In light of the vote on a modernized, bipartisan GI Bill for U.S. troops, John McCain was forced to defend his position against general educational benefits for veterans. (For the record, McCain didn’t vote on the bill, preferring to go to a fundraiser in California.)
McCain responded by changing the subject away from the bill, emphasizing his service and support from fellow veterans.
“I believe that I have earned the right to speak out on veterans’ issues,” McCain said. “As a matter of fact I received the highest award from literally every veteran’s organization in America. I don’t know if the American people will judge Senator Obama as to whether he has military experience or not, but I think they may judge him as to whether he has experience and knowledge to make the judgment necessary to care for the veterans.”
The funny thing about the word “literally,” of course, is that it has a rather specific meaning.
And in McCain’s case, it invites critics to point out just how disappointed several veterans’ organizations have been in his willingness to support measures to help the troops.
Time magazine, for example, posed the question this week: “Does McCain Have a Vets Problem?” Keying off the GI Bill vote, Time reported:
“This isn’t about anything partisan; we are firmly supporting the bill that does right by the veterans, does right by the troops, and that is not McCain’s bill,” said Ramona Joyce, a spokeswoman for the American Legion. “It could do McCain damage with veteran voters if this issue drags out.” […]
This is not the first time McCain, who has a proud history of opposing what he views as excessive government spending, has found himself at odds with his fellow veterans on legislation. He’s voted for veterans funding bills only 30% of the time, according to a scorecard of roll-call votes put out by the nonpartisan Disabled Americans for America. Under the same system Obama has a 90% rating — though, of course, he has spent a much shorter time in Washington. “Senator McCain clearly needs to be recognized for his military service and in some respects that will play to his advantage, but when it actually comes to delivering health care and benefits during war, Senator McCain’s going to have some explaining to do,” said Paul Sullivan, director of the nonpartisan Veterans for Common Sense.
TP added some key tidbits, including the fact that Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America gave McCain a grade of D for his record of voting against veterans (Obama got a B+), and the Vietnam Veterans of America compiled a list of key votes, and found McCain voted against the group’s position 15 times and with the group eight times. (Obama, in contrast, voted with the VVA 12 times, and against it only once.)
McCain obviously has “the right to speak out on veterans’ issues”; we all do. But McCain is also under the impression that his service trumps his voting record. And on this, he’s clearly mistaken.