Thursday, May 22, 2008

McCain and the New GI Bill

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 242

The U.S. Senate is currently debating legislation that would enhance veterans' educational benefits. Commonly referred to as the "New GI Bill," the legislation, authored by Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, would pay for books and tuition at a four-year public university for anyone who has served at least three years in uniform since September 11, 2001. The bill passed the Housed by a huge margin earlier this month, and currently has 58 co-sponsors in the Senate, including 11 Republicans. You might think that, as one of the higher-profile veterans in the Senate, John McCain would be among those supporting this legislation. You would be wrong.

McCain opposes this bill, as does - surprise! - President Bush, who is threatening a veto. Their argument: the bill is too generous to veterans, and provides an incentive for those currently in uniform to leave the military at the end of their current enlistment in order to cash in.

To oppose the bill for those reasons is not only ludicrous, but deeply insulting to those serving our country in uniform. Do McCain and Bush really think that service men and woman, who have volunteered during wartime to wear the uniform, are re-enlisting only because they have nowhere better to go? The suggestion that those who daily risk their lives for this country and endure grave hardship for themselves and their families in the course of their multiple deployments overseas could possibly be so feckless that they would walk away from the military en masse solely to cash in on the educational benefits of one piece of legislation, that their dedication would be overthrown by the promise of a little more money for college, is the deepest affront toward our military men and women that could be conceived. In my book, anyone who puts his or her life on the line to serve our country deserves every benefit we can bestow, and far more than we currently offer. Nothing we can offer them is adequate when compared to the risks and sacrifices they shoulder, and the notion that we're being too generous in sending them through college after sending them into combat is patently absurd.

Speaking from the floor of the Senate today, Barack Obama took aim at Senator McCain over his opposition to this bill:

"I respect Senator John McCain's service to our country. He is one of those heroes of which I speak. But I can't understand why he would line up behind the president in opposition to this GI bill. I can't believe why he believes it is too generous to our veterans. I could not disagree with him and the president more on this issue. There are many issues that lend themselves to partisan posturing, but giving our veterans the chance to go to college should not be one of them."

(video of Obama's remarks can be found here.)

Senator McCain was quick to issue an angry reply to Obama's remarks. But McCain's rejoinder didn't come from the Senate floor: it came via press release from California, where John McCain is too busy raising campaign cash to even be bothered to return to the Senate to participate in the debate over this bill and have the courtesy, to say no more, of going on the record as voting against it. Such is the judgment and conduct of the man who is telling America that he can be trusted to do a better job than Barack Obama as Commander in Chief of the armed forces.

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