Obama Puts Veterans Benefits on the Front Burner
One of the weekÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s more contentious disputes came between Barack Obama and John McCain over benefits for the troops, highlighted by McCainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s opposition to a bipartisan expansion of the GI Bill. Obama questioned McCainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t backing down, and seems anxious to make this a key campaign issue.
Barack Obama told veterans Saturday that he canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t understand why Republican John McCain opposes legislation that would provide college scholarships to people who have served in the U.S. military.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Now, let me be clear: No one can dispute John McCainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s love for this country or his concern for veterans. But hereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t understand. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t understand why John McCain would side with George Bush and oppose our plan to make college more affordable for our veterans,Ã¢â‚¬Â the Democratic presidential candidate said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“George Bush and John McCain may think our plan is too generous. I could not disagree more.Ã¢â‚¬Â [Ã¢â‚¬Â¦]
Obama, speaking to reporters aboard his plane Saturday, countered that the idea that he canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t speak on veteransÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ issues because he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t serve in the military Ã¢â‚¬Å“makes no sense whatsoever.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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,Ã¢â‚¬Â he added.This may seem counter-intuitive. McCain, given his military record and background, would seemingly have a lock on issues like veteransÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ benefits. Obama, in this sense, should avoid the issue that should cut automatically in McCainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s favor.
But the reality is, Obama has found a key vulnerability for McCain, and heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s taking advantage of the opportunity.
His media-driven reputation notwithstanding, McCainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s record on veteransÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ issues is actually something of an embarrassment. Brian Beutler reported in The Nation: