The two presidential candidates spoke to the Veterans of Foreign Wars this week. Developments that have followed suggest that the president is vulnerable on at least two big issues, both of which Mitt Romney raised.
Regarding leaks, in a lousy showing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod declared that the president hadn’t leaked any national security secrets and that the president hadn’t authorized such leaks. But that’s an awfully narrow answer to a big and important question: Did someone in the White House leak sensitive intelligence?
At the VFW Romney said:
Whoever provided classified information to the media, seeking political advantage for the administration, must be exposed, dismissed, and punished. The time for stonewalling is over.
It is not enough to say the matter is being looked into, and leave it at that. When the issue is the political use of highly sensitive national security information, it is unacceptable to say, “We’ll report our findings after Election Day.”
Exactly who in the White House betrayed these secrets? Did a superior authorize it? These are things that Americans are entitled to know — and they are entitled to know right now. If the president believes — as he said last week — that the buck stops with him, then he owes all Americans a full and prompt accounting of the facts.
Axelrod’s indignant but limited denial confirms what we can tell from news reports: At least some of the most critical information had to have originated in the White House. The issue won’t go away. And if the Romney team wanted a “transparency” issue, it might beat the drum from now until November for a full accounting of the leaks.
The other issue that Romney latched upon was the sequestration cuts and the Department of Veterans Affairs specifically. Now a report tells us how vets are faring under this president:
Veterans returning home today join lines for disability payments much longer than those Obama called intolerable in 2008. Their chances of finding jobs in a bleak economy are worse than those of most other Americans. Veterans’ complaints of employment discrimination by the federal government have actually risen.
Veterans remain more likely to be homeless than the general population. The VA estimates more than 67,000 sleep in shelters and on the streets or are otherwise considered homeless, a figure that is only slightly better than in 2009.
And improved data collection reveals just how bad the problem of suicide is among veterans. According to new data Reuters obtained from the VA, a veteran within the VA healthcare system tries to commit suicide about once every half-hour, on average.
That is before Obama kicks out 100,000 of our troops to find work in the private sector. They can be expected to face a dreary job market. (“Unemployment among [Iraq and Afghanistan war vets] rose from 7.3 percent in 2008 to 12.1 percent in 2011, when the national average was 8.9 percent. For 18- to 24-year-old veterans, the rate was 30 percent last year, nearly double the 16.1 percent rate for non-veterans in that age group.”)
If Romney is smart, he’ll keep hammering these two issues. Obviously, the administration has no sufficient defense.