Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney answered tough questions on veterans' benefits and the future of U.S. troops in Afghanistan Saturday, castigating President Barack Obama for failing to effectively communicate to the troops and Americans at home why we're still there.
The former Massachusetts governor told a woman at a rally in Dayton that the president has failed in supporting her daughter, who is serving in the 82nd Airborne Division at Bagram Airbase and is confused why she is still there, according to her mother.
“If your daughter is not familiar with the mission that she's on, how in the world can the commander in chief sleep at night, knowing that we have soldiers in harm’s way that don't know exactly, precisely, what it is that they're doing there?" The National Journal reports Romney said. Romney told the crowd that he found the president's failure to make the mission clear, one of the "most disturbing and hard to explain" elements of Obama's tenure, according to The National Journal.
Romney said Saturday that he understood the troops' purpose in Afghanistan is to hep Afghani foces achieve sovereignty and security, but pointed out that "we will not be able to hand on a silver platter their freedom. They will have to fight for that, earn it, keep the Taliban from taking it away from them. But we've given them that opportunity. We need to finish the job of passing it off to them, and bring our troops home as soon as humanly possible."
During an appearance with Mike Huckabee on Fox New Saturday night, Romney answered questions on how he would serve soldiers when they come home. The former Massachusetts governor assured panelist Michael O'Machearley, who lost his son in Iraq in 2003, that he would reduce federal spending as president but would not cut back on the military budget.
"I do not want to see us reduce our number of ships or aircraft, or our number of active duty personnel. And I certainly do not want to see us reduce our commitment to caring for those who need our care,” Romney said. Romney thanked O’Machearley for his son’s sacrifice and said for those who come back wounded, “we have an obligation to repair their lives and allow them to have a bright and prosperous tomorrow.”
In another emotional exchange at the Huckabee forum, David McArthur asked the former Massachusetts governor to look him in the eye and promise that if president, Romney would take care of veterans like his son, a veteran who suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
"I want you to know how much I appreciate your son’s sacrifice for our country, and I appreciate your sacrifice, your family’s sacrifice for our country," Romney said. "To those who put everything on the line, we owe everything they need. And I can tell you if I’m president of the United States, I’ll not be raising co-pays on soldiers that are wounded, on men and women who serve this country. And I will do everything in my power to help your son and the men and boys and women and girls like him.”
The National Journal notes that Romney has criticized Obama for announcing a withdrawal schedule and for the pace of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. An Obama campaign spokeswoman responded to Romney's criticisms Saturday, telling the The National Journal that Romney "has failed to outline any plan at all for what he would do in Afghanistan and has even made clear that he would leave our troops there indefinitely."