Four years after then-Sen. Joe Biden visited Marietta en route to his election as vice president of the United States, his son came to the Pioneer City backing his father and President Barack Obama's bid for four more years.
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden held a press conference Wednesday afternoon at the Plumbers and Pipefitters union hall on Front Street. Flanked by Rob Diamond, the Obama campaign's National Veterans and Military Families Vote director, and about a dozen supporters, several of them veterans, the younger Biden laid out the incumbents' record on veterans and the military and contrasted it with the Republican Romney-Ryan ticket.
In addition to the more than 6,500 Americans killed in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there are "nearly 60,000 wounded or injured in these two wars, tens of thousands with PTSD, hundreds with traumatic brain injuries, hundreds of amputees," said Biden, a veteran of the Iraq War. "We have a multi-generational commitment ahead of us to honor our country's veterans. The president of the United States understands that. He understands what it means to be commander-in-chief."
EVAN BEVINS The Marietta Times
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, left, son of Vice President Joe Biden, autographs a campaign sign for Waterford resident Bud Houston Wednesday following a press conference at the Plumbers and Pipefitters union hall in Marietta.
Biden said Obama has increased funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs by more than any other president in the last 30 years and focused on helping soldiers after their service ends by supporting tax credits for businesses that hire veterans and working to pass the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill when he was in the Senate. The administration also put resources toward hiring 1,500 claims processors to address the backlog resulting in a lengthy waiting period for returning wounded veterans to receive services.
That's something Waterford resident Bud Houston, one of the local people at the event, appreciated.
"We need to be taking care of these kids, we really do," said Houston, a 59-year-old Vietnam veteran. "You know, most people don't volunteer to go fight in a war. But these people do because it's their job."
A swing state
- A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday shows President Barack Obama leading Republican challenger Mitt Romney 53 percent to 43 percent in Ohio.
- Obama leads 60 to 35 percent among female likely voters, while males support Romney 52 to 44 percent.
- Independent voters are split with 47 percent for Romney and 46 percent for Obama.
- The economy is the most important issue for 49 percent of Ohio voters, while 21 percent list health care, 12 percent list the budget deficit and 5 percent list national security.
- Voters indicated more confidence in Obama in handling health care and Medicare, while they favored Romney on the budget deficit.
As for presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, Biden said he doesn't doubt they are patriotic Americans, but does question their approach to issues like veterans' health care.
"Their priorities are that we give a tax cut to the wealthiest 1 percent," he said. "But they want to cut benefits to the point-seven-five percent of us that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Biden said Ryan's proposed budget that has brought him both support and criticism would cut Department of Veterans Affairs spending by about $11.1 billion, 85 percent of which would be for health care expenses, while extending Bush-era tax cuts enacted after the nation went to war. He also criticized Romney's proposal last year that veterans could receive vouchers for health care, as opposed to the government providing it.
Biden said the latter proposal amounts to privatizing the VA and giving veterans a coupon and saying "go find your own" care.
"That's not what it means to be in the U.S. (military). That's not how we treat those that serve," he said.
In a statement emailed to The Marietta Times Wednesday evening, the Romney campaign fired back on the president's record.
"On President Obama's watch, hundreds of thousands of veterans are out of work, backlogged disability claims have more than quadrupled and proposed budget cuts could cause them to pay more for health care and could drive more veterans to the unemployment lines," said Franklin County Auditor Clarence Mingo, a Romney campaign co-chair in Ohio. "Mitt Romney, on the other hand, will work to restore faith with our veterans by putting them back to work, reforming the VA system and ensuring that world-class VA health care is available to all veterans who need it."
Romney's website, www.mittromney.com/, denies he wants to privatize the VA, claiming Obama proposed it in 2009.
Romney "will instead focus his efforts on making the VA work better for veterans, cleaning up an entrenched bureaucracy, rewarding positive results and holding failed leaders accountable," the site says. "Our returning warriors deserve no less than top quality care, provided in a timely and efficient manner."
The site also says Ryan's budget does not cut veterans benefits, but met the White House's request for veteran spending and increased it over a 10-year period.
It also criticizes Obama for making military cuts while growing other parts of the federal government.
"In a Romney-Ryan Administration, our troops and our veterans will come first," it says.
Marietta Mayor Joe Matthews, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, spoke after Diamond and Biden, seizing on Romney's much-talked-about comment that 47 percent of Americans don't pay taxes, seeing themselves as victims and depending on government handouts. Critics have noted some of those who don't pay taxes include veterans.
"I don't believe for one second that government resources make veterans victims or some kind of freeloaders," Matthews said.
Belpre resident Larry Block, 62, a Vietnam veteran, showed Biden the autograph Joe Biden signed on his hat when he spoke in front of the armory on Front Street in 2008. He said he agreed 100 percent with what Beau Biden spoke about and said he doesn't believe Romney would take care of the nation's veterans.
While Romney's campaign says he would reverse cuts Obama has made to defense spending, Block said Obama's hand was forced by a Republican-controlled House and he believes more problems were caused by reductions that predate the Obama administration.
"You can't treat your veterans like this and expect your country to survive, because it won't," he said.
Biden's visit came as both Obama and Romney campaigned in Ohio, one of the key swing states in the Nov. 6 election. Washington County Democratic Party Chairwoman Molly Varner said she appreciated his presence and was still optimistic Obama himself might stop in southeast Ohio in the near future.
"I will not give up hope of seeing President Obama until the seventh of November," she laughed.
In August, Romney spoke at a rally at a coal mine in Beallsville.