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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Think You Know John McCain?

He chose fund-raising over supporting vets

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Last week’s Senate vote on the 21st-Century GI Bill was unusual. The 75-vote veto-proof majority of senators approved long-overdue tuition increases and educational aid for returning veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those who voted “yea” included Wisconsin’s two senators, Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl; Democrats such as veterans John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.); and 24 Republicans, including Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), John Warner (R-Va.) and Arlen Specter (R-Penn.).

  The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs and the largest organization of combat veterans in the nation, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), supported the bill. So where was presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain during this rare bipartisan, pro-veteran vote? Fund-raising in Silicon Valley, where rich folks could pay $25,000 for a picture taken with the straight-talking Republican, or merely attend an event for $2,300 a pop.

  Even though McCain didn’t vote for or against the bill, the Arizona senator has verbally opposed it, claiming that it was too generous to the men and women who have served on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11. McCain developed his own version of a GI Bill, which would have reduced the amount of tuition granted to returning war vets and would have excluded members of the Reserves and National Guard who have served in Iraq. McCain said that granting vets the upgraded educational benefits would encourage combat veterans to leave the military and get an education instead of returning to the front lines of the war.

  “Our bill has a sliding scale that offers generous benefits to all veterans, but increases those benefits according to the veteran's length of service,” McCain stated in a rambling press release. “I think it is important to do that because, otherwise, we will encourage more people to leave the military after they have completed one enlistment.”

  While fund-raising in California, McCain also missed Gen. David Petraeus’ confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee. (Democratic candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton attended instead of campaigning.) If confirmed, Petraeus will become the CentCom commander and lead American forces in the Middle East and Central Asia.

  If McCain is elected in November, he’ll become a war president. Is it too much to ask for him to vote on veterans’ benefits and thoroughly evaluate the general who will oversee the war that McCain has long championed?

What’s your take? Write: editor@shepex.com or comment on this story online at www.expressmilwaukee.com.

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