It all started today with a disagreement over the 21st Century GI Bill. Now Barack Obama and John McCain have spent the day exchanging insults. This evening the Obama campaign released a statement from their candidate saying that McCain’s endless diatribes and schoolyard taunts do nothing to advance the debate.
After Sen. Obama criticized McCain on the floor of the Senate today for not supporting the new GI Bill, McCain put out a statement criticizing Obama for not being a patriot, “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…Perhaps, if Senator Obama would take the time and trouble to understand this issue he would learn to debate an honest disagreement respectfully. But, as he always does, he prefers impugning the motives of his opponent, and exploiting a thoughtful difference of opinion to advance his own ambitions. If that is how he would behave as President, the country would regret his election.”
Earlier this evening, Obama replied, “It’s disappointing that Senator McCain and his campaign used this issue to launch yet another lengthy personal, political attack instead of debating an honest policy difference. He should know that this is not about John McCain or Barack Obama – it’s about giving our veterans a real chance to afford four years of college without harming retention. Senator Webb’s bipartisan bill will do this, and the bill that John McCain supports would not. These endless diatribes and schoolyard taunts from the McCain campaign do nothing to advance the debate about what matters to the American people.”
I don’t think this is a road that McCain should want to walk down with Obama, but it seems that the campaign is hell bent on playing up the war hero angle, while questioning Obama’s patriotism. In recent elections, the patriotism equals military service argument has backfired every time it has been used. George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole tried to use it against Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, and on the Democratic side, John Kerry tried to use it against George W. Bush in 2004. Notice that the military hero has lost every election.
People go into the military for a number of different reasons. For some it is a patriotic decision. Other people do it because they have limited job opportunities, or they need the money for school. Not every person who goes into the military is a patriot. Military service alone doesn’t make a person superior, or a better decision maker, than those who did not serve. McCain has presented some deeply flawed logic here that if recent history is any sort of guide, won’t connect well with the voters in November.