Defense, vets issues will factor in 2024 presidential race

by Tommy Grant

How big a role military and veterans policies will play in the 2024 presidential election will depend on who the presidential nominees are.

President Joe Biden, the expected Democratic nominee in the contest, already has signaled that veterans issues will be a significant theme in his re-election pitch. On Veterans Day 2023, his team debuted a new ad focusing on his administration’s outreach to victims of the toxic smoke from military burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The commander-in-chief also has made military families a key point of outreach efforts through the Joining Forces campaign.

On the campaign trail and in office, Biden has frequently spoken about the military service of his late son, Beau, and the impact of his overseas deployments on the entire Biden family.

The chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in August 2021, however, has been a key line of attack for congressional Republicans against Biden over the past two years, and will likely be a military theme for whichever GOP candidate emerges as Biden’s November opponent.

Right now, former President Donald Trump is the front runner for that role. In late November, Trump caused renewed controversy by suggesting he would use U.S. military forces for police duties in major American cities, calling crime levels across the country a national emergency.

Those tactics could run afoul of a host of military rules and traditions, depending on how they are carried out.

Both Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also have suggested using U.S. troops in operations against drug and crime cartels in Mexico, with or without the Mexican government’s permission.

DeSantis served in the U.S. Navy as an attorney for six years on active duty, deploying overseas to Iraq. He currently is the only major candidate from either party with military experience, although former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s husband serves with the South Carolina Army National Guard and deployed to Africa in 2023.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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