Quad-City Times: Obama honors veterans during Q-C visit
By Ed Tibbetts
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama paid tribute to America's veterans at a Memorial Day appearance in Davenport.
Praising the devotion of this country's veterans and wondering at their willingness to lay down their lives, Obama called the holiday a time to set aside political divisions.
"Once a year on this day, in the fullness of spring, in the presence of those who never leave us, we give honor to the lives of those who have fallen," he told more than 200 people at the Golden Leaf Banquet Center.
Obama's appearance here was in stark contrast to his only other campaign visit to Davenport. After relatively brief remarks, devoid of criticism of the opposite party or other presidential rivals, he spent more than an hour wandering table to table in the banquet hall, shaking hands and posing for pictures.
It was the kind of retail politicking absent his last visit here, when 3,700 people packed Davenport's North High School for a rally.
Obama is in Iowa to give a major health care speech today in Iowa City. His campaign also released Monday the names of more than 250 Iowa veterans it says are supporting him. Former U.S. Rep. Lane Evans, D-Ill., a favorite of veterans, also was in attendance Monday.
In his remarks, Obama only mentioned Iraq twice, once to observe the youth of many of the soldiers there and to speak about a New Hampshire couple who had lost a child to the war. In fact, Obama mentioned the Civil War at least as often.
"This didn't look like a campaign event to me," said Harry Lamb, a 65-year-old Vietnam War veteran from Davenport.
Obama's approach to Memorial Day campaigning here is a contrast to rival John Edwards, who also campaigned in Iowa this holiday weekend. The former North Carolina senator urged Americans to use the holiday to speak their minds about the Iraq War, but he also released a detailed plan to help returning veterans. He also joined in events recognizing their service. Edwards said it was the height of patriotism for people to speak their minds about the war.
Obama did not mention the controversy over the Iraq War spending bill. He voted against the bill last week, saying he did so because it allowed President Bush to continue a "disastrous" war policy. Republicans, like presidential hopeful John McCain, R-Ariz., criticized him for that. But Lamb, who opposes the war, said the vote didn't cause him any problems.
Obama also said Monday that there needs to be greater attention to the needs of returning veterans. On Sunday, in New Hampshire, he proposed spending more on mental health care services for veterans.
Ed Gaudet, a DeWitt, Iowa, veteran who is active in the Vietnam Veterans of America organization, said he hopes Obama will support a bill in Congress that would change the way that the Department of Veterans Affairs is funded, making it less subject to the whims of Congress.
"That is a crucial issue with us," Gaudet said.