Cleland speaks to the Valley
The former Democratic U.S. senator says Kerry would stop the war in Iraq.
By MARALINE KUBIK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN -- A former head of the Veterans Administration gave the keynote address during the Mahoning County Democratic Party's second annual Hall of Fame dinner Thursday evening at Mr. Anthony's banquet center.
Max Cleland, who headed the V.A. under President Jimmy Carter and who served one term as a Democratic U.S. senator from Georgia, is the national veterans coordinator for the Kerry-Edwards presidential campaign.
He lost both legs and most of his right arm as a soldier in Vietnam. He said that seeing so many young Americans suffer similar losses in Iraq is unbearable. So, he's doing everything he can to stop the carnage and ensure injured veterans get the care they deserve: He's working to ensure John Kerry is elected president.
"Ohio is strategic in the presidential race and this area is a key area in Ohio," Cleland said, explaining why he made the trip to Youngstown despite a severe sinus infection that forced him to cancel appearances throughout the country.
Here to help
He also did not want to disappoint a man he calls "my brother," Carl Nunziato of Boardman, a fellow Vietnam veteran and amputee who spent a year in the hospital with Cleland while they were both recovering.
"I wanted him here for the people of this Valley," Nunziato said, referring to Cleland as "an American hero."
Not only was Cleland awarded the Silver Star and the Bronze Star for valorous action in combat, but he overcame his injuries: He became an advocate for veterans, served in the Georgia Legislature, and was secretary of state of Georgia before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996, Nunziato said.
"This is the most momentous, the most serious election I've ever been a part of," Cleland told the crowd. "This presidential election will be won on the ground, it will certainly be won on the ground here in Ohio," the state Cleland said George Bush has failed most of all.
"Ohio is testimony to the disastrous economic policy Bush has pushed," Cleland said. In the past four years, Ohio has lost more than 200,000 jobs, 170,000 of those were good-paying manufacturing jobs, many of which were sent overseas, he said. "Outsourcing may be good for Wall Street, but it's disastrous for Main Street America."
Jobs in Ohio
Of jobs lost throughout the country, one in five has been lost in Ohio, Cleland said. Cleveland is the poorest major city in the nation with 31 percent of its residents living at or below the poverty level and 1 million Americans have fallen into poverty each year Bush has been in office, he said.
Annual household incomes for the average American family have dropped by $1,500 since Bush has been in office; new jobs that are replacing those lost pay an average of $1,100 less per year; 5 million Americans are without health care; prescription drug costs, the largest out-of-pocket expense for many Americans, have soared, and veterans hospitals are going to be downsized or closed, including one in Brecksville, Ohio, he said. "That is unconscionable."