On veterans education bill, Dole backs Obama over McCain

May 23, 2008

WASHINGTON – Former U.S. Sen Bob Dole is a leading advocate for war veterans and a longtime Republican ally of presidential candidate John McCain, but on Friday he sided with Democrat Barack Obama to endorse a bill the Arizona senator opposes to raise benefits for former soldiers.

The legislation passed by the Senate on Thursday is at the heart of a fierce spat rtr1nj7z.jpgbetween McCain and his Obama, the Illinois senator closing in on the Democratic presidential nomination. Obama questioned McCain’s commitment to veterans, while the Republican candidate blasted the Obama’s lack of military service.

“I’m for the concept … I probably would have voted for it, if we get the money,” Dole told the National Press Club in an appearance spiced liberally with his trademark political wit. He acknowledged, “I haven’t read it, which is not a requirement in Congress.”

The bill would increase education benefits for war veterans. Dole likened the current political battle to the one over the narrowly approved post-World War Two G.I. Bill, which generously funded college education and other benefits for soldiers and became wildly popular.

“I’m for it. That’s how I got an education,” said Dole, who was severely wounded in the war.

McCain said the Senate bill would encourage too many soldiers to leave the military after one term.

Dole’s appearance came ahead of the Memorial Day weekend honoring U.S war dead. He gave a progress report on veterans health care, saying it was improving under recommendations of a panel he helped lead following revelations of shabby facilities at the Army’s Walter Reed hospital.

But in a question-and-answer session Dole also offered views on this year’s presidential race, from the perspective of an 84-year-old elder statesman who lost to Bill Clinton in the 1996 presidential campaign and to Walter Mondale in the 1976 vice-presidential race.

Dole addressed issues including:

— Republican electoral chances, which he said were hurt by the Iraq war and weak economy: “It’s a tough year for elephants (Republicans).”

— McCain’s rejection of a conservative pastor’s endorsement, after controversies over derogatory statements about Jews and Catholics: He characterized his own decision to reject a donation from a gay-and-lesbian Republican group in the 1996 campaign as “stupid.”

“My view should have been … what Ronald Reagan’s view was. If they agree with my policies and want to support me, that’s fine.”

— McCain’s health report, released on Friday:  “If age is an issue, I’ll serve with him.”

Dole would have been 73 had he won in 1996 at age 73. McCain turns 72 in August and would be the oldest person elected to a first term as president.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Bob Dole, right, with President George W. Bush and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala at a meeting on veterans’ health care in March 2007)


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I don’t know if this is a correct “paraphrase” or not, but I’ll give Mr. Mikkelsen the benefit of the doubt, i.e., “McCain said the Senate bill would encourage too many soldiers to leave the military after one term.”

Using that as a pivot point, I’ll now say this.

If there is one thing that will encourage Our Best & Finest to ETS at the end of one, two, three or any number of enlistments…it is neglecting them, e.g., why in the world does the president of the United States have to inspect substandard barracks in order to certify their demolition?

Insofar as the GI Bill (regardless of which war) is concerned: My father used it after he separated as an infantry captain in 1946, upon returning from World War II (Germany). I used it while still on active duty after returning from Vietnam in 1967.

The bigger the benefits the better, in my view.

Number crunching a GI Bill (or any other Veteran benefit) is pretty stupid politically…and particularly if the politician doing the crunching is running for president in the middle of a war!

Nobody will remember the technicalities of why Mr. McCain didn’t vote for the latest rendition of the GI Bill. All that will be remembered is that he didn’t vote to improve the lot of Our Best & Finest.

What could this man be thinking? Perhaps it is as they say, that Mr. McCain’s mind is wandering off in the same direction of that of Mr. Bush, i.e., uncharted territory where no man has gone before (and shouldn’t).


Posted by Jack | Report as abusive

I believe Senator McCain has again been misunderstood.

At any rate, from what I’ve heard from Senator Obama, I do not believe he will do anything he says he will do. He seems to be parroting what others are saying that sounds good. I have absolutely no confidence in his words at all and there are no past actions in which to reference his deeds, including his voting record or anything in his past that would lead me to believe his word is good.

We truly know little about this young man except what’s coming out of his mouth. He is definately good at words.

Now, Senator McCain has a proven record, especially with his military service and his dedication to veterans. He will go over and beyond for our veterans because he has said he will. From Senator McCain’s past record, I believe him. I do not believe Senator Obama.

Posted by windy | Report as abusive

Like Dole who is from my state, I haven’t read the bill. Didn’t know it wasn’t a requirement to read a bill before voteing on it. Wonder if either McCain or Obama have read it before making their comments? When I was in college in the mid to late ’60s my best friend attended on his GI benefits and helped him and his family alot.

Posted by Jack from Kansas | Report as abusive

[…] en s’emparant du thème du jour (la loi pour les vétérans, sur laquelle les démocrates ont doublé le candidat républicain, et la guerre en Irak, qu’il continue à défendre tout en […]

Posted by Americana » Blog Archive » Memorial Day | Report as abusive

Your story on May 23 about veterans education is a real stretch. I never mentioned Obama. I said it should be paid for and pointed out McCain’s idea of more service, greater benefits was a sound approach. Maybe you missed part of my answer.

Have a good day.


Posted by Bob Dole | Report as abusive