COLUMBIA, SC — Retired Army Col. Angelo Perri didn’t think Barack Obama was the best presidential candidate to handle national security issues four years ago, when the Democrat beat Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain, a decorated Vietnam War veteran.
And Perri doesn’t think Obama is the best candidate this year to keep the United States safe and strong either.
“He (Obama) was not ready for prime time,” said Perri, an 83-year-old Ohio native who settled in Columbia when he was stationed at Fort Jackson, one of the Army’s largest recruit-training bases. “It was like taking a lieutenant and making him a general officer overnight.”
Neither Obama nor Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney ever was a member of the military, the first time since 1932 that neither major party’s presidential or vice presidential nominees was a veteran.
But Romney has a better background to ensure U.S. security, given his experience running the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and operating the Boston-based Bain Capital investment firm, said Perri, a former infantry commander who fought in the Korean and Vietnam wars.
While Obama, a former U.S. senator from Illinois, has gained experience during his four years in the White House, Perri sees no comparison with Romney, a former Massachusetts governor.
“The military is a complex operation,” he said. “Few can manage it and control it.
“Romney understands big budgets, and he understands how corporations and large institutions work.”
Critics say Romney’s plan to increase Defense Department spending is impractical, given the country’s deficit, and unwise, given the military’s history of waste and cost overruns on new weapons. Those critics also say the United States already spends more on defense than the military budgets of the next 15 highest-spending countries combined.
But Army veteran Perri says Romney’s skills are needed to reshape the armed forces to fight larger scale battles in the future, rather than the guerilla-style, nation-building fighting of Iraq and Afghanistan.
“He is much more mature and experienced,” Perri said of Romney.
“He can come to the table at briefings and cut through wheat and chaff.”