President Barack Obama has departed Atlanta after a quick visit Monday that included an address to a conference of disabled veterans, a meeting with party leaders and a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton.
Obama landed at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport around 1 p.m. and headed immediately to the Hyatt Regency in downtown for his address, then was whisked to a fundraiser at an estate in northwest Atlanta. He left town around 4:30 p.m.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Fulton County commission chair John Eaves were among the dignitaries greeting the president on his arrival.
Here’s a few things to know about the president’s visit:
Why did he come?
The only public event on his schedule was an address to the 95th National Convention of Disabled American Veterans at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta, where he took a dig at Republican Donald Trump.
Behind closed doors, Obama attended an afternoon fundraiser held at the home of business executive Andy Prozes, the former CEO of LexisNexis Group, and Laura Heery, an architect and strategist. (A cool $33,400 to the Clinton campaign gets you through the door and a “photo opportunity.”)
The visit, four days after the Democratic National Convention, is one of the first where Obama uses his star power to raise campaign cash for Clinton this cycle. The two embraced on stage last week in Philadelphia, where Obama hailed Clinton as the heir to his political legacy.
And he met with Democratic National Committee donors in Atlanta before he returned to Washington.
Is my commute doomed?
The route Obama will take is uncertain, but expect his visit to snarl traffic downtown around noon and Buckhead and downtown in the early afternoon.
What did he say?
In his last formal address to the nation’s veterans, Obama said that the U.S. has improved healthcare services for former military members but acknowledged much work remains for his successor to restore confidence in the troubled healthcare system.
Speaking to a Disabled American Veterans conference, Obama highlighted the moves by the Department of Veterans Affairs to hire more doctors and open more clinics. He was greeted warmly by the hundreds of ex-military members, who gave him a standing ovation.
“Our commitment to our veterans is a sacred covenant. And I don’t use those words lightly,” he said. “It is sacred because there’s no more solemn request than to ask someone to risk their life, to be ready to give their life on our behalf.”
Obama announced that the overall homelessness rate among ex-military members has been cut nearly in half, though that has fallen short of his goal to end veteran homelessness by 2015.
The Democrat argued that the nation made a promise that “can’t be broken” in guaranteeing ex-military members healthcare benefits they earned while serving, and announced that a half a million veterans have voluntarily given blood samples and other health data for a massive new database on veterans’ healthcare that aims to enroll 1 million people.
Is any of this controversial?
Obama has tried to shift the conversation beyond the scandals over long wait-times for veterans seeking medical treatment that led to the embarrassing ouster of Obama’s Veterans Affairs secretary, retired Gen. Eric Shinseki.
The campaigns of Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump are both trying to earn the votes of the nearly 21 million veterans in the U.S., and both candidates have vowed to overhaul the VA.
Georgia’s senior U.S. senator, Johnny Isakson, has been one of the most prominent Republican critics of the Obama administration’s handling of veterans healthcare. The chair of the Senate’s Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Isakson pushed for bipartisan support for his “Veterans First Act” legislation that aims to bring more accountability to VA officials.
“There’s got to be reform at the VA,” Isakson said Sunday, adding: “One of the problems that VA leadership has had is the inability to affect change at the agency and have the type of accountability of the agency’s management that they really need. Under the Veterans First Act, senior management will be held accountable for the leadership that they give to the more than 300,000 other employees at the VA.”