Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) joined President Barack Obama in Virginia Beach today and issued a stinging attack on Mitt Romney's failure to mention veterans during his presidential nomination acceptance speech, while also noting that Romney did not serve in the military.
"They will not say this, so I will say it for them. They are owed, if nothing else, at least a mention, some word of thanks and respect, when a presidential candidate who is their generational peer makes a speech accepting his party's nomination to be commander in chief," Webb said, according to his prepared remarks. "And they are owed much more than that - a guarantee that we will never betray the commitment that we made to them and to their loved ones."
The former Marine and Navy secretary appeared to poke at Romney for receiving draft deferments during the Vietnam War.
"Gov. Romney and I are about the same age. Like millions of others in our generation, we came to adulthood facing the harsh realities of the Vietnam War," Webb said, adding that he didn't envy or resent choices people made about how to handle the draft as a long as they did so under the law.
"But those among us who stepped forward to face the harsh unknowns and the lifelong changes that can come from combat did so with the belief that their service would be honored and that our leaders would, in the words of President Abraham Lincoln, care for those who had borne the battle, and for their widows and their children."
The veterans of that war "are not bitter. They know what they did. But in receiving veterans' benefits, they are not takers. They were givers, in the ultimate sense of that word. There is a saying among war veterans: 'All gave some, some gave all.' This is not a culture of dependency. It is a part of a long tradition that gave this country its freedom and independence."
Webb's reference to "takers" led into a harsh comments about Romney's videotaped remarks about the "47 percent" of people who don't pay income taxes, which Romney described as those "who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."
"We're all familiar by now with his comments about the culture of dependency in our society, in which he claims nearly half of our people don't pay taxes," Webb said in his prepared remarks. "Included in that number, as far as I can tell, are people who paid payroll taxes, plus people who receive Social Security that they paid into for years, Medicare and veterans benefits. They're calling these people takers rather than givers."
Obama has stepped up his attacks on Romney's "47 percent" remarks in the surreptitiously taped video at a May fundraiser released last week by Mother Jones magazine. He is mentioning it in several television ads and making it a feature in his stump speeches.
The Romney campaign responded to a request for a response to Webb's comments by attacking Obama's record on the economy. "President Obama's policies have resulted in rising unemployment, falling incomes and looming defense cuts that will devastate our military," spokesman Ryan Williams said. "Mitt Romney's plan for a stronger middle class will create more jobs and more take-home pay, helping all Americans by spurring economic growth, creating 12 million jobs, and getting the economy on the right track again."
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.