Obama Puts Veterans Benefits on the Front Burner

News & Politics

One of the week’s more contentious disputes came between Barack Obama and John McCain over benefits for the troops, highlighted by McCain’s opposition to a bipartisan expansion of the GI Bill. Obama questioned McCain’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 isn’t backing down, and seems anxious to make this a key campaign issue.

Barack Obama told veterans Saturday that he can’t understand why Republican John McCain opposes legislation that would provide college scholarships to people who have served in the U.S. military.
“Now, let me be clear: No one can dispute John McCain’s love for this country or his concern for veterans. But here’s what I don’t understand. I don’t understand why John McCain would side with George Bush and oppose our plan to make college more affordable for our veterans,� the Democratic presidential candidate said. “George Bush and John McCain may think our plan is too generous. I could not disagree more.� […]
Obama, speaking to reporters aboard his plane Saturday, countered that the idea that he can’t speak on veterans’ issues because he didn’t serve in the military “makes no sense whatsoever.�
“I didn’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,� he added.
This may seem counter-intuitive. McCain, given his military record and background, would seemingly have a lock on issues like veterans’ benefits. Obama, in this sense, should avoid the issue that should cut automatically in McCain’s favor.

But the reality is, Obama has found a key vulnerability for McCain, and he’s taking advantage of the opportunity.

His media-driven reputation notwithstanding, McCain’s record on veterans’ issues is actually something of an embarrassment. Brian Beutler reported in The Nation:

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