A couple of weeks ago, John McCain talked about the importance of increasing the size of the U.S. military. To entice more volunteers, he said, the government should focus on incentives: “[O]ne of the things we ought to do is provide [the troops with] significant educational benefits in return for serving.”
A few days later, McCain announced that he’ll oppose a bipartisan measure to renew and expand the GI Bill for a new generation of veterans.
Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), the leading proponent of the modernized GI Bill, is calling McCain out and creating an interesting battle.
From Annapolis to Vietnam and back to the Pentagon, John McCain and Jim Webb trod the same paths before coming to the Senate. Iraq divides them today, but there’s also the new kinship of being anxious fathers watching their sons come and go with Marine units in the war.
So what does it say about Washington that two such men, with so much in common, are locked in an increasingly intense debate over a shared value: education benefits for veterans? [...]
McCain has all but locked up the Republican presidential nomination and is preparing for a fall campaign in which his support of the Iraq war is sure to be a major issue. Yet the former Navy pilot and Vietnam POW makes himself a target by refusing to endorse Webb’s new GI education bill and instead signing on to a Republican alternative that focuses more on career soldiers than on the great majority who leave after their first four years.
McCain concedes he hasn’t tended to his day job in a while, but said his Senate office staff told him that Webb “has not been eager to negotiate.”
“He’s so full of it,” Webb said in response. “I have personally talked to John three times. I made a personal call to [McCain aide] Mark Salter months ago asking that they look at this.”
For Webb, this seems to have far less to do with campaign politics, and far more to do with a deep desire to get a bill through the chamber: “I don’t want this to become a political issue. I want to get a bill done.”
For the troops' sake, it'd be great if McCain agreed.