May 26th, 2008
01:00 PM ET
6 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. jonas

    warning! DONT vote for McCain, vote for a democrat. please....

    May 26, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  2. JC

    Senator McCain is definitely not for wars.
    If he were for wars and revenge, he would have voted for waterboarding.

    Today is the day we thank him for his honorable military service for our country. War is hell and Senator McCain knows it first hand. Although he wouldn't mind whatever you said here as he is all for the freedom of speech, I once read a posting, possibly by a veteran, that can be shared here on this Memorial Day. "You don't fit to lick John McCain's boots."

    May 26, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  3. Terry in Fl

    As a veteran who served during a time when NO educational benefits were offered, I agree with Mccain. Full college tution for every single veteran will cost way too much and I think certain incentives should be in place to "earn" college money. For example, serving in a war zone, serving 10 + years, or 50% service connected disability. Just serving 3 years is not grounds for taxpayers to pay 4 years of college for someone. Obama is just pandering to the military and veterans to get their vote. McCain knows what he is talking about as far as the military and veterans are concerned. Obama doesn't know squat and should keep his mouth shut until he is willing to serve. He just want's to fill the services with AA's so that they can get a free ride thru college, thus creating a more educated population of AA's and on and on from there. Figure it out.

    May 26, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  4. MattH

    Ray,
    Way to go, distort McCain's words and then launch into a series of complete non sequiturs.
    How clever.
    *sigh*

    May 26, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  5. HillarySkank on myspace

    One tour or 100. It is all the same Mr. McCain. These men and women are fighting in a war that you and Hillary voted to allow. The least we can do is give them education benefits for one single tour of duty in a war zone. I served 27 years active duty and anyone of our young people that you deem is not worthy of being rewarded with educational benifits can gladly claim any/all of my time in service.

    Yes, your comments about the 100 years in Iraq may have been taken out of context, but your turning your back on this countries finest have not. I'm ashamed of your position and your pandering. What happened to the John McCain of 8 years ago is what I want to know.

    May 26, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  6. Extinct

    McCain is unstable. How can he differentiate like that between people who put their lives on the line for their country. Maybe he could enact a bill that determines veterans' benefits on whether or not they were ever shot at. He's either playing some kind of game or is really out of touch with reality. How about sailors or commanders who might serve from afar and not directly on the battle field? Couldn't one tour in the field be more dangerous than ten tours from a commander's post, yet they are both veterans. Get a grip McCain. What the heck give Hillary some veteran's benefits. Wasn't she shot at by sniper's in Bosnia? I guess McCain never needed the GI Bill when he got back from duty.

    May 26, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  7. Dan from Portland

    Has Barack Obama been to Iraq in the last four years? NO

    Has Barack Obama had discussions with
    General Petraeus about Iraq? NO

    Barack knows nothing and does nothing. NO Bama

    May 26, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  8. Stefan

    John McCain is making a serious mistake in not embracing the new G. I. Bill. The measure has enough bipartisan support to override any presidential veto. When President Bush signs the bill into law McCain will regret his "politically unpopular" stance.

    May 26, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  9. captain

    We MUST invade Iraq because of a "mushroom cloud."
    We MUST stay in Iraq because of a "genocide."

    Republican foreign policy...in action!!

    May 26, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  10. JC

    In case you don't know, Senator McCain's son is currently serving in the Marine Corps, who just returned from Iraq in the spring.

    Why would he vote against the military and his own son?

    I have not decided whom to vote for in November. I only know I will not vote for Hillary, as I can no longer stand more American dynasties. No more Clinton or Bush!

    However, I cannot stay silent watching people smearing a good man like Senator McCain.

    May 26, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  11. s.positive

    SHAME YOU COULD NOT SEE THE BENEFIT OF THE GI BILL FOR OUR SOLDIERS.

    May 26, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  12. patrick

    Well thank god that libertarian candidate Barr came out. This could get very , very interesting for Mccain.

    May 26, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  13. pv

    Some of these comments are ludicrous. All you Obama fans, get a clue! McCain's plan starts by giving a one-tour veteran $15,000/ yr for school. Then, for those who reenlist the benefits increase. What's so hard to understand about that?! Doesn't it make sense to give a soldier who reenlists an added bonus/incentive?! Shame on
    B Obama for political grandstanding on the Senate floor, esp. when his opposition makes a valid argument. Instead of arguing the merits of his (Webb's) plan, he throws cheapshots. But then again, what more do people expect of Obama. I am more convinced now than ever before, that Obama does not belong in the Oval Office.

    May 26, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  14. Dave, SC

    CNN likes to publish freely liberal comments here but they will never publish fair views here. Barack Obama, Jim Webb do not deserve to question John McCain. We have 100% faith in John McCain and on this memorial day, I wish him well and preay that he will be our next president. Barack, Jiom and liberals who write here, just go away.You have no right to criticise John McCain when it comes to military matters.

    May 26, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  15. Connie Sturgeon

    I believe that serving in the military is each persons choice. Good for John McCain for his service to our country. I have a brother that was shot in World War 2 and lost a lung, he was not presidential material either. Will his comments also make his choice for V.P. have to be a person that served , now that he has set the standard. Also his not wanting to vote for service men and women not to getting money for college after serving only three years is bull. Of course with his and Cindy"s money his kids did not need to worry about paying for college. OBAMA 08

    Connie from Indiana

    May 26, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  16. garrick

    as a disable vet myself,i cant beleive that McCain or should i say McBush is a vet,he had a gi bill and went to school.I think he is to old and dont remember what the hell hes voting on,I think he need to be checked for PTSD or Old Timers

    May 26, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  17. Joe

    OK, let me see, John McCain is criticizing Barack Obama for not serving in the military. First off, was John McCain critical of President Bush's military service (which, because his family could afford to keep him out of active duty amounted to not even showing up for duty with the National Guard)? If he did, I missed that.

    I am not going to take anything away from Senator McCain military service. He and others who fought in Vietnam are owed a debt of gratitude. But that doesn't mean they are owed the presidency.

    Barack Obama game of age in a different time in our country. When we didn't have a draft and (for the most part during the time when he would have been in the prime for military service), when our country was not a war. For John McCain to not get that distinction shows that he is from a generation past - and frankly is a part of the old guard in political circles when military service was almost a requirement for public office.

    This election needs to be about the future - not the past. Too bad, John McCain doesn't get that.

    May 26, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  18. Mimi De La Cruz for OBAMA

    SI SE PUEDE AND WE WILL.

    ALSO MCBIGOT LIKES LATINOS AS MUCH AS HE LIKES

    AFRICAN AMERICANS. WE NEED TO TRY TO GET A HOLIDAY

    JUST SO HE CAN VOTE IT DOWN. HE LOVES THE VETS TOO

    BUT THEY CAN'T HAVE ANY MONEY FOR SCHOOL, & HE TREATS

    OUR TAX DOLLARS AS HIS OWN. THE VETS WILL GET THEIR

    COLLEGE MONEY FOR SURE. OBAMA WILL SE TO IT. HE WANTS

    AN INTELLIGENT ARMED FORCES & NO VETS LIVING IN THE

    STREET.

    May 26, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  19. Cruz R

    Hi Mr. McCain,
    As a Veteran I find it totally unacceptable for a former Veteran, who does not serve and has gotten as far in life as he has, place another block or obstacle on our young people to move forward? Did he forget that this is a volunteer Army and that if we decide to stay in, we stay in regardless? Most people go into the military because we cannot afford to pay for college, so I guess he wants to keep the little guy down or make it harder for him to get up.
    Sen. McCain you should be ashamed of yourself, you have become a true politician and have obviously forgotten where you came from. I am one of those NCO’s you talk about and my Dad served in Vietnam as you did and he is just as angry and upset as I am, and he was shot in the head while serving for the 101st Airborne Division, so he is not mentally all there and he even knows that you are dead wrong…..what a shame.
    Happy Memorial Day…..JA!!!!

    May 26, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  20. Go Barak and Michelle Obama!

    FACT:
    a 21 year old soldier who's served 3 years in active duty has missed 3 years of a college opportunity. What does it matter how long one has served?

    FACT:
    go to Arizona(McSame state) and do a head count of all the Vets w/out adequate healthcare, homes, mental stablilty services, unemployment, etc

    FACT:

    Senator John McCain himself should know better, since he boasts of his verteran-status.. if there is one state that we should be able to look to for examples of his admiration and devotion to vets, its Arizona..and that aint happened ladies and gents

    FACT:

    We arnt calling him McSame for nothin'!

    May 26, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  21. FactCheck

    So let me get this straight... McCain is all for sustaining prolonged engagements all over the world but doesn't even have the decency to support a bill that would give just a few more (miniscule) benefits to the men and women that are supposed to do this work? Sound every bit like the corporate CEO that he actually is.

    May 26, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  22. FactCheck

    > Has Barack Obama been to Iraq in the last four years? NO

    Have you? Then shut the hell up!

    May 26, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  23. Honest man for Obama

    Has Hillary Clinton found someone to do her dirty job on Obama yet?

    She is waiting until June for possible disaster comes June against Obama when he maybe unable to continue, then she will get the nomination. Sorry Hillary you will not be in Obama ticket and Nothing will happen to him by God's grace. Amen. We pray for him and his family everyday and hours for protection and sense of leadership.

    So, she has no plan to win the nomination unless something happen to Obama. Not funny guys, she need to be investigated and there should be more security in Obama's rallies.

    Petty that a great woman end her bid for white house race with such a disgrace.

    May 26, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  24. BIG ED

    FedEx founder Frederick W. Smith advice. ..he want wsoldier working as a package handler..

    May 26, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  25. dwho

    Yeh, right. GI Bill and Iraq. Now it not too generous for men and women serving to get such a bill because McCain wants votes. Pretence, pretence and pretence.

    May 26, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
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