Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Support Them All

A must-read article on the appeal of Obama with the Marxism-is-good crowd, those still dreaming of a socialist America, has been written by Kyle-Anne Shiver for National Review Online. She skillfully pulls it all together for the reader. I found myself nodding in agreement and appreciative for the voice she presents that represents a great many of us of a certain age. She aptly says we've been there, done that, grew up and the old Marxists hate us for it. They support Obama because they view him as their last shot at taking over.

I listened to a really interesting panel on C-SPAN over the weekend on their Book TV programming. From the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, a panel of authors gathered to speak to an auditorium filled with Army staff and military men about the books they each recently wrote. The subjects were varied but the connecting thread was the need for a larger, professional military. A military that encourages its ranks to make the commitment a career. This was particularly timely as it was Memorial Day weekend and the GI benefits legislation had been bantered about in the Senate last week.

This being an election year, and Senator Jim Webb, (D-VA), a Vietnam veteran with a son in the Marines (like McCain) and grand visions of furthering his political capital by playing to his strength, was chosen to push through a bill of extending benefits for veterans. No problem with that, I personally feel we can't give them enough, but the process would have been honest if the competing bill had not been blocked by Harry Reid, Majority Leader, and not allowed to be voted on. Why? Because McCain was a sponsor of the legislation. The Graham-Burr-McCain was not given a vote on the floor. The Democrats, who promised 'bi-partisanship' and allowing opposition votes once they took over in 2007, lied again. Just like their candidate currently ahead in the Democrat nomination process. He has no history of bi-partisanship either, though he promises it on the stump.

The biggest perk to the Graham-Burr-McCain bill was the ability for the veteran to transfer educational benefits to a spouse or child. As candidate Obama was pandering to an audience with veterans included, on Memorial Day weekend, he said Saturday in Puerto Rico, "I don't understand why John McCain would side with George Bush and oppose our plan to make college more affordable for our veterans. George Bush and John McCain may think our plan is too generous. I could not disagree more." The Democrat talking points are to link Bush and McCain in as many sentences as possible and to do the meany Republican thing. How original for the candidate of change.

The point Obama misses is that the Graham-Burr-McCain bill is more efficient and actually includes a major benefit that the veterans cry out for. As military families move from base to base so frequently, the spouses hoping to continue and finish college are unable to afford the tuition and aren't in one location long enough to meet residence requirements for federal grants. This has been a problem forever and there was actually a chance to fix the problem. It's a shame.

Webb's bill convinces soldiers to go in and serve 3-4 year commitments and then leave. Graham-Burr-McCain encourages career military. As re-enlistment quotas have been met and exceeded, in all branches, already this calendar year, it seems only right to provide what they ask for from the government. Webb's bill expands benefits after only one enlistment. The alternative bill provides a sliding scale of benefits - the longer the service, the greater the benefits. I know, it just makes too much sense for the government. And politicians looking for a headline. Encouraging attrition and slapping spouses and children of the military was the easy way out.

I think it becomes even more clear why President Reagan fired Webb after only 7 months as Secretary of the Navy. He's a cocky, foolish man. He is more interested in personal points than the greater good.

Some Republicans supported the bill, most thinking it was better than not having one. They were wrong and one was from my state. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson voted with Webb. It's a shame. Word is she isn't running for another term when this one is up and she is eyeing the governor's office.

Senator John Cornyn, seeking re-election this year, held strong for the veterans and those currently serving by supporting the alternative. He knows any soldier can leave the military with a two or four year degree if he/she wants it. Educational opportunities are on every base and more are online for those at more remote locations. Over $4500 in tuition assistance per year for those on active duty to attend courses is available without the student even touching the G.I. Bill. Did you know that? Some bases, like Fort Irwin, schedule class so that there is no conflict with rotations. Courses are condensed which means less classroom time.

Cornyn deserves applause for his support of the military spouses and children. We, as a country, owe them the best benefits, too.

Cornyn's Democrat challenger chose to politicize the issue on Memorial Day weekend, too. Unlike Cornyn, who attended a military funeral instead, the Democrat (no name, no publicity here) said "Texas needs two senators fighting for our veterans and our families. It is reprehensible that Cornyn supports keeping our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan but refuses to provide for our soldiers once they return home. As a public servant, as a soldier and as a Texas, I am ashamed of Cornyn's continued efforts to deny our troops the benefits they earned defending the United States." Too bad he and Obama have chosen to show their support by turning a deaf ear as to what the military is really asking for.

It's an election year.

"As we meet, in Iraq and Afghanistan, American soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen are fighting bravely and tenaciously in battles that are as dangerous, difficult and consequential as the great battles of our armed forces' storied past. As we all know, the American people have grown sick and tired of the war in Iraq. I understand that, of course. I, too, have been made sick at heart by the many mistakes made by civilian and military commanders and the terrible price we have paid for them. But we cannot react to those mistakes by embracing a course of action that will be an even greater mistake, a mistake of colossal historical proportions, which will -- and I am sure of this -- seriously endanger the security of the country I have served all my adult life." Excerpt from McCain's Memorial Day Remarks, New Mexico Veterans Memorial, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Somehow that sounds more sincere to me than Obama stating he sees 'fallen heroes' in the audience. Huge gaffe from such an educated man. He sees dead people. "On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes - and I see many of them in the audience here today- our sense of patriotism is particularly strong". And, to boost the pandering, another family story gaffe about a great uncle who he referenced as 'a uncle' (again with the poor grammar from a Harvard Law grad) though his mother was an only child. Claimed he came home from freeing the survivors of Auschwitz. Oops.

The panel authors and books were: Marybeth Peterson Ulrich- "Democratizing Communist Militaries", Peter Feaver - "Armed Servants", Dale Herspring -"Rumfeld's Wars", Matthew Moten - "The Delafield Commission and the American Military Profession", and Don Snider - "The Future of the Army Profession."

Support the troops with greater benefits. And their families.


Nikki said...

As usual a very good post. I also understand that the GI bill is also attached to an early withdrawl from Iraq, another reason why the Pres and McCain are against it. Also far be it for dems to give McCain the distance he deserves from Bush like Obama gets from his insignificant others...double standard as usual. :)N

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

I hope that the majority of those who enlist, do so not with the educational benefits in mind as the primary reason, but with the desire to serve our country as the primary motivating factor. I don't fault those who go in with educational benefits as the reason, so long as patriotic service is a part of that, and the experience makes them into better citizens. But if that's the sole reason, then the quality of our men and women in uniform is greatly harmed.

I had a conversation with my Dad last year, regarding the Vietnam War. He mentioned how a few pilots (my father served as a fighter pilot in the Air Force) were shocked and dismayed that they were being sent to war, pissing off the other pilots. Apparently, these few had enlisted, never really thinking about the possibility that....hey! Surprise newsflash: They might be sent off to fight in a war.

The military puts a lot of investment into the training of each soldier; so anything that encourages enlistees to serve a longer career in the military is a good thing.

Experience is hard to cultivate, and difficult to replace.

Karen said...

You are right. Early withdrawal is always important for Democrats, especially now that the news is good.

Excellent comment. I also don't fault those enlisting for educational opportunities. Your concern was the same as those who authored the bill. The biggest complaints in the run up to the war in Iraq were from those who volunteered to serve for benefits. They also thought when they signed up, many of who had been in the reserves for years, that they would never be expected to be deployed anywhere in battle.

My husband is a Vietnam vet, also Air Force, though he wasn't a pilot. Attrition drains financial resources and we need a bigger military force now.

Jennifer said...

Having been through the process for a long several months, I can attest to the fact that the educational benefits (which are currently mostly a shadowy, ineffectual "promise" at best) are the single most diligently promoted reason to join pitched by recruiters. Especially the ones who sit at tables with shiny brochures about life after service in high school hallways. It's a key reason many join. And the only thing wrong with that is their inability to collect on the promises when the time actually comes.

The new GI Bill that just passed was the single most bipartisan piece of legislation passed since the Iraq war resolution. 75-22 in the Senate, with three absent. Similar numbers in the House. The Rebulicans rejected McCain's alternative with as resounding impact as the Dems.

The 'fallen heroes' Obama saw were from the ranks of the tens of thousands of permanently disabled vets. Those in wheelchairs, those without limbs, those without congnizant reasoning. They are to be counted among the fallen, as well, and were well represented in Obama's audience. His acknowledgement of their presence can hardly be called a 'gaffe'. Some may even think of it as the patriotic thing to do.

Karen said...

As I said, I find no fault with those enlisting for educational opportunity. My son has been heavily recruited, especially since he was in JROTC for 2 years as a HS Freshman and Sophomore. I know a bit about the process, too. And, one of his good pals, a girl, has joined the Navy for educational opportunity. I've heard her story, too.

The alternative bill for the G.I. benefits should have gone to a vote but wasn't allowed the opportunity. Bi-partisian is in the eye of the beholder. Half of the Republicans vocally supported the alternative even after they knew it wouldn't be heard on the floor.

And the fallen heroes thing? Just another gaffe that isn't paid attention to by most. Fallen means death in battle to most Americans. A Harvard trained lawyer knows what he is saying. No one is perfect. Not even Obama.

DMZDave said...

This is a very thoughtful blog and I'm glad I found it.

Word: The Army was almost destroyed after 1976 when the GI Bill ended. Almost no one joins the military for a career. They join for a variety of reasons but largely it is to see the world, serve their country, gain some benefits and add some excitement to their lives. What we learned between 1976 and 1980 was you can't reenlist smart kids unless you get them in the door in the first place. In 1978, sixty percent of my artillery battery were category 4 which means they scored in the bottom 17 -30 percentile. Few could read or write very well. In 1980, General Thurmond took over the Army's recruiting command and convinced the Army to fund its own college tuition program. Smart kids showed up again and Thurmond turned the Army around almost overnight.

It is a shame that Reid blocked the better McCain bill but given the options, it was also right to vote for Webb bill as Senator Hutchison did. Transferablitiy is easier to do later if you have a bill on the books. As the GI Bill is an obligation, the transferability aspect won't score as a significant added cost and I suspect there will be a lot of support to do so once folks realize the degree to which this bill will harm retention.

Still, those who serve deserve greater benefits from society than those who don't. It doesn't work that way today. It's a simple equity issue. Given the way this came to the floor, the right thing to do for those who serve is to vote for this bill.

Is it cynical of me to wonder why this wasn't ever a priority for Senator Webb when he was Secretary of the Navy?

Karen said...

Welcome. You aren't so cynical. Webb is an opportunist, which isn't particularly unusual with politicians. I appreciate his service to our country and that of his son's. Other than that, he's a loser. He'd like to be important. Maybe Obama will choose him as VP to produce military bona fides.

Paul is a Hermit said...

It's an election year, actually it is getting longer and longer every cycle.
I'm rightly cynical of bills introduced by either party.
It's a desperate time for getting votes and actual wording of the bills is secondary to being perceived as most caring. Webb didn't just get religion. Or McClellan, either.

Between now and November, a lot of other groups of voters are going to be paid special attention for bragging rights regarding how much a Party cares and the other doesn't.
Those not able to vote, like illegal aliens, are on the side burned, for now.

I find it amazing that there are any voters who have not already made their minds up.

Karen said...

You are absolutely correct in your thoughts, Paulie. It's all about political oneupsmanship at this point on the calendar. Whether it is Webb on the left or McClellan on the right, both sides are guilty.

Incognito said...

Unfortunately, many do join with the perks in mind, including the GI bill, that's why we have those who go AWOL or refuse to serve. I don't fault people but it shouldn't be the sole reason for joining.

Jo said...

I can't get the link to the NRO article in the first paragraph to work.

Karen said...

Sorry, Jo. I can't get it to work, either. It's on the site, though. Her article is called Obama the Closer.