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In Phoenix, McCain Touts Health Care For Vets


And we'll be offering full coverage of the Republican National Convention next week, although soon-to-be Republican nominee John McCain appeared before a convention yesterday: the 90th National Convention of the American Legion. It's a military veterans organization, and McCain is a member, so you can probably guess what kind of reception he got. NPR's Ted Robbins was there.

(Soundbite of music)

TED ROBBINS: Talk about feeling at home, this year, the American Legion held its convention in Phoenix, Arizona, John McCain's home state. The former Navy pilot belongs to American Legion Post 2 in nearby Tempe, and nearly everyone in the audience was a vet or a vet's family.

(Soundbite of music and applause)

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Presidential Candidate): Thank you, thank you all very much. Thank you.

ROBBINS: In front of his friendly audience, McCain attacked his rival's foreign policy views. He accused Barack Obama of doubting America's role in the end of the Cold War. In a speech Obama gave last month in Berlin, Obama said there is, quote, "no challenge too great for a world that stands as one."

Sen. McCAIN: Now I missed a few years of the Cold War as the guest of one of our adversaries. But as I recall, the world was deeply divided during the Cold War, between the side of freedom and the side of tyranny. The Cold War ended not because the world stood as one, but because the great democracies came together, bound together by sustained and decisive American leadership.

ROBBINS: McCain, has, of course, repeatedly questioned Obama's foreign policy judgment. Obama opposed the invasion of Iraq. McCain supported it. He criticized Obama for linking the war in Iraq to the conflict between Russia and Georgia.

Sen. McCAIN: And if he really thinks that by liberating Iraq from a dangerous tyrant, America somehow set a bad example that invited Russia to invade a small, peaceful and democratic nation, then he should state it outright, because that is a debate I welcome.

ROBBINS: But much of McCain's American Legion speech was directly aimed at the audience of veterans. He stressed his plan for a voluntary card that would provide war and low income veterans with government paid healthcare outside the VA system.

Sen. McCAIN: I'll make sure that Congress funds the VA healthcare budget in a sufficient, timely and predicable manner.

(Soundbite of applause)

ROBBINS: Afterwards, some in the audience said they were disappointed McCain did not call for mandatory funding for the VA system. But even veterans like Mike Ash of Minnesota will vote for McCain because he is one of them.

Mr. MIKE ASH: He is a member and he's a member of the organization and a member of our fraternity system.

ROBBINS: That fraternity, the American Legion, doesn't mind being reminded again and again that one of its own is running for President.

Ted Robbins, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

As supervising editor for Arts and Culture at NPR based at NPR West in Culver City, Ted Robbins plans coverage across NPR shows and online, focusing on TV at a time when there's never been so much content. He thinks "arts and culture" encompasses a lot of human creativity — from traditional museum offerings to popular culture, and out-of-the-way people and events.
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