U.S. to Have World’s Best Military, Obama Tells Cadets

The U.S. will maintain the world’s “finest, most capable military” amid defense spending cuts to create a “leaner” force as conflicts end in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Barack Obama said.

“We’ll keep our military, and our Air Force, fast, flexible and versatile,” Obama said in a commencement speech at the U.S. Air Force Academy. “We will maintain our military superiority in all areas -- air, land, sea, space and cyber.

‘‘For the first time in your lives -- and thanks to Air Force personnel who did their part -- Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to our country,’’ Obama told the 1,073 cadets in the academy’s class of 2012. ‘‘We’ve put al-Qaeda on the path to defeat. And you are the first graduates since 9/11 who can see how we’ll end the war in Afghanistan.”

The war’s end will ease the burden on U.S. forces and their families and “make our military stronger,” Obama told the cadets, saying they will face fewer deployments, more training and greater preparation for their missions.

The address to graduates of the academy, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was the lead-off event on a two-day trip during which the president will raise money for his re-election campaign, seeking to stay ahead of growing contributions to Republican Mitt Romney and his allies.

‘American Century’

The 21st century will be “an American century” with the U.S. leading allies in countries where “more and more people are reaching toward the freedoms and values we share.”

“I’ve made it clear that the United States does not fear the rise of peaceful, responsible emerging powers -- we welcome them,” Obama said. “Because when more nations step up and contribute to peace and security, that doesn’t undermine American power -- it enhances it.”

From Europe to Asia, U.S. alliances are strong and other nations are showing “a new confidence in our leadership,” Obama said. “No other nation can play the role that we play in global affairs,” he said.

The president is raising campaign money today in Colorado and California before heading to Iowa tomorrow to promote his economic initiatives. National polls show Obama and Romney locked in a close race for the White House in November.

Part of that contest is the competition for money. Romney has started to raise funds jointly with the Republican National Committee, enabling donors to write bigger checks. Romney and the Republicans said they brought in $40.1 million last month, while Obama and the Democratic National Committee said they raised $43.6 million.

Fundraising Contest

“Republicans are in much better shape this year than they were four years ago,” Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, said in a telephone interview. He cited the influence of so-called super- PACs and outside groups that didn’t exist during the last election.

“It’s clear the Obama campaign won’t have the kind of overwhelming advantage that it had in 2008,” Pitney said.

Obama’s campaign so far has raised more than twice as much as Romney, $222.3 million to $100.4 million. The Democratic National Committee has brought in more than its Republican counterpart, $169 million to $135 million.

Democratic strategist Peter Fenn said Democrats can’t take any risks. “In my view, the rules of the game are out the window in this race,” he said. “Usually you don’t really begin to pour it on until the fall. We’re pouring it on now.”

Campaign Stops

Along with a fundraiser in Denver after the Air Force Academy speech, Obama will be soliciting donors at two events tonight in California, the most populous U.S. state and one that has provided almost one-fifth of his campaign funds, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based campaign-research group.

The first California event at is the home of philanthropists Lisa and Doug Goldman of Atherton, where about 60 supporters have paid $35,800 per person, or about $2.1 million. Douglas Goldman is the son of Levi Strauss & Co. heirs Richard & Rhoda Goldman. He also is chief executive officer of Certain Software Inc., which makes MeetingPlanner Plus and EventPlanner Plus software.

A rally at Redwood City’s Fox Theatre later in the day was expected to draw about 1,100 supporters, with tickets starting at $250.

Voters Split

Voters would be split if the election were held today, according a Washington Post/ABC News poll, which showed 49 percent favoring Obama and 46 percent favoring Romney, within the margin of error. Voters said their chief concern was the economy, with Obama getting a 47 percent approval rating, tied with expectations for Romney. The May 17-20 poll of 1,004 adults has a margin of error for the full survey of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Obama’s visit to Iowa tomorrow will be his third to the state this year. In Newton, he’ll talk about the economy and continue to push Congress to finish his “to-do” list, including renewal of clean energy tax credits to boost the wind power industry, according to a White House news release.

He also plans a campaign rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines later in the day, the spot where Romney made news in August when he said: “Corporations are people, my friend.”

Obama may elaborate on his attacks on Romney and his record as a co-founder of the private equity firm Bain Capital LLC. In Chicago on May 21, Obama said that Romney’s experience making money for investors, even if it meant cutting jobs, doesn’t qualify him to oversee the U.S. economy.

“If your main argument for how to grow the economy is I knew how to make a lot of money for investors, then you’re missing what this job is about,” Obama said.

Romney said Obama was attacking the free enterprise system.

Iowa and Colorado are among the nine states that switched to supporting Obama in 2008 after backing Republican President George W. Bush in 2004, and will be battlegrounds in the November presidential vote.

To contact the reporters on this story: Roger Runningen in Colorado Springs, Colorado, at 6423 or rrunningen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net

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