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Iraq vet and former Democratic Party official criticizes Biden over presence of Marines in speech

CNN 9/2/2022 Veronica Stracqualursi
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An Iraq War veteran and former Democratic Party official on Friday criticized the presence of US Marines in the backdrop of President Joe Biden’s speech in Philadelphia, during which he issued stinging political criticism of Republicans.

“We need to make sure that our military is as removed from politics as possible and it’s not right if a Democrat uses the military as a political pawn and it’s not right if the Republican Party does it as well. None of our politicians or elected leaders should do that,” Allison Jaslow, a former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on “New Day.”

Biden on Thursday warned that former President Donald Trump and his Republican followers represent “an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic” and that their attempts to undermine democracy could devolve into violence. Biden called on his audience to vote in November, backed by traditionally apolitical symbols like the United States Marine Band and two Marines positioned where they were seen on camera throughout the speech.

White House officials pushed back on criticism that the President’s speech was political, telling CNN’s Jeff Zeleny that “democracy is not a partisan or political issue.”

Jaslow, however, said “it’s very clear that a political message was being elevated through this event.”

“I agree with the President’s message and I’m glad that he is speaking up in this way. That doesn’t make it right that they picked, you know, window dressing for their event and included Marines in it,” she told CNN.

Friday afternoon, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that the presence of Marines during the speech “was intended to demonstrate the deep and abiding respect that the President has for these service members, to these ideals and the unique role our independent military plays in defending our democracy no matter which party is in power.” She also said it is “not abnormal” for presidents to give speeches in front of military service members.

Trump often politicized the military while president, including using National Guard to disperse peaceful protesters from the White House in 2020 so he could pose for a photo-op accompanied by military leaders.

Jaslow said Biden has a “real opportunity” in his administration “for a reset” and return to presidential norms and respecting institutions.

“You can’t criticize a prior administration and not also hold yourself to a much higher standard,” Jaslow argued, adding, “If you don’t want the so-called MAGA Republicans or any Republicans to be politicizing the military, of which many administrations have done, then you shouldn’t do it yourself.”

This story has been updated with additional reaction.

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