Obama, McCain spar over veteran’s benefits & Iraq

Coming off Memorial Day weekend, both McCain and Obama have been debating in the media over veteran’s benefits and the Iraq war. Obama led the weekend on Friday scolding McCain for not supporting a bill promising college benefits to veteran’s touted as a second “GI bill.” Monday, McCain responded and upped the ante a bit more.

First, a video report from ABC News on the beginnings of this argument from Friday:

Meanwhile, McCain was busy over the weekend hosting his “Veepstakes” barbecue and didn’t make any statements until yesterday when he spoke and called for improvement of veteran’s care:

Obama also spoke yesterday:

Here’s a report from AOL News on both candidates:

WASHINGTON (AP) – Anti-war Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, a strong backer of the Iraq conflict, were reaching out to veterans on Monday, the country’s Memorial Day holiday, as the presidential candidates inched closer to a likely faceoff in the November general election.

Obama’s longshot rival for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Rodham Clinton, continued to campaign Monday in Puerto Rico. The U.S. Caribbean territory’s primary next week is one of just three left as the intense battle for the Democratic race begun in January winds down.

On Sunday, Obama struck a conciliatory note with McCain, whom he had been hammering for days, and urged unity in service of a greater good in a speech to university graduates.

Obama was filling in for U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor last week and had planned to deliver the graduation address at Wesleyan University. Kennedy has endorsed Obama over Clinton and has campaigned for him.

“We may disagree as Americans on certain issues and positions, but I believe we can be unified in service to a greater good. I intend to make it a cause of my presidency, and I believe with all my heart that this generation is ready and eager and up to the challenge,” Obama told the graduating class of 2008.

Obama spent much of the week criticizing McCain, the Republican presumptive nominee, for opposing a college aid bill for military veterans, part of a strategy to link the conservative Republican to the deeply unpopular Bush administration. But he stepped back from the topic ahead of the Memorial Day holiday honoring fallen U.S. servicemen and women.

Finally, as the ultimate conclusion to this discussion, McCain called on Obama to visit Iraq again before basing judgments on his last trip which was in 2006. The report on that from MyWay:

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – Republican John McCain on Monday sharply criticized Democratic rival Barack Obama for not having been to Iraq since 2006, and said they should visit the war zone together.

“Look at what happened in the last two years since Senator Obama visited and declared the war lost,” the GOP presidential nominee-in-waiting told The Associated Press in an interview, noting that the Illinois senator’s last trip to Iraq came before the military buildup that is credited with curbing violence.

“He really has no experience or knowledge or judgment about the issue of Iraq and he has wanted to surrender for a long time,” the Arizona senator added. “If there was any other issue before the American people, and you hadn’t had anything to do with it in a couple of years, I think the American people would judge that very harshly.”

McCain, a Navy veteran and Vietnam prisoner of war, frequently argues that he’s the most qualified candidate to be a wartime commander in chief. In recent weeks, he has sought portray Obama, a first-term senator, as naive on foreign policy and not experienced enough to lead the military.

Obama’s campaign wasted no time in responding:

Obama spokesman Bill Burton declined to respond directly to McCain, saying only: “Senator Obama thinks Memorial Day is a day to honor our nation’s veterans, not a day for political posturing.”

In some respects, I agree with Obama that holidays like Memorial Day should not be politicized. However, McCain was giving a political interview with the Associated Press, not giving a speech in public.

McCain is right though on visiting Iraq, I’m betting Obama will be making a trip soon to quell that kind of criticism. This especially considering McCain goes every few months which is going to look a lot better when they’re debating the topic.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Hillary Clinton was throwing down some beers in sunny Puerto Rico:

Classic politician-in-the-bar footage… did someone say “no sh**” in the background?