Obama Puts Veterans Benefits on the Front Burner
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One of the weekâ€™s more contentious disputes came between Barack Obama and John McCain over benefits for the troops, highlighted by McCainâ€™s opposition to a bipartisan expansion of the GI Bill. Obama questioned McCainâ€™s priorities; McCain lost his cool and attacked Obama for not having served in the military; and the dispute got a little nasty.
But Obama isnâ€™t backing down, and seems anxious to make this a key campaign issue.
Barack Obama told veterans Saturday that he canâ€™t understand why Republican John McCain opposes legislation that would provide college scholarships to people who have served in the U.S. military.
â€œNow, let me be clear: No one can dispute John McCainâ€™s love for this country or his concern for veterans. But hereâ€™s what I donâ€™t understand. I donâ€™t understand why John McCain would side with George Bush and oppose our plan to make college more affordable for our veterans,â€ the Democratic presidential candidate said. â€œGeorge Bush and John McCain may think our plan is too generous. I could not disagree more.â€ [â€¦]
Obama, speaking to reporters aboard his plane Saturday, countered that the idea that he canâ€™t speak on veteransâ€™ issues because he didnâ€™t serve in the military â€œmakes no sense whatsoever.â€
â€œI didnâ€™t serve, as many people my age, because the Vietnam war was over by the time I was of draft age and we went to an all-volunteer Army. But obviously I revere our soldiers and want to make sure they are being treated with honor and respect,â€ he added.
This may seem counter-intuitive. McCain, given his military record and background, would seemingly have a lock on issues like veteransâ€™ benefits. Obama, in this sense, should avoid the issue that should cut automatically in McCainâ€™s favor.
But the reality is, Obama has found a key vulnerability for McCain, and heâ€™s taking advantage of the opportunity.
His media-driven reputation notwithstanding, McCainâ€™s record on veteransâ€™ issues is actually something of an embarrassment. Brian Beutler reported in The Nation: