John McCain got all indignant on Barack Obama the other day for his comments on the recent GI benefits bill. Obama challenged McCain's opposition to the bill and his reasoning that it was "too generous" to soldiers serving this country. He did so right there on the Senate floor.
The senator from Illinois said he "couldn't disagree more" with John McCain.
This was apparently way out of line in Senator McCain's book. He trotted out his most forceful indignance for a reply. "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," he said in his response to Obama's Senate remarks. Apparently the conductor of the Straight Talk Express doesn't take to back talk.
And apparently the idea of debate with regard to policy is new to the Arizona senator now in his fourth term.
Does he really mean to suggest that Obama isn't in his right, or more like it, actually meeting his responsibilities, by advocating for a bill he supports, a bill that provides—yes— "generous" GI benefits?
McCain does get that idea about civilian leadership for this country and about the Senate as a place for civil civic debate, right? That is where you state your support for a bill and challenge those who oppose it, as a senator —right?
Obama responded to McCain's umbrage in comments to reporters on his campaign plane this past weekend.
"I've said before I respect John McCain's service to our country. But I think the notion that somehow I can't speak out on the behalf of veterans because of the fact I haven't served makes no sense whatsoever.''
It might be troubling to consider what John McCain's opposition to the GI benefits bill says of his attitude towards our soldiers. In my view what is most unsettling is what it says of his attitude towards the country they come from.
McCain argues that the bill might discourage troops from re-enlisting. They might "only" serve one enlistment term of duty and then "opt out" for this attractive nuisance of an education benefit.
And besides, he says, the thing's too expensive.
Excuse me. Isn't the education benefit meant to offer an enticement to volunteers —more volunteers, as well as reward the service of those already enlisted? Shouldn't our policy be to encourage more Americans to serve in the armed forces? McCain's plainly stated approach is that it is more practical to compel more from those already serving. With the economy sputtering and the cost of education far beyond the reach of existing veteran's tuition benefits there exist certain "incentives" for soldiers, at least those on a certain rung on the economic ladder, to sign on for repeated enlistments. They tend to realize these "incentives" when they notice the next rung up on that ladder is broken or missing.
That particular status quo might be the most politically practicable course.
That don't make it right.
Haven't we seen enough stories about how overstrapped the military has been by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Not just the military as some sort of over-stretched institutional body, but the actual soldiers serving are suffering through these wars. Repeated and repeated extended dangerous deployments. It's called "Burn out."
The burden is borne by too damn few.
And here the most enthusiastic supporter for an open ended military presence in Iraq would treat those serving as a captive populace whose options shouldn't be "too generously" expanded.
It's not right.
Oh, and on the notion that the bill would simply be too expensive —only harken to the GI Bill that rewarded the troops who served in WWll. It's only the best money this country ever spent. We got back every penny of that investment in education many times over in the form of a better educated, higher earning, more productive American workforce. It practically created the middle class in this country.
Ah, but we shouldn't criticize the Arizona Senator for some fuzzy reasoning on that aspect. He already warned us that the economy isn't his thing.