Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Dem Vets Scatter Endorsements Among Dodd, Obama, Biden

One thing members of the Iowa Democratic Veterans’ Caucus (IDVC) agreed upon, other than the “Four Points of Honor,” was that the Democrats had a strong field of candidates to choose from this year. Taking their cue from John Kerry’s successful investment in targeting Iowa veterans during his late surge and comeback victory in the 2004 Iowa Caucuses, this year's field has made similar attempts in courting the veteran vote.

Consequently, choosing a candidate to support was not an easy decision for most of the groups’ members, including IDVC Chair Bob Krause, who was originally leaning toward Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, but ended up endorsing Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut. “While we do have an excellent field of candidates, I'm caucusing for Chris Dodd because I trust him more than any other candidate to lead the nation when the unexpected occurs and to deliver results for his fellow veterans,” Krause said in a statement.

IDVC Chair Bob Krause (right) looks on as U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., (left) speaks on behalf of Dodd at Dec. IDVC meeting

Krause told the Iowa Independent that he was leaning toward Obama, but when his campaign did not endorse the first resolution of the IDVC’s “Four Points of Honor,” which calls for mandatory federal funding for veterans’ health care for all veterans, Krause reassessed the other candidates and chose Dodd. While Obama was the only Democratic candidate who partially endorsed the Four Points, all of the other, except Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, have endorsed the resolution.

The Obama campaign’s reluctance to endorse the first point of the resolution did not deter IDVC Communication Liaison Kent Sovern, who announced last week that he was vacating his post as statewide co-chair of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton’s Veterans Committee to caucus for Obama. “I agree that mandatory-funded health care is important for veterans, but I’m convinced that Obama’s pledge to build a 21st century Veterans Administration goes beyond the funding issue,” Sovern, a combat veteran of the Vietnam War, told the Iowa Independent. “The deterioration of the VA has happened over the past few decades and whoever wins will have to work expressly with the Congress to remedy how it’s funded. Obama’s plan will use a wiser allocation of resources across the board.”

Sovern also admitted that his switch to Obama was based on his perception that he’s more electable than Clinton. “The biggest thing for me went beyond the veterans’ issues,” Sovern said. “The more I was exposed to other veterans’ campaigns around the country, the more I came to realize that Obama is more electable than Clinton, and in the end, electability became the defining issue for me.”

Terry Phillips (left), Joe Stutler (middle), Kent Sovern (right) man the IDVC table at the Jefferson Jackson dinner in Dec.

Similar to Kerry, who was a decorated Vietnam War veteran, Krause was also swayed by the fact that Dodd is the only Democratic candidate who has served in the military (U.S. Army Reserves and Army National Guard: 1969-1975). “As a 28-year veteran of the Army Reserves, I know we need a commander-in-chief who is ready to take on the job from day one,” Krause said in a statement. “He will provide the leadership to restore America's security and good name around the world, as well as produce results on our challenges at home.”

Dodd’s veteran status and firsthand knowledge of veterans’ issues also influenced Terry K. Phillips, a Navy veteran who served during the Vietnam War, and Joe Stutler, an Army veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm. “I was so impressed with his plan being the most comprehensive in solving the problems facing veterans that I agreed to serve as the state veteran coordinator for the Dodd campaign,” Phillips told the Iowa Independent.

Stutler echoed Phillips’ remarks and noted Dodd’s active support of the IDVC. “Not only does Dodd support veterans’ issues, but he’s supported the IDVC every time we’ve asked him.” Stutler had made a commitment to himself that he would support whoever showed up to the IDVC Presidential Extravaganza in August, and his decision was made for him when Dodd was the only presidential candidate who showed up to speak at the event.

In addition to Sovern’s endorsement, Obama has garnered support across multiple generations of veterans in the IDVC, including Andrew W. Hampton, whose recent fame came about at an Obama campaign stop in Mason City Dec. 26. Hampton, a 79-year-old retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, teared up when asking Obama about health care for military veterans, thus prompting Obama to walk over and hug him.

“It was an amazing personal experience, which was enlarged by a promise given by Senator Obama to the veterans of our nation,” Hampton wrote in an email message to fellow IDVC members. “He made a promise to work to support all of our veterans and to help secure what has been promised to them.”

Moreover, Obama picked up endorsements from Larry G. Olk and Marc Wallace, both of whom are actively caucusing for Obama. Wallace, an Army veteran who served in Germany as a linguist during the latter part of the ‘80s, is a precinct captain in Des Moines, while Olk, a Vietnam War Army veteran, serves on Obama’s Vets’ Caucus Steering Committee. “Obama stands out in possessing a unique skill set that includes deep commitment, impeccable honor and honesty, persuasiveness and most important a consensus builder," Olk told the Iowa Independent in an email. “I have not seen that in one package since JFK.”

IDVC member Jim Mowrer, who now serves as the Iowa chair for Veterans for Biden, was also prompted by his military service to get actively involved in the presidential campaign. Mowrer, who recently returned from Iraq with the Iowa National Guard’s 1-133 Infantry Battalion, where he served as a senior intelligence analyst, committed to Joe Biden because of a promise the Delaware senator kept to the troops on the ground in Iraq.

“Senator Biden kept his promise to us that he would fight for the funds needed to produce Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles which dramatically reduce the number of casualties from improvised explosive devices (IEDs),” Mowrer said in a statement to the Iowa Independent. “When other presidential candidates were going back on their word to support those of us in harm's way, only Senator Biden remained steadfast in his support, regardless of any political consequences.”

It was this same promise and Biden’s plan for Iraq that helped garner the legislator endorsement of IDVC member and Iowa House Rep.McKinley Bailey of Webster City. "After returning from serving in Iraq, I quickly grew frustrated by my impression that leaders in both political parties did not understand the fundamental challenges to ending the war in Iraq," Bailey said in a press release.

"When I first learned of Senator Biden's plan, I realized that was the ticket - a political solution, not a military one,” Bailey said. “I am endorsing him because from day one, our next president must make decisions on the direction in Iraq and I am convinced Senator Biden has the knowledge and experience to bring our troops home without leaving a situation that requires another generation of Americans to return in a decade."

Veterans for Biden National Coordinator J.B. White sits at one of two tables reserved for veterans supporting Biden at Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Nov.

Originally posted on "Iowa Independent"


Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

As a RETIRED U.S AIR FORCE Disabled Veteran. I find it appaling that any Veteran could ever support either of the Democrat Candidates. Hillary loathed the military. Now she plays the Clinton self serving role by prfessing concern for the military. Now there is Obama who prfesses love of country. What Country ? He like Clinton never served in the U.S Military. He could have voluntered like millions of true Americans. Two huge phonies. Obama and Clinton.