On Friday, September September 26, 2008, John McCain said the following:
"I know the veterans, I know them well, and I know that they know that I'll take care of them, and I have been proud of their support and their recognition of my service to the veterans, and I love them, and I'll take care of them, and they know that I'll take care of them."
This statement--made near the end of Friday's debate--immediately infuriated veterans across America and overseas. In fact, Senator John McCain has a very clear, long, and illustrious history of not supporting troops and veterans one bit.
Now, I've seen legislative examples, I've watched the YouTubes, and I've lived this lack of support in more ways than one. But now, for the first time, I've tried to compile as much of this non-support as possible into a single document--from a variety of sources--complete with links, quotes, and video clips. It's something that readers often ask me about, so I hope this helps. I'm sure there's a lot missing, so feel free to add more in the comments. But for now, I think this should give us a good start in exposing John McCain's abysmal of record of supporting troops and veterans. Here we go:
Senator John McCain's Record on Troop and Veterans' Issues
Voting Against Veterans
Veterans Groups Give McCain Failing Grades. In its most recent legislative ratings, the non-partisan Disabled American Veterans gave Sen. McCain a 20 percent rating for his voting record on veterans' issues. Similarly, the non-partisan Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America gave McCain a "D" grade for his poor voting record on veterans' issues, including McCain's votes against additional body armor for troops in combat and additional funding for PTSD and TBI screening and treatment.
McCain Voted Against Increased Funding for Veterans' Health Care. Although McCain told voters at a campaign rally that improving veterans' health care was his top domestic priority, he voted against increasing funding for veterans' health care in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. (Greenville News, 12/12/2007; S.Amdt. 2745 to S.C.R. 95, Vote 40, 3/10/04; Senate S.C.R. 18, Vote 55, 3/16/05; S.Amdt. 3007 to S.C.R. 83, Vote 41, 3/14/06; H.R. 1591, Vote 126, 3/29/07)
McCain Voted At Least 28 Times Against Veterans' Benefits, Including Healthcare. Since arriving in the U.S. Senate in 1987, McCain has voted at least 28 times against ensuring important benefits for America's veterans, including providing adequate healthcare. (2006 Senate Vote # 7, 41, 63, 67, 98, 222; 2005 Senate Votes # 55, 89, 90, 251, 343; 2004 Senate Votes # 40, 48, 145; 2003 Senate Votes # 74, 81, 83; 1999 Senate Vote # 328; 1998 Senate Vote # 175; 1997 Senate Vote # 168; 1996 Senate Votes # 115, 275; 1995 Senate Votes # 76, 226, 466; 1994 Senate Vote # 306; 1992 Senate Vote # 194; 1991 Senate Vote # 259)
McCain Voted Against Providing Automatic Cost-of-Living Adjustments to Veterans. McCain voted against providing automatic annual cost-of-living adjustments for certain veterans' benefits. (S. 869, Vote 259, 11/20/91)
McCain Voted to Underfund Department of Veterans Affairs. McCain voted for an appropriations bill that underfunded the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development by $8.9 billion. (H.R. 2099, Vote 470, 9/27/95)
McCain Voted Against a $13 Billion Increase in Funding for Veterans Programs. McCain voted against an amendment to increase spending on veterans programs by $13 billion. (S.C.R. 57, Vote 115, 5/16/96)
McCain Voted Against $44.3 Billion for Veterans Programs. McCain was one of five senators to vote against a bill providing $44.3 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs, plus funding for other federal agencies. (H.R. 2684, Vote 328, 10/15/99)
McCain Voted Against $47 Billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs. McCain was one of eight senators to vote against a bill that provided $47 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs. (H.R. 4635, Vote 272, 10/12/00)
McCain Voted Against $51 Billion in Veterans Funding. McCain was one of five senators to vote against the bill and seven to vote against the conference report that provided $51.1 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as funding for the federal housing, environmental and emergency management agencies and NASA. (H.R. 2620, Vote 334, 11/8/01; Vote 269, 8/2/01)
McCain Voted Against $122.7 Billion for Department of Veterans Affairs. McCain voted against an appropriations bill that included $122.7 billion in fiscal 2004 for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development and other related agencies. (H.R. 2861, Vote 449, 11/12/03)
McCain Opposed $500 Million for Counseling Services for Veterans with Mental Disorders. McCain voted against an amendment to appropriate $500 million annually from 2006-2010 for counseling, mental health and rehabilitation services for veterans diagnosed with mental illness, posttraumatic stress disorder or substance abuse. (S. 2020, S.Amdt. 2634, Vote 343, 11/17/05)
McCain opposed an Assured Funding Stream for Veterans' Health Care. McCain opposed providing an assured funding stream for veterans' health care, taking into account annual changes in veterans' population and inflation. (S.Amdt. 3141 to S.C.R. 83, Vote 63, 3/16/06)
McCain Voted Against Adding More Than $400 Million for Veterans' Care. McCain was one of 13 Republicans to vote against providing an additional $430 million to the Department of Veterans Affairs for outpatient care and treatment for veterans. (S.Amdt. 3642 to H.R. 4939, Vote 98, 4/26/06)
McCain Supported Outsourcing VA Jobs. McCain opposed an amendment that would have prevented the Department of Veterans Affairs from outsourcing jobs, many held by blue-collar veterans, without first giving the workers a chance to compete. (S.Amdt. 2673 to H.R. 2642, Vote 315, 9/6/07)
McCain Opposed the 21st Century GI Bill Because It Was Too Generous. McCain did not vote on the GI Bill that will provide better educational opportunities to veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, paying full tuition at in-state schools and living expenses for those who have served at least three years since the 9/11 attacks. McCain said he opposes the bill because he thinks the generous benefits would "encourage more people to leave the military." (S.Amdt. 4803 to H.R. 2642, Vote 137, 5/22/08; Chattanooga Times Free Press, 6/2/08; Boston Globe, 5/23/08; ABCNews.com, 5/26/08)
Disabled American Veterans Legislative Director Said That McCain's Proposal Would Increase Costs For Veterans Because His Plan Relies On Private Hospitals Which Are More Expensive and Which Could Also Lead To Further Rationing Of Care. "To help veterans who live far from VA hospitals or need specialized care the VA can't provide, McCain proposed giving low-income veterans and those who incurred injury during their service a card they could use at private hospitals. The proposal is not an attempt to privatize the VA, as critics have alleged, but rather, an effort to improve care and access to it, he said. Joe Violanti, legislative director of the Disabled American Veterans, a nonpartisan organization, said the proposal would increase costs because private hospitals are more expensive. The increased cost could lead to further rationing of care, he said." (Las Vegas Sun, 8/10/08)
Lack of Support for the Troops
McCain co-sponsored the Use of Force Authorization. McCain supported the bill that gave President George W. Bush the green light--and a blank check--for going to war with Iraq. (SJ Res 46, 10/3/02)
McCain Opposed Increasing Spending on TRICARE and Giving Greater Access to National Guard and Reservists. Although his campaign website devotes a large section to veterans issues, including expanding benefits for reservists and members of the National Guard, McCain voted against increasing spending on the TRICARE program by $20.3 billion over 10 years to give members of the National Guard and Reserves and their families greater access to the health care program. The increase would be offset by a reduction in tax cuts for the wealthy. (S.Amdt. 324 to S.C.R. 23, Vote 81, 3/25/03)
McCain voted against holding Bush accountable for his actions in the war. McCain opposed the creation of an independent commission to investigate the development and use of intelligence leading up to the war in Iraq. (S.Amdt. 1275 to H.R. 2658, Vote 284, 7/16/03)
McCain voted Against Establishing a $1 Billion Trust Fund for Military Health Facilities. McCain voted against establishing a $1 billion trust fund to improve military health facilities by refusing to repeal tax cuts for those making more than $1 million a year. (S.Amdt. 2735 to S.Amdt. 2707 to H.R. 4297, Vote 7, 2/2/06)
Senator McCain opposed efforts to end the overextension of the military--a policy that is having a devastating impact on our troops. McCain voted against requiring mandatory minimum downtime between tours of duty for troops serving in Iraq. (S.Amdt.. 2909 to S.Amdt. 2011 to HR 1585, Vote 341, 9/19/07; S.Amdt. 2012 to S.Amdt. 2011 to HR 1585, Vote 241, 7/11/07)
McCain announced his willingness to keep U.S. troops in Iraq for decades--a statement sure to inflame Iraqis and endanger American troops. McCain: "Make it a hundred" years in Iraq and "that would be fine with me." (Derry, New Hampshire Town Hall meeting, 1/3/08)
McCain voted against a ban on waterboarding--a form of torture--in a move that could eventually endanger American troops. According to ThinkProgress, "the Senate brought the Intelligence Authorization Bill to the floor, which contained a provision from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) establishing one interrogation standard across the government. The bill requires the intelligence community to abide by the same standards as articulated in the Army Field Manual and bans waterboarding." McCain voted against the bill. (H.R. 2082, Vote 22, 2/13/08)
McCain Also Supported Outsourcing at Walter Reed. McCain opposed an amendment to prevent the outsourcing of 350 federal employee jobs at Walter Reed Army Medical Center--outsourcing that contributed to the scandalous treatment of veterans at Walter Reed that McCain called a "disgrace." (S.Amdt. 4895 to H.R. 5631, Vote 234, 9/6/06; Speech to VFW in Kansas City, Mo., 4/4/08)
Senator McCain has consistently opposed any plan to withdraw troops from Iraq--a policy that has directly weakened American efforts in Afghanistan. Senator McCain repeatedly voted against a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq. (S.Amdt. 3876 to S.Amdt. 3874 to H.R. 2764, Vote #438, 12/18/07; S.Amdt. 3875 to S.Amdt. 3874 to H.R. 2764, Vote #437, 12/18/07; S.Amdt.3164 to H.R. 3222, Vote #362, 10/3/07; S.Amdt. 2898 to S. Amdt. 2011 to H.R. 1585, Vote #346, 9/21/07; S. Amdt. 2924 to S.Amdt. 2011 to H.R.1585, Vote #345, 9/21/07; S.Amdt.2 087 to S.Amdt. 2011 to H.R. 1585, Vote #252, 7/18/07; S.Amdt. 643 to H.R. 1591, Vote #116, 3/27/07; S.Amdt. 4320 to S. 2766, Vote #182, 6/22/06; S.Amdt. 4442 to S. 2766, Vote #181, 6/22/06; S.Amdt. 2519 to S.1042, Vote #322, 11/15/05)
McCain said it's "not too important" when U.S. troops leave Iraq. This exchange occurred on NBC's Today Show with Matt Lauer:
LAUER: If it's working, senator, do you now have a better estimate of when American forces can come home from Iraq?
McCAIN: No, but that's not too important.
(NBC, Today Show, 6/11/08)
Cheerleading for War with Iraq--While Afghanistan was Unfinished
McCain suggested that the war in Iraq could be won with a "smaller" force. "But the fact is I think we could go in with much smaller numbers than we had to do in the past. But I don't believe it's going to be nearly the size and scope that it was in 1991." (CBS News, Face the Nation, 9/15/02)
McCain said winning the war would be "easy." "I know that as successful as I believe we will be, and I believe that the success will be fairly easy, we will still lose some American young men or women." (CNN, 9/24/02)
McCain also said the actual fighting in Iraq would be easy. "We're not going to get into house-to-house fighting in Baghdad. We may have to take out buildings, but we're not going to have a bloodletting of trading American bodies for Iraqi bodies." (CNN, 9/29/02)
Continuing his pattern, McCain also said on MSNBC that we would win the war in Iraq "easily." "But the point is that, one, we will win this conflict. We will win it easily." (MSNBC, 1/22/03)
McCain argued Saddam was "a threat of the first order." Senator McCain said that a policy of containing Iraq to blunt its weapons of mass destruction program is "unsustainable, ineffective, unworkable and dangerous." McCain: "I believe Iraq is a threat of the first order, and only a change of regime will make Iraq a state that does not threaten us and others, and where liberated people assume the rights and responsibilities of freedom." (Speech to the Center for Strategic & International Studies, 2/13/03)
McCain echoed Bush and Cheney's rationale for going to war. McCain: "We're going to win this victory. Tragically, we will lose American lives. But it will be brief. We're going to find massive evidence of weapons of mass destruction . . . It's going to send the message throughout the Middle East that democracy can take hold in the Middle East." (Fox News, Hannity & Colmes, 2/21/03)
"But I believe, Katie, that the Iraqi people will greet us as liberators." (NBC, 3/20/03)
March 2003: "I believe that this conflict is still going to be relatively short." (NBC, Meet the Press, 3/30/03)
McCain echoed Bush and Cheney's talking points that the U.S. would only be in Iraq for a short time. McCain: "It's clear that the end is very much in sight . . . It won't be long . . . it'll be a fairly short period of time." (ABC, 4/9/03)
Staunch Defense of the Iraq Invasion
McCain maintained that the war was a good idea and that George W. Bush deserved "admiration." At the 2004 Republican National Convention, McCain, focusing on the war in Iraq, said that while weapons of mass destruction were not found, Saddam once had them and "he would have acquired them again." McCain said the mission in Iraq "gave hope to people long oppressed" and it was "necessary, achievable and noble." McCain: "For his determination to undertake it, and for his unflagging resolve to see it through to a just end, President Bush deserves not only our support, but our admiration." (Speech, Republican National Convention, 8/31/04)
Senator McCain: "The war, the invasion was not a mistake. (Meet the Press, 1/6/08)
McCain said the war in Iraq was "worth" it. Asked if the war was a good idea worth the price in blood and treasure, McCain: "It was worth getting rid of Saddam Hussein. He had used weapons of mass destruction, and it's clear that he was hell-bent on acquiring them." (Republican Debate, 1/24/08)
Dangerous Lack of Foreign Policy Knowledge
When questioned about Osama bin Laden after the 1998 U.S. missile strikes in Afghanistan, McCain surmised that the terrorist leader wasn't as "bad" as "depicted." "You could say, Look, is this guy, Laden, really the bad guy that's depicted? Most of us have never heard of him before." (Interview with Mother Jones magazine, 11/1998)
McCain was unaware of previous Sunni-Shia violence before the Iraq War. "There's not a history of clashes that are violent between Sunnis and Shias. So I think they can probably get along." (MSNBC, Hardball, 4/23/03)
McCain said our military could just "muddle through" in Afghanistan. While giving a speech, McCain was asked about Afghanistan and replied, "I am concerned about it, but I'm not as concerned as I am about Iraq today, obviously, or I'd be talking about Afghanistan. But I believe that if Karzai can make the progress that he is making, that in the long term, we may muddle through in Afghanistan." (Speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, 11/5/03)
McCain stated that Sunni al Qaeda was "supported" by the Shia Iranians. (2/2008)
McCain again confused Sunni Muslim al Qaeda operatives with Shi'a Muslim insurgents. The Washington Post reported of McCain: "He said several times that Iran, a predominately Shiite country, was supplying the mostly Sunni militant group, al-Qaeda. In fact, officials have said they believe Iran is helping Shiite extremists in Iraq.
"Speaking to reporters in Amman, the Jordanian capital, McCain said he and two Senate colleagues traveling with him continue to be concerned about Iranian operatives 'taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back.'
"Pressed to elaborate, McCain said it was 'common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran, that's well known. And it's unfortunate.'" (Press conference, Amman, Jordan, 3/18/08)
Yet again, McCain demonstrated that he didn't know whether al Qaeda was a Sunni or Shiite organization. While questioning General David Petraeus during a Senate hearing, the following exchange occurred:
MCCAIN: Do you still view al Qaeda in Iraq as a major threat?
PETRAEUS: It is still a major threat, though it is certainly not as major a threat as it was say 15 months ago.
MCCAIN: Certainly not an obscure sect of the Shi'ites overall?
MCCAIN: Or Sunnis or anybody else. (Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing, (4/8/08)
McCain incorrectly thought General David Petraeus was in charge of Afghanistan. The Army Times reported: "Speaking Monday at the annual meeting of the Associated Press, McCain was asked whether he, if elected, would shift combat troops from Iraq to Afghanistan to intensify the search for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
'I would not do that unless Gen. (David) Petraeus said that he felt that the situation called for that,' McCain said, referring to the top U.S. commander in Iraq.
"Petraeus, however, made clear last week that he has nothing to do with the decision. Testifying last week before four congressional committees, including the Senate Armed Services Committee on which McCain is the ranking Republican, Petraeus said the decision about whether troops could be shifted from Iraq to Afghanistan was not his responsibility because his portfolio is limited to the multi-national force in Iraq." (Annual meeting of the Associated Press, 4/14/08)
McCain credited the "surge" for the "Anbar Awakening"--even though the Anbar Awakening preceded the surge by nearly a year. (7/22/08)
John McCain has also recently demonstrated either serious knowledge gaps in terms of foreign policy, or mounting confusion, when discussing an array of other countries:
Spain: McCain refused to commit to meeting with the president of Spain, a NATO ally, after becoming confused about America's relationship with Spain, its leader, and, possibly, exactly where Spain is located. (9/17/08)
Czech Republic and Slovakia: McCain referred to the two countries using the name "Czechoslovakia" several times--despite the fact that Czechoslakia split apart and hasn't existed since 1993. (7/15/08; (7/14/08))
Venezuela: McCain said that Venezuela was a Middle Eastern country. (9/30/08)
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