With the nation at war for the past eight years, first lady Michelle Obama said Sunday at Camp Pendleton
, the giant Marine Corps base outside of San Diego, that the nation needs to lighten the load of military families. But as the November election draws closer, where Mrs. Obama goes and who she stands with can draw GOP fire, as was the case Sunday.
"I've been telling your fellow Americans -- given all that you all and your families do to take care of America, America needs to take care of you," Mrs. Obama said. "It is our moral obligation, and every American has a responsibility to do our part. So that's why I've issued a national challenge -- a challenge to every sector of American society to mobilize and take action to support and engage our military families. And not just now, with our nation at war, but for the decades to come. We have to build the capacity to support you and your families at every stage of your lives. But to do this, we need a truly national commitment -- no one can sit on the sidelines. One percent of Americans may be fighting our wars, but 100 percent of Americans need to be supporting you in that fight."
Appearing with the first lady was Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who faces a potentially tough re-election challenge from Republican nominee Carly Fiorina. In May, President Barack Obama flew to California for a fundraiser to benefit Boxer.
Earlier in June, Mrs. Obama -- who has the luxury of picking and choosing where she goes to speak -- was in Nevada for anti-childhood obesity events with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
, whose chances for re-election brightened last week when Republicans nominated Sharron Angle.
Boxer spoke briefly at the Camp Pendleton event; Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) was also there. Even though the first lady takes pains to avoid controversy, and so far has limited her overt political events in the 2010 cycle, the Fiorina campaign said the joint appearance was de facto political help.
Fiorina's campaign manager, in an e-mail to The Associated Press, used the Camp Pendleton event as a peg to attack the incumbent. "The bottom line is that Barbara Boxer has shown a total disregard for our men and women in uniform, and her record on security issues is, to put it generously, dismal," Fiorina's deputy campaign manager, Julie Soderlund, said in the e-mail.
"Today, she's getting some help yet again from the Obamas in an attempt to try to mask that over," Soderlund said. "But the facts are the facts. And the facts bite, especially for those who put their lives on the line every day to protect this great nation."
Fiorina has made Boxer's record on supporting the military an issue and during the GOP primary her campaign highlighted Boxer dressing down a general during a Senate hearing for calling her "ma'am."
Since becoming first lady, Mrs. Obama has made lifting military families one of her causes.
"So I'm here today to remind America that, as a nation, we can never forget or fail to support you, our incredible military families," she said. "You're heroes just as much as our men and women in uniform -- the spouses who stay behind, with all the pride of being a military wife or husband, but with also the fears and the anxiety that come when the person you love the most in the world is in harm's way."
She added that her goal is for "an America where every sailor, soldier, airman, Marine, Coast Guardsman and -woman can deploy knowing that their family will be taken care of, so instead of worrying about benefits and bureaucracy, they can focus on their mission -- that is, protecting our country."