Americans are extremely patriotic, and Republican politicians in particular have often made it their mission to prove that they're capable of serving and protecting veterans better than Democrats. Yet during Tuesday's GOP presidential debate (which took place on the eve of Veterans Day), the candidates missed a huge opportunity to talk about veterans.
The fourth debate was supposed to focus on the economy, and for once, things actually stayed on topic. Deficit numbers and spending statistics were discussed across the board. But veterans' issues, which definitely relate the country's economy, were largely absent from the discussion. There was no talk of reform that would improve healthcare and/or increase benefits for those who have served this country.
Jeb Bush, who often finds himself having to answer for the foreign policy woes of his older brother, briefly touched on veterans toward the end of the prime-time debate, saying that as a commander-in-chief, he'd respect vets. Similarly, Ben Carson dedicated a few words — barely even a sentence — to veterans in his closing statement: "In the two hours of this debate, five people have died from drug-related deaths, $100 million has been added to our national debt, 200 babies have been killed by abortionists, and two veterans have taken their lives out of despair."
In the undercard debate which took place before the main event, Mike Huckabee actually referenced Veterans Day itself, and spoke to veterans' issues significantly. Granted, he had to dodge another question to do so, but I'll argue that it's better than nothing, and it was a bigger nod to vets than anyone made in the prime-time debate.
In not talking about veterans, candidates in both debates passed up an opportunity to talk about an issue that was likely to resonate with a large number of voters (and with good reason). Veterans' issues are one area of legislation on which members of both parties tend to agree in a big way.
As of 2014, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there were around 22 million veterans living in the United States. That same year, The Huffington Post found that approximately 47 percent of Americans thought that care at Veteran Affairs hospitals was worse than at civilian hospitals. The Huffington Post also found that 51 percent of Republicans in particular would not trust VA hospitals to care for their loved ones.
Recognizing Veterans Day is so commonplace in American patriotism that it seems like common sense. Many big brands come together in support of vets. The candidates will probably be tweeting up a storm come Veterans Day, but their support would have counted a lot more if that discussion had taken place on prime-time television.