McCain's strong opposition to the new GI bill is still fresh in my memory. Senator Jim Webb's work in securing educational benefits for veterans was nothing less than heroic, and in an election year, few Senators dared vote against it. But McCain claimed that expanded benefits for vets was too nice, arguing it might encourage too many troops to leave the military to cash in on their benefits--despite research showing that the GI bill would balance any losses from troops leaving the military with the new recruits it attracted.
First, McCain and two co-sponsors (Senators Graham and Burr) proposed a weakened version of the GI bill to undermine Webb's more generous version (co-sponsored by 51 Senators). When the Senate chose Webb's bill over his, McCain did not show up to vote. Webb's bill passed 92-6 with only 2 Senators not voting. Senator Ted Kennedy was in treatment for a brain tumor at the time of the vote.
No sooner than Jim Webb's bill became law with no help from John McCain or George W. Bush, both McCain and Bush began taking credit for it. As Bush signed the bill, which he had threatened to veto before it passed with a veto-proof majority, he said, "The bill is a result of close collaboration between my administration and members of both parties on Capitol Hill. I want to thank members who worked hard for the GI Bill expansion, especially Senators Webb and Warner, Graham, Burr, McCain."
Does McCain have a weakness on veterans' issues ? "Absolutely he does," says Brandon Friedman, vice chairman of VoteVets.org and author of The War I Always Wanted. "McCain has voted against VA healthcare funding time and again, he opposed Webb's GI Bill, and he opposed the Dwell Time Amendment--a bill which would have mandated that troops get equal time at home as they are deployed. And these decisions on McCain's part all have one thing in common: They keep our military in a weakened state and drive potential recruits away. McCain is terrible on defense and veterans' issues." So now McCain has begun attacking Obama's support for the troops. If I hadn't just lived through the most surreal eight years of my lifetime, I'm not sure I would even believe my eyes.
Prior to Obama's trip to the Middle East, McCain taunted him for not visiting the region. Once he went, McCain criticized him for going, saying "Everything about this trip indicates it is about promoting his candidacy, and it has nothing to do with the security of the American people." Really? Seems to me that Obama (who IS a sitting United States Senator) had a productive meeting with Iraqi Prime Minster Maliki. In an interview, Maliki said, "US presidential candidate Barack Obama is right when he talks about 16 months. Assuming that positive developments continue, this is about the same time period that corresponds to our wishes."
McCain's critiques metastasized once Obama reached Germany, when he charged Obama with going to the gym instead of visiting wounded troops because he was not allowed to bring cameras along. This is a blatant lie. A Pentagon policy prohibited Obama from going as it would be viewed as a campaign trip, and reports say there was no evidence Obama intended to bring cameras. What's more, McCain was denied visiting a military base under the same rule in April.
Now, BusinessWeek reports that the McCain campaign had an alternate plan ready to go if Obama had visited wounded troops in Germany. According to a GOP strategist, they had an ad script already written, charging Obama with using wounded troops as props. In light of the last week's negative ads (and particularly considering McCain's hostile voting record on veterans benefits), I believe that it is actually McCain who is using our troops as props.
It looks like a McCain presidency would be a continuation of the Bush administration, with troops and first responders used for photo ops and then forgotten about--as all but the top 1% wealthiest Americans are forgotten about--once the cameras disappear. I am sick of living in a country that serves only the "haves" and the "have mores" and I am afraid that McCain (with his seven houses and $520 shoes) will not have the interests of the American people in mind should he make it to the Oval Office.