Friday, May 23, 2008

McCain: I’ve earned the right to screw the troops

The US Senate passed Jim Webb’s (D-VA) update of the GI Bill yesterday by a vote of 75 – 22. The Math will tell you that three senators did not cast a vote on this measure: one was Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), who was just this week diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor after suffering a seizure, one was Oklahoma’s own Tom Coburn (R)—and, honestly, who knows what’s going on inside his head—and the third? That would be presumptive Republican presidential nominee, part-time Arizona senator, and full-time asshole John W. McCain.

McCain—who, by the way, did you know, was a POW in Vietnam—was too busy insulting Ellen DeGeneres and attending two big-ticket Silicon Valley fundraisers to make it back to Washington to do his job vote. However, Johnny Mad Cow—who absolutely does NOT have anger-management problems, and I don’t give a FUCK who says otherwise!!!—still had time to dash off one of his patented vitriol-laced, uh, I mean, straight-talking missives to his likely opponent in November, Senator Barack Obama.

It is typical, but no less offensive that Senator Obama uses the Senate floor to take cheap shots at an opponent and easy advantage of an issue he has less than zero understanding of. Let me say first in response to Senator Obama, running for President is different than serving as President. The office comes with responsibilities so serious that the occupant can't always take the politically easy route without hurting the country he is sworn to defend. Unlike Senator Obama, my admiration, respect and deep gratitude for America's veterans is something more than a convenient campaign pledge. I think I have earned the right to make that claim.

. . . .

But I am running for the office of Commander-in-Chief. That is the highest privilege in this country, and it imposes the greatest responsibilities. It would be easier politically for me to have joined Senator Webb in offering his legislation. More importantly, I feel just as he does, that we owe veterans the respect and generosity of a great nation because no matter how generously we show our gratitude it will never compensate them fully for all the sacrifices they have borne on our behalf.

. . . .

I know that my friend and fellow veteran, Senator Jim Webb, an honorable man who takes his responsibility to veterans very seriously, has offered legislation with very generous benefits. I respect and admire his position, and I would never suggest that he has anything other than the best of intentions to honor the service of deserving veterans. Both Senator Webb and I are united in our deep appreciation for the men and women who risk their lives so that the rest of us may be secure in our freedom. And 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.

Now, Mc—wait, excuse me one second, can I just say, What an A-Hole!—sorry, where was I? Oh, yes, now McCain not only doesn’t take a backseat to anyone on military issues, he doesn’t take any seat at all! McCain not only missed the GI Bill vote, and multiple other votes concerning military matters, he was also absent from Thursday’s confirmation hearings for Generals David Patraeus and Ray Odierno before the Senate Armed Services Committee—a committee of which McCain is Ranking Member!

Did McCain have nothing to ask of or say to the next head of CENTCOM? Did the highest ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee have no questions for the next guy to run the pig circus we call the war in Iraq?

But hey, OK, little John, you were busy with things that were more important to you—it’s just one day, right?

Not right.

It was just last February when McCain chose to skip a vote that could have provided additional assistance for a quarter-million disabled veterans. He apparently couldn’t squeeze it in, even though he was in DC at the time, on his way to speak at the ultra conservative CPAC conference.

And then there was last year, where, by May, McCain had missed 10 of the first 14 votes on the Iraq War. (There is a partial list of important votes that McCain missed or used to vote against aid for troops or veterans here.)

And don’t forget, I’m just talking about military matters, here. McCain has missed any number of important votes (like every important environmental vote this session).

But, credit where credit is due—McCain is right: running for president is different from being president. You see, running for president is something you choose to do. How you run your campaign, where you go, whose endorsements you seek, whose money you take, how much time you spend campaigning and fundraising, those are all choices you get to make. Running for office is not a job.

Being president, however, is a job. One to which you are elected, sure, but once sworn in, you do have an obligation to show up and do what is expected by your constituents.

Why, it’s kind of like being a senator! Yeah, that’s it, it’s like being senator of the whole country. And if that is the case, then it looks like Senator Obama has McCain beat—Obama showed up for the GI Bill vote, and most of the other important military votes this Congress. (Hell, Johnny, even Senator Clinton—who we all know needs to do as much campaigning and fundraising as she can these days—took the time on Thursday to both vote on the GI Bill and other Iraq-related measures and fulfill her duties as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee by sticking around to question Patraeus and Odierno.)

All of which leaves me wondering where McNasty gets off attacking Obama about responsibility. . . specifically about the responsibility to serve his country.

It seems McCain is now implying that you can only serve your country as a member of the military—ridiculous on its face, but let me make one more point.

Since just after the end of the Vietnam War, the United States has had an all-volunteer force. That means (unlike a job to which you are elected) you can choose whether or not to serve. Of course, there are circumstances that might arise that make it seem like it would be the duty of most patriotic Americans to enlist, but these are (and should be) rare.

Senator Obama is considerably younger than John McCain. Born in 1961, Obama would have been eligible to enlist starting in 1979, and would have been of prime service age (18 – 27) through the end of the Reagan Administration. What great causes, what threats to our democracy might have convinced a young man to give up college, law school, or his work with the urban poor to join the US military?

Lebanon? Grenada?


So what comparison is McCain seeking to draw here exactly? Is he really telling all of America that unless we have served in the military—maybe unless we’ve seen combat—we are not qualified to question candidate and/or President McCain? Not that there aren’t plenty of active and retired military personnel who have big problems with McCain, but really, if they’re the only ones that McCain will tolerate, then, uh, wow!

No wonder he likes to say that he’s running for “Commander-in-Chief”—which is not a real position, just a nice turn of phrase—“president” sounds just way too, you know, civilian.

The last eight years have been scary enough with a guy who once went AWOL using the authority of the presidency to politicize the military and then have it serve his partisan domestic agenda. And this decade has been more than sad enough because the result of that misuse is a military stressed to the breaking point—and countless men and women who have been killed, maimed, or just ill-served by a Republican government that will not pony up to really support our troops. But imagine a “commander” that won’t countenance the counsel of civilians and can’t be bothered to do the minimum required of him to care for his fellow servicemen and women.

Imagine a president that, by virtue of his experience, believes he has earned the right to discount everyone else’s.

(cross-posted on The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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Blogger guy2k said...

PS This is not the first time that McCain has taken the time to write a poison pen letter to Obama. It goes back years!

I understand how important the opportunity to lead your party's effort to exploit this issue must seem to a freshman Senator, and I hold no hard feelings over your earlier disingenuousness. Again, I have been around long enough to appreciate that in politics the public interest isn't always a priority for every one of us. Good luck to you, Senator.

--John McCain, February 2006

8:24 AM  

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