Retired four-star Army Gen. Wesley Clark and two other high-level retired military officials discussed a matter of strategy Wednesday at the Vinton War Memorial -- not to win a battle but this fall's presidential election.
The town hall-style event with Clark, retired Maj. Gen. James Kelley, retired Rear Adm. Jamie Barnett and about 25 local veterans, family members and Democrats served to launch "Military and Defense Leaders for Obama" -- a group of high-ranking retired and former military and defense officials who are supporting incumbent President Barack Obama against Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
They credited Obama for withdrawing troops from Iraq, for health care overhauls that will benefit veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and brain trauma, and for making the call last year that led to the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. And they blamed Congress for a deal last year that could result in hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to the country's defense budget over the next decade if Democrats and Republicans can't come to an agreement on reducing the budget deficit.
"This fight is about keeping 21st century America intact," Clark said. "To do that, we've got to get the president re-elected, and we have to have a Congress that will deal realistically with the budget and the growth problems in the American economy."
Michael Short, state communications director for the Republican National Committee, presented another view in a statement responding to the event.