Taking on McCain on veterans’ issues

TAKING ON MCCAIN ON VETERANS’ ISSUES…. In the first presidential debate a couple of weeks ago, John McCain boasted that he’s always been a champion for veterans. I’ll take care of them,” he said. “And they know I’ll take care of them.”

Unfortunately for McCain, facts keep getting in the way of the claim.

In recent years, McCain’s ratings from veterans’ groups have been less than impressive. The Vietnam Veterans of America, for example, recently compiled a list of key votes, and found McCain voted against the group’s position 15 times and with the group eight times. (Obama, in contrast, voted with the VVA 12 times, and against it only once.)

What’s more, the non-partisan Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) yesterday issued a new congressional report card. While Obama and Biden both earned B grades, McCain got a D — one of only four senators to receive a D or below. (McCain also got a D on the IAVA ratings for the 109th Congress, too.)

Coinciding with the release of the IAVA grades, VoteVets has unveiled a new television ad, featuring Iraq-war veteran Jason Bensley slamming McCain for skipping the vote on the expanded G.I. Bill. (For the record, I like the ad, but it neglects to mention that McCain also opposed the bill.) If you watch the spot, and I hope you will, pay particular attention to the reference to McCain’s houses.

I don’t doubt that McCain will have an edge with a lot of veterans come November, by virtue of his service during the Vietnam war. But for those who actually look at the two candidates’ Senate votes — on the G.I. Bill, V.A. benefits, mental health care, etc. — it’s Obama who’s demonstrated a more impressive legislative record on veterans’ issues.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.