May 26th, 2008
01:00 PM ET
10 years ago

McCain focuses on GI Bill, Iraq on Memorial Day

John McCain said veterans deserve better treatment.

John McCain said veterans deserve better treatment.

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (CNN) – John McCain spent Memorial Day focusing on his own military history, the war in Iraq and the debate over veterans’ benefits.

“The sacrifices made by veterans deserve to be memorialized in something more lasting than marble or bronze or in the fleeting effect of a politician's speeches,” McCain told veterans and their families gathered under a cloudless sky at the New Mexico Veterans’ Memorial. “Your valor and devotion to duty have earned your country's abiding concern for your welfare. And when our government forgets to honor our debts to you, it is a stain upon America's honor.”

The presumptive Republican nominee made no mention of Barack Obama. McCain drew fire from the Illinois senator last week for his opposition to a GI Bill proposed by fellow veteran Sen. Jim Webb. The measure passed the Senate last week.

In a tersely worded statement last week, McCain responded, “I take a backseat to no one in my affection, respect and devotion to veterans. And I will not accept from Senator Obama, who did not feel it was his responsibility to serve our country in uniform, any lectures on my regard for those who did.”

On Monday, McCain said again that he felt Webb’s bill unfairly provides the same benefits to troops who had only served one tour of duty as it did to those who serve longer.

McCain, along with Sens. Lindsey Graham and Richard Burr, has proposed veterans’ benefits legislation that works on a sliding scale. The plan would provide incentives for the enlisted - especially noncommissioned officers - to remain longer in a military that has struggled under the strain of two simultaneous conflicts, in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

“It would be easier politically for me to have joined Sen. Webb in offering his legislation,” McCain said Monday, adding later that “I intend to deserve the honor [of the presidency] if I am fortunate to receive it, even if it means I must take politically unpopular positions at times and disagree with people for whom I have the highest respect and affection.”

McCain closed his remarks saying he recognizes the country is growing tired of the war and the mistakes that were made, “But we cannot react to those mistakes by embracing a course of action that will be an even greater mistake, a mistake of colossal historical proportions.”

“We must give General Petraeus and the Americans he has the honor to command adequate time to salvage from the wreckage of our past mistakes a measure of stability for Iraq and the Middle East, and a more secure future for the American people,” said McCain.

McCain attends a fundraiser in Albuquerque Monday afternoon before flying to Colorado, where he will deliver a speech on foreign policy Tuesday morning.

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Filed under: John McCain
soundoff (132 Responses)
  1. Ray

    Yeah, because that one tour of duty isn't anywhere close to the number of tours needed for your 100 yr war. Stand up for our veterans rights to a college education. Cut the BS. George W's 3rd Term. More of McSame...

    May 26, 2008 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  2. Larry Buchas

    Mr. McCain says Barack can't speak on veterans issues because he served the military and Barack did not.

    Did he ever tell Bush and Cheney the same?

    The truth is John McCain has repeatedly voted against supporting veterans.

    McCain Voted Against $19 Billion for Military Hospitals. In February 2006, McCain voted against an amendment that would have provided for at least $19 billion for military health facilities, paid for by eliminating tax cuts for the wealthiest earners.
    *Senate Amendment 2735, Amendment failed.

    McCain Voted Against Legislation to Provide $2.8 Billion For Medical Care for Veterans. McCain voted against a 2006 Democratic amendment that would have provided $2.8 billion to increase veterans’ medical care.
    *Senate Amendment 149, Amendment failed.

    McCain Voted Against Establishing $1 Billion Trust Fund to Provide Improvements to Military and Veterans’ Health Facilities. McCain voted against an Amendment to establish a $1 billion trust fund to provide improvements to health facilities that treat veterans and military personnel to lapse on December 31, 2006.
    *Senate Amendment 2735

    McCain voted Against Adding $1.5 billion to Veterans’ Medical Services in 2007 Budget by Closing Corporate Tax Loopholes. McCain voted against an Amendment offered by Democrats to increase medical services funding to veterans by $1.5 billion in 2007.
    *Senate Amendment 3007

    McCain Voted Against Mandatory Funding of $6.9 Billion in 2007 Budget and $104 Billion Over Five Years for Veterans' Health Care.
    McCain voted against a Democratic amendment to provide a mandatory stream of funding of $6.9 billion in Fiscal Year 2007 and $104 billion over five years for veterans' health care.
    Senate Amendment 3141

    September 2007: McCain voted against the Webb amendment calling for adequate troop rest between deployments.

    May 26, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  3. Cathy in MD

    What an American hero John McCain is. He has sacrificed in unimaginable ways for his country. I believe he is a decent, well-intentioned human being. He will always have my respect for this. He will not, however, be the kind of President our country needs so desperately right now. Obama ’08.

    May 26, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  4. No McSame

    I am a Navy veteran and I voted and will vote again for Obama.
    What kind of person would hold out or refuse benefits to vets just to try to keep them from getting out of the service? Give Americans a reason to fight and we will lay it all down, it has been proven time after time. You used 911 to get the good natured Americans to do you dirty work in Iraq. Osama is still out there and your daddy Georga Bush never even says his name. Shame on you John McSame As Bush.
    CNN do a poll with veterans and see what we think about McSames choice not to vote for the new GI Bill.
    Keith (tell it like it is) Olbermann Press Secretary

    May 26, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  5. Dem in Texas

    I adore McCain and am so glad he's finally going to be our president. It's about time.

    May 26, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  6. Ellie in Aurora, CO

    No country for [cranky] old men!!

    May 26, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  7. Justin from West Haven, CT

    McCain doesn't care about the troops.

    May 26, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  8. Conservative Buyer- CA

    Dear McCain,

    Obama is looking out for the Vets that are now found homeless and with nothing in the streets. Obama also wants better benefits to take care of our war heroes in an effort to encourage more enlistments. Obama will increase education benefits, severance pay benefits, and home funding benefits.

    Mr. McCain, your argument is flawed when you discard opposition from Obama simply because he never wore the uniform. What you are basically saying is we can't talk to you if we don't serve in the military ourselves.

    Your "DOUBLE TALK EXPRESS" STOPS HERE. Ron Paul wore the uniform and you avoided him like the plague in debates. McCain you avoided Ron Paul because he verbally owned you. You couldn't deal against Ron Paul and you're going to do worse with Obama.

    So will you only talk to these Facist Jacksonian Republicans that support the idea of putting away their individual civil liberties, in order to make the nation stronger through military means alone.

    STOP McCain!

    May 26, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  9. Ray

    Let me put this presidential race into perspective using a sports analogy. If you were a NBA franchise and were trying to decide between drafting a young superstar, i.e. a Lebron James or Kobe Bryant, or aquiring a run down "seasoned" vet, like a Robert Horry (no disrespect), who would you pick? I'd say 9 out of 10 would pick Lebron or Kobe. Obama is of the stature of a Lebron or Kobe. McCain is like Robert Horry. Most people are probably like, "robbert who?" My point exactly...

    May 26, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  10. No crankypants

    Why does McBush always seem so... angry? He rants and raves and says nothing about how he would make lives better for the real people of this country.

    He's just TOO old, too mean-spirited. A hypocrite, as well. What this country needs is change, not more of the same old white men running the show any way they want.

    Clintons gave us corporate out-sourcing and deregulation of just about everything.

    Bushes gave us war, big government and nothing to show for it but debt.

    It's time for change. Yes, we can.

    May 26, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  11. Proud US Army Combat Veteran

    "On Monday, McCain said again that he felt Webb’s bill unfairly provides the same benefits to troops who had only served one tour of duty as it did to those who serve longer."

    Riddle me this: if I get shot on my first day of my first tour, or the last day of my 3rd tour, am I any less dead in the former scenario than I am the latter scenario?

    Will my family grieve for me less in the first scenario than in the second?

    BTW, who are the "one-tour wonders" in this new era of Stop-Loss?

    Senator McCain, my daddy always said the guilty dog barks loudest. You should have voted for the bill, and let your actions do all the announcing.

    Shame on you, sir.

    May 26, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  12. robbie


    May 26, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  13. Jack

    No John doesn't take the back seat, he's right up front on tax breaks for his special interests and the vets can get some of the trickle down crumbs!

    John McCain is all for sending troops into harms way but, ask him to "PAY" for those troops then he wants to borrow into the future. Well John, if you were up front, then you would tax your rich friends (and wife) to pay for George Bush and your adventures!

    John McCain is perfectly happy to tax the very people he wants to send out to serve and give special interest breaks to his rich friends.

    Wake up America – It's time the corrupt GOP got out of Washington!

    May 26, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  14. No crankypants

    Personally, I hope to see an Obama/Hagel ticket. Obama because I believe he has what it takes to bring change and Hagel, because he is also a Vietnam vet, a critic of the war in Iraq, is for comprehensive immigration change, and isn't afraid to cross over political lines to get the job done right.

    Compare that to McBush's so-called "maverick" status and I think you see the difference between a poser and a true patriot.

    May 26, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  15. albert griffith

    all i gotta say is john mccain starting to look more and more like Bob Dole,much respect to Obama and much respect to republican Chuck Hagel and Ron Paul!!!!!

    May 26, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  16. D.Kimbro OHIO

    Larry Buchas!!!!

    Wow, finally an intellectual. Thank you for doing your research, instead of just stating how poor his record is, cite examples. You are someone to be admired. Sorry that you effort is wasted in this forum, people only want to hear how inexperienced, or sexist Obama is. Maybe they will wake up soon..

    May 26, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  17. steve

    if you're using sports metaphors, then coach is more relevant for president, do you want a coach for national team who has never proved his skill or one with vast experience, and who was tortured for 5 years for the team, by an opposing team, could have been benched but kept playing

    May 26, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  18. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    McCain hasn't done anything for veterans. Recently he didn't vote for veterans to receive a stimulous check nor has he done anything to enforce veteran benefits. McCain needs to talk about his service to Bush/Cheney and their non-service to the military while he voted to send our troops into a senseless war. McCain is no more than an opportunist.

    May 26, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  19. Vig

    Obama has a bad habit of "lecturing" – whether it's about the Vets, the war in Iraq, Hillary Clinton, or anything else. McCain doesn't mince words. All Obama does is "use" words for his own self-aggrandizements. I can't believe he is still "winning". As once said, "there's a sucker born every minute" and America seems to be saturated with them.

    May 26, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  20. Guess what!

    McCain went tot he Naval Academy. He got went for 4 years for free. He only had to serve a 5 year committment, but chose to do 20. Why can't veterans now do the same. His position is why educate them-if you do they will leave. We only need stupid foot soldiers. Look at Army recruiting. They will take darn near any one, including felons.

    May 26, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  21. paul oregon

    maccain likes to be refered as a american hero . he has a long ways to go to get to that status.he is just like the clintons sorry peathic
    excuse for a human beging

    May 26, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  22. Gary Chandler in Canada

    Have you seen the latest on the Internet BLOGS concerning McCain's pastor, Dan Yeary?
    First we had Wright saying 9/11 was God's punishment, then Hagee saying the breaking of the levees after Katrina was God's punishment.
    Now, get this!, Yeary is on record as saying God told Noah to build an ark before inflicting punishment?
    Is it no longer safe for any politician to belong to a religious organisation?
    It is true that the Wright situation is different than the Hagee/Parsley one. Obama attended the church for 20 years. However it only took McCain 20 minutes to fall head over heels for these bad interpreters of Biblical prophesy.
    You can view McCain on UTube calling them 'great leaders of America', "spiritual guides". who "should speak for his campaign". You can't find Obama saying Wright should run the country! Yes, that is a big difference.

    May 26, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  23. Wayne

    O well, McSame is toast anyways !

    May 26, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  24. martin

    you don't support our veterans rights to a full education,after you send them to war?did you stab your fellow soldier's in the back,during the vietnam war,too?what a pathetic,sir,are unpatriotic ,and the reason [along with bush and hillary],for running our country into the ground!

    May 26, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  25. Milo M., Sarasota, FL

    Apparently, Mr. McCain doesn't think that three years in Iraq quite entitles one to a scholarship. But hey, McCain was a vet (albeit an independently wealthy one), so he obviously knows what's best for all veterans. And what they apparently need is less benefits. Thanks, Senator!

    May 26, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
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