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Campaign Notebook

McCain misses vote on a new GI Bill, scorns criticism from Obama

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May 23, 2008

Support for the troops returned as an issue to the presidential campaign yesterday with harsh words from both sides.

The Democratic National Committee accused John McCain of being AWOL from the Senate vote yesterday for a new GI Bill to provide better education benefits for returning veterans. McCain was in California on a campaign and fund-raising trip, while both Democratic contenders, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, left the campaign trail to vote for the bill, which passed by a veto-proof 75-to-22 majority.

On the Senate floor, Obama questioned why McCain opposed the bill. "I can't believe why he believes it is too generous to our veterans," Obama said. "There are many issues that lend themselves to partisan posturing, but giving our veterans the chance to go to college should not be one of them."

McCain, a Vietnam War hero, didn't take the criticism lightly - and while Obama is careful to honor McCain's military service, he mentioned Obama's lack of it.

"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," McCain said in a statement. "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."

The bill, which President Bush has threatened to veto, would pay tuition and other expenses at a four-year public university for anyone who has served at least three years since the 2001 terrorist attacks. McCain is a cosponsor of a different version of the bill that would require soldiers to have more time in the service to get full benefits and to encourage them to stay in the military as a career.

FOON RHEE

Down-to-earth perspective
Hillary Clinton says she doesn't need divine intervention to pull out the Democratic nomination.

But she does need to nearly sweep the remaining undeclared superdelegates, and to get the Democratic National Committee to rule her way.

"I do believe in miracles, but it would not take a miracle. It's such a close race," Clinton said in an interview yesterday on Telemundo, a Spanish-language network.

She is trying to convince superdelegates that she would be more electable in November than Barack Obama.

Some new poll numbers out yesterday could help that argument. Quinnipiac University surveys of key fall swing states suggest Clinton leading Republican John McCain in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, while Obama trailed McCain in two of the three. The polls indicated that 26 percent to 36 percent of Clinton supporters in the three states, whose primaries she won, say they would defect to McCain if Obama is the nominee.

Her supporters will also appear before the DNC's rules committee on May 31 to count the disputed votes and delegates from the Florida and Michigan primaries, which she won. She has even hinted that she's willing to go all the way to the national convention in Denver in late August to make sure the Florida and Michigan delegates are seated.

Without a change on the two disputed primaries, it appears likely that Obama could reach the current 2,026 delegates needed to clinch the nomination by the final primaries in Montana and South Dakota on June 3. He is within 61 now, according to the latest Associated Press tally, while Clinton trails Obama by 185 delegates.

FOON RHEE

Politics become her
If Hillary Clinton doesn't make it back to the White House, maybe former first daughter Chelsea will.

Former president Bill Clinton tells People magazine that Chelsea Clinton, who had stayed far away from politics, could jump in.

"If you asked me before Iowa, I would have said, 'No way. She is too allergic to anything we do.' But she is really good at it," he said in the magazine's new issue.

FOON RHEE

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