Tuesday, May 27, 2008

John McCain on Political Expedience

John McCain opposes Senator Jim Webb's updated GI bill citing that his opposition to the bill was the principled and right view and not the politically expedient viewpoint. For your reference the bill is officially titled: WEBB-HAGEL-LAUTENBERG-WARNER G.I. BILL “POST-9/11 VETERANS EDUCATIONAL ASSISTANCE ACT” (S.22). McCain supports another bill, the Enhancement of Recruitment, Retention and Readjustment Through Education Act (S.2938), which I will compare later (at least to some degree).

First some background. Both the S.22 bill and it's Republican alternative S.2938, serve as an updated GI bill in the same scope as the GI Bill that was introduced to our armed forces post WWII. This is especially important at the present time as the military is finding it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain members during a war that has entered its 5th year.

McCain argues that he knows the military better than supporters like presidential candidate, Barack Obama, and that support for Senator Webb's bill is political and not based on sound reason. He argues that passage of the GI bill will hurt retention by encouraging service members to leave the military to go back to school. This is not a subject I'm going to tackle today, but I do think that McCain's train of thought is short sighted and mistaken. The original Montgomery GI Bill was not created for purposes of retention, the spirit of the bill was to reward our men and women in the military for their service to their country, to avoid a post-war abundance of job seekers, and to stave off a post-WWII depression. Until I write something with more depth, I would refer you to Jim Webb's fact sheet on the subject for now. http://webb.senate.gov/pdf/factsheetgi52208.pdf

Now what is curious about McCain calling this support politically expedient is two-fold.

First, the Senate passed this bill 75-22. 75!! This is in a Senate that has a hard time passing any kind of legislation together. Tell me more. The bill had 58 co-sponsors including:

Daniel Akaka (D)- Chairman of the Committee on Veteran's Affairs & WWII Army veteran
(actually all of the WWII vets in the Senate are co-sponsors, Akaka, Inouye, Lautenberg, and Warner)
Chuck Hagel (R)- Vietnam Veteran
Jim Inhofe (R)- "Mr. Global Warming is a Hoax!" and Army veteran withdrew sponsorship
Richard Lugar(R)- Navy veteran
Arlen Specter(R)- Airforce veteran
John Warner(R)- Navy and Marine Corps veteran, WWII veteran, and former Secretary of the Navy
and of course...
Jim Webb(D)- Vietnam War veteran, Marine Corps veteran, former Assistant Secretary of Defense, and former Secretary of the Navy

Oh I guess I should add that this bill is "endorsed by all major military and veterans’ associations but is opposed by the Pentagon and VA"- Army Times. (The Pentagon and McCain think the bill will hurt retention in the military and the VA thinks it will create too much work for them)

In fact, almost every single Senate member with military experience is a co-sponsor (interesting note, I had no idea such a large number of Senators had military experience). So what McCain is trying to tell me is that all of these Senators that decided to co-sponsor the bill were doing so because of political expedience? All of them. I am supposed to believe that John McCain is one of the few members of the US Senate with military experience that is being principled and not doing it to look good, and not doing it because it's in the best interests of our troops and veterans? I have a hard time believing that McCain has a monopoly on straight talk and truthiness.

The second aspect to McCain's opposition is the fact that he supports a gas tax holiday. Let's talk about political expedience. Not one economist in the country thinks a gas tax holiday is a good idea. The experts, unanimously think it's a bad idea and McCain thinks it's the right thing to do, am I now supposed to believe that the straight talk express is supporting the right move and not the politically expedient one? McCain, politically willing to say anything, showing his age, or secretly right?