What Does “Support the Troops” Mean to McCain?

McCain Speaking at a Veterans Day Event in South Carolina

McCain Speaking at a Veteran's Day Event in South Carolina

John McCain presents himself as the champion of the military.  The truth is the complete opposite.  Brandon Friedman over at Huffington Post has collected a list of McCain’s votes for veterans and it’s truly scary. Worse, it reflects a type of military elitism that the press will never recognize, but that those of us who have served see all the time. McCain’s father and grandfather were admirals and he made captain. That’s rarified territory in the US military and far from the high school grads looking to trade in service for the growth in skills and maturity that the military can offer. No where was this more evident than in McCain’s opposition to the new GI Bill.

McCain discussing his position on the GI bill

Saying he takes “a back seat to no one in my affection, respect and devotion to veterans,” McCain said Webb’s bill would be a disincentive for service members to become noncommissioned officers, which he called “the backbone of all the services.”

“In my life, I have learned more from noncommissioned officers I have known and served with than anyone else outside my family,” McCain said at a Memorial Day event in Albuquerque.

“They are very hard to replace. Encouraging people to choose to not become noncommissioned officers would hurt the military and our country very badly.”

Did you get that?  If you want to stay in the military, great.  If you want to leave, you get nothing.  It doesn’t matter if you served in Iraq or Afganistan or if you spent the last eight months of your service in the engine room of a tin can in the Indian Ocean.  If you aren’t a lifer, you aren’t worth McCain’s time.  Of course lifers, with a few exceptions, aren’t going to use the GI Bill.  They’ve found a career and they’re happy.  This attitude isn’t just McCain, it reflects a military belief system that I saw as a junior officer in the Navy.  Those great recruitment tools like “money for college” were designed to get people in the door and were almost impossible to take advantage of.  Once it’s clear you aren’t “in for 20”, you aren’t a team player, aren’t a real veteran.  Senator Webb drove through a GI Bill that is a true benefit, an accessible program that represents a real help to our servicemen and women and at the same time provides a significant improvement in the quality of our workforce for years to come, just like the GI Bill that drove our economy after WWII.  McCain’s position: it might hurt retention.  Way to support the troops.  Way to support the economy.  Way to support the country.



  1. joefromchicago  •  Oct 3, 2008 @7:51 am

    Never looked at it that way, but you’re right: McCain thinks that veterans’ benefits are primarily retention tools rather than rewards for service.

  2. cyphercat  •  Oct 14, 2008 @7:22 pm

    Wow, good information in this post…and it’s interesting to get the view of someone who has served, too.