotism is particularly strong.

Memorial Day honors those who have died in our nation’s military service. Is it possible that Obama does not know this? Sometimes the things that come out of his mouth defy understanding.

What was really offensive about Obama’s New Mexico appearance, however, was what followed his very brief, but generally appropriate, tribute to America’s war dead. He continued with a town hall-style question and answer period that cast veterans in the only role with which the Democrats are comfortable–victims–and sought to politicize the holiday. A few excerpts:

OBAMA: We’re going to have hundreds of thousands of new veterans coming in, many of them who suffer post-traumatic stress disorder. They are not being diagnosed quickly enough, they’re not getting the services that they need quickly enough.

And, sadly, the group of veterans that are probably being most neglected in this area are women veterans. We’ve got to do a better job of creating facilities…

(APPLAUSE)

… specifically for women veterans.

And part of what we need is to recognize that oftentimes our women servicemembers are more prone to post-traumatic stress disorder partly because they — there’s a sad, but real, problem of sexual harassment and sexual abuse for women veterans, and that makes them much more prone, then, to have post-traumatic stress disorder.

***

OBAMA: I want a much more aggressive [Small Business Administration]; one that’s reaching out. And I want it particularly to reach out to our veterans.

This whole transition in terms of veterans coming home and establishing themselves economically, there are a bunch of different components to it.

Number one, is what we just talked about which is making sure that the G.I. bill for a 21st century is passed. And although George Bush has threatened to veto it, our intention is to override that veto when it comes back to the House and the Senate…

(APPLAUSE)

***

QUESTION: What would you do with Blackwater?

OBAMA: I am not a believer in private contractors as a mechanism for serving our — this United States.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, I, in fact, actually currently have legislation that I introduced that would do a full audit on Blackwater.

(APPLAUSE)

And they need to be held accountable for some of the actions that have already been taken.

***

QUESTION: [Y]ou know, we’re in a world of real serious crisis in our country, as you know. You know, people are paying up to over $4 a gallon. They’re really having to make sacrifices to put food on the table.

Affordable housing for the medium-income people is really an issue. Health care — there’s a lot of people going out without — going working without health care.

And I wonder if you could just address those issues, and the economy, how you’re going to jumpstart it, as president of the United States.

Thank you.

OBAMA: Well, obviously, the problems you just listed affect veterans and nonveterans alike. And part of what this president hasn’t understood that I think the American people understand is that part of our security is our economy — our economic security.

***

Our tax code has to change. It rewards the wealthy and the powerful; it doesn’t help you.

So I want to give you a middle-class tax break. If you’re a senior citizen — if you’re a senior citizen, I don’t want you to have to pay income tax at all if you make $50,000 a year or less, because you’re already on fixed incomes…

(APPLAUSE)

… and the way we’ll pay for it is to close loopholes; for example, on companies that ship jobs overseas. They shouldn’t get a tax break. We should save those tax breaks for companies that invest here in the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

I want us to invest in infrastructure, to put people back to work. We could put 2 million people back to work rebuilding our roads, our bridges, laying broadband lines in rural communities.

And if you think that we can’t afford it, just remember we are spending $10 billion a month in Iraq.

All in all, a shameful performance. President Bush, meanwhile, gave a moving Memorial Day speech–not a partisan stemwinder–at Arlington National Cemetery. You can read his speech, and watch a video of it, here. The contrast is not, to put it politely, favorable to Obama.

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