...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004
      ( 9:13 AM )
Playing Politics with Veterans' Lives

Dad is out of town on a well-deserved holiday with his beloved wife (mom) of 37 years, so I am taking up the slack today for his blog by pointing out that the Republicans in the Senate have now taken it upon themselves to outrightly and publicly screw veterans. It's not even subtle anymore. There was a very important vote yesterday on the Daschle Amendment to the Veterans Benefit Bill - this amendment was to extend guaranteed permanent benefits to ALL reservist veterans (the Bush administration wants, among other things, cut off VA benefits for anyone who earns over $24,000).

As most people know, John Kerry is a very strong supporter of veterans (being one himself) and has made it one of the cornerstones of his campaign that he will take care of the veterans of this country. Because of this committment, when the Senate decided to call a vote on the Daschle Amendment yesterday, John Kerry cut short a campaign trip in New Mexico to fly back to Washington and vote. But the Republicans wouldn't have it. It was their perfect excuse for avoiding having to vote on the amendment and show how much they don't care about veterans. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist called off the vote because of John Kerry's decision to come back for it.

Republicans denied any conspiracy to stymie Kerry; instead, they said that Kerry's detour to the Capitol gave them leverage to seek concessions from Democrats on other aspects of the defense bill. Frist made it clear that while Kerry may be the de facto Democratic presidential nominee, in the Senate he wields no more clout than any other of the 100 senators.

"Senator Kerry, who hadn't been here all year, who's missed 80 percent of all votes this year, parachutes in for a day, and then he'll be taking off once again," Frist said. "That amendment will be considered in due course."

Petty? Small-minded? Or just completely evil and conniving. You decide. Not only was this a complete denial of the needs of veterans, especially reservists, but this was using the fate of veterans to try and make a political slash against Kerry.

Of course this unconscionable action reflects the absolute hypocrisy of the Republicans in Congress. If they feel that John Kerry should give up his senate seat because he is running for the presidency, then what about George Bush? If Kerry has no right to vote on the issues that are important to him, then how does Bush have the right to keep pushing his policies? How many times has Bush been on a campaign trip or at a fundraiser (or on vacation) in the last year when he should have been attending to crucial issues at the White House - international issues and domestic matters alike?

While soldiers are dying every day in Iraq, Bush visited Ft. Lewis out here in the Pacific Northwest last week (after campaigning for Rep. George Nethercutt- remember him? He's the guy who said last October that the story of Iraq's reconstruction "is a better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day."), and tells members of the military, their families and families of slain soldiers that the deaths over there are "worth it."

This was a heartless use of politics to deny veterans their due benefits. The Republicans don't want veterans to have those benefits because their "support for the troops" only goes as far as the shiny little American flag pins on their lapels. True, substantive support means money, benefits, and honor. It means respecting the dead, allowing the flag-draped coffins to be shown to a country that has become numb to the cost of this war. It means doing what it takes to make sure vets, their families, active duty and their families, and every reservist and guard member are taken care of. The Republicans will never have the moral integrity or the political will to make this happen. So they conveniently play petty games with the presidential candidate they fear most.

This coming November, it's not only time to change presidents, we need to change Congress too. We can do it - it's very possible. People like Frist and his kind don't deserve a place of prominence in American politics or governing. Veterans already know it. It's time the rest of the country does.

| -- permanent link