McCain Is No Friend of Veterans' Group
Thanks to Dusty Rhoades for pointing out in his Aug. 3 column a couple of not-so-well-known aspects of Sen. John McCain's voting record regarding veterans issues.
In addition to what he wrote concerning McCain's suggestion that the Department of Veterans Affairs ration medical services to those only with "injuries and ailments that are clearly combat-related" and his opposition to the post-911 GI Bill (which he opposed because he said it would entice service members to leave active duty when we need them to re-enlist), here are a few more rarely mentioned items that appear to conflict with his public declarations of "always being there for our troops":
The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.org, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group of veterans, gives McCain a D rating for his voting record on veterans issues. In contrast, Sen. Obama received a B-plus and Sen. Clinton an A-minus. It's noteworthy that North Carolina Sens. Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr received a D-minus and an F, respectively.
According to military.com, the Disabled American Veterans gives McCain a 20 percent rating and Obama 80 percent. Veterans for Common Sense.org lists the following veterans concerns that McCain voted against: the Webb amendment calling for adequate troop rest between deployments, an amendment providing $20 million to the Department of Veter-ans Affairs for health-care facilities, and $430 million for outpatient care and treatment for veterans.
Since McCain frequently cites his military background and staunch support for the troops, it would seem that the media would make an issue of how his voting record doesn't reconcile with his public statements. But for some reason, his record is rarely, if ever, discussed.
I can only speculate as to the reasons why. Perhaps it is because following the creation of the all-volunteer military more than 30 years ago, only a small fraction of our society has served in uniform compared to past generations. Combine that with our collective shame over the poor treatment of those returning from Vietnam, and the fact that less than 1 percent of us are doing the heavy lifting in Iraq and Afghanistan today.
We are too deferential to McCain's military service and, as a consequence, we are hesitant to call him out on his voting record or question his service as a major qualification to be commander-in-chief.
Remember the howls of indignation when Wes Clark, himself a decorated Vietnam veteran and Army four-star general, dared to suggest on "Face the Nation" that McCain's service, in and of itself, was not a qualification to be president.
If McCain had run for president 40 years ago, touting his military service as a prime qualification for that office, I would bet that the thousands of veterans of World War I, World War II and the Korean War still alive at that time might have said something like, "Yeah, me too. What else do ya got?" I wonder how they would feel about McCain's voting record, denying them the education benefits and medical care they deserved.
McCain often says he is from the "Party of Lincoln." It might be helpful to remember these words from President Lincoln's second inaugural address:
"Let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and for his orphan."
In fact, it might be helpful for all of us -- veterans and non-veterans alike, to remember those words come Nov. 4.
Kevin Scott of Aberdeen is a member of a local veterans group supporting Sen. Barack Obama. He is an Army veteran who served in the 5th Special Forces Group and later as an Apache helicopter pilot in Saudi Arabia and Iraq during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
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