Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Veterans' Rights and political leadership

Everyone seems to assume that Republicans support the military and Democrats don't. Actually, the voting record is quite different than this stereotype.

Anyone looking at veterans' rights and protections  has to consider the GI Bill a primary benefit. It provides for education, training, home purchasing rights, and much more.

Who sponsored the first bill in 1944? It's a bit complicated but Senator Ernest McFarland (Democrat from Arizona) is often called the Father of the bill. In all fairness, there was some bipartisan effort in those days. A California Republican Warren Atherton, working with the American Legion and Edith Rogers, a Republican Congresswoman pushed the bill through. It was signed by Franklin Roosevelt, a very Democratic president. The original draft was written by a former RNC chairman. Score one for bipartisanship and for Roosevelt's leadership. Many, if not most, of his American detractors today have benefited in some way from his policies.

In 1984, the bill was revamped and modernized by a Democrat from Mississippi, former congressman Sonny Montgomery.

The current version of the GI Bill was sponsored by Jim Webb, a Democrat from Virginia and Chuck Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska.  It was opposed by none other than George W. Bush and John McCain. While one could argue the bill was bipartisan, it really saw significant opposition only from the Republican party. Former President Bush and Senator McCain argued against it, saying passage would reduce re-enlistments. Hagel was pushed out of leadership in the Republican Party, largely due to his willingness to work with Democrats and his unsuitability for Tea Bagger Leadership - meaning he is a moderate.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars website reported that there is an significant upgrade to the current GI Bill just proposed by Daniel Akaka, a Democratic senator from Alaska. Note - as of this writing, Republicans were too busy persecuting Latinos in Arizona, gays everywhere, and generally teaching hatred toward various groups to do anything positive toward the bill's passage.

In the end, there are probably several lessons here:

1) Once upon a time, we acted in a bipartisan manner for the good of the nation.

2) There has never been a GI Bill passed with Republican leadership and Democratic opposition.

3) Democrats, for the most part, support veterans' rights.

Who knew? When the rubber meets the road, Democrats are our best - albeit somewhat sketchy - friends.

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