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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Veterans’ Best… Enemy

Published: October 3, 2008
Section: Opinions

It’s Saturday morning, the day after the Sept. 27 Presidential debate. I’ve had some time to think about what the candidates had to say, and I’m sure I will have plenty of topics to write about over the next few weeks. But first, I have a little bone to pick with John McCain.

Senator McCain, throughout this campaign you have used your personal story of being a POW as a way to obtain the mantle of “veteran’s best friend”. It has served you well, allowing you to win the Republican nomination and engage in a close race for the presidency, but I don’t think it is quite fair. You see, Senator, some of your recent comments and your actions in the Senate have caused me to seriously question your dedication to our men and women in uniform.

Allow me to present you with some examples. Why, Senator, do you believe it is necessary for our troops to achieve “victory” in Iraq in order to return home “with honor”? First, General Patraeus himself recently stated in an interview that he did not know if he would ever use the word “victory” in regard to Iraq. But more to the point, shouldn’t we honor our troops for their service no matter what happens during war? Haven’t they performed admirably and done everything we have asked them to do throughout this war?

And why Senator, do you think the soldiers who have already given their lives in this fight will have “died in vain” if the end result is not exactly what we want it to be? Do they not deserve to be honored for dying for their country?

Ah, but I’m sure that you and your supporters will find some ways to brush off my accusations.

“Look at the record,” you will say, as if your words alone are enough to reassure us skeptics. As if we should believe that your veteran status requires you to support veterans across America.

I looked at the record. And I tell you, what I found appalled me. I will include my findings here for all who are curious, and for you, Senator McCain, whose memory, I must admit, I find to be lax at times.

In November 1991, you voted against providing automatic annual cost-of-living adjustments for veterans’ benefits.

In September 1995, you voted for an appropriations bill that underfunded the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development by about $8.9 billion.

In October 2000, you voted against a bill that provided $47 billion for the Department of Veterans affairs, a bill that only seven other Senators opposed.

In April 2003, you urged your fellow Senators to table a vote to provide over $1 billion for National Guard and Reserve equipment in Iraq, even after it had become clear that more equipment was necessary.

In October 2003, you voted to table an amendment by Senator Chris Dodd that called for $322,000,000 in safety equipment for US forces in Iraq.

In March 2004, you voted against the creation of a reserve fund that would allow veterans’ medical care to be increased by $1.8 billion, because it would have had to be paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes.

In March 2006, you voted against increasing veterans’ medical services by $1.5 billion, because, once again, it would have had to be paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes.

In May 2006, you voted against an amendment that called for $20 million to be provided to the Department of Veterans affairs for health care facilities.

In September 2007, you voted against the Webb Amendment that called for adequate troop rest between deployments.

This year, you showed contempt for the 21st Century GI Bill that was lauded by Senators Jim Webb (D-VA) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE), who, like you, are both Vietnam veterans. The bill called for, among other things, increased educational benefits for returning veterans. But you thought the bill was too “generous”, and you didn’t even show up to vote on it.

Honestly, Senator McCain, it’s difficult to find an instance where you have supported legislation that will support our troops. Perhaps that explains why you received a 20 percent rating from the non-partisan Disabled American Veterans, and a “D” grade from the non-partisan Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America. Perhaps that explains why men and women serving overseas have donated six times more money to Senator Obama’s campaign than to yours.

Found another group of friends, Senator? Because you sure don’t seem to like your fellow veterans very much.