Obama’s racial background reflects the increasingly diverse makeup of the U.S. military, something that goes a long way toward explaining the disparate treatment of VA hospitals located in predominantly minority and poor areas (pdf). A hidden aspect of the VA scandal is the fact that Congress has, for decades, left this vitally important branch of military benefits underfunded and on its own.
Conservatives have mastered the perverse art of portraying Obama’s genuine empathy for military veterans and their families, which led to this recent prisoner release, as something that compromises national security.
Hawkish politicians who long for new and costly wars—most recently in Ukraine—lampoon the “Obama doctrine,” which has replaced pre-emptive war with negotiation and reluctance to spill American blood needlessly.
These latest partisan attacks against Obama reveal the blatant hypocrisy that animates the GOP’s pro-military posture. The Republican Party’s brash saber rattling during wartime gives way to a harsher truth that remains something of an open secret among politicians: The “party of no” refuses to offer robust financial support, benefits and jobs to military veterans and their families.
Americans, meanwhile, remain firmly committed to supporting the military but more ambivalent about the political necessity and financial costs of unwise wars and military interventions. Obama’s foreign policy mirrors this: a commitment to the judicious use of military force and, just as important, a compassionate regard for the anonymous men and women fighting, as well as for their families.
Peniel E. Joseph, a contributing editor at The Root, is founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy and a professor of history at Tufts University. He is also the Caperton fellow for the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute at Harvard University. He is the author of Waiting ’Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America, Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama and the recently released Stokely: A Life. Follow him on Twitter.