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Where Does McCain Stand On Public Service?

By Pat Garofalo  

"Where Does McCain Stand On Public Service?"

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Tonight, in honor of the seventh anniversary of 9/11, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) are “taking a breather from their campaign-trail feud,” and making a joint appearance at “a Columbia University forum on public service.”

This forum, somewhat ironically, comes just a week after the Republican National Convention, where McCain’s supporters reserved some of their biggest jokes for community organizers – or those who make a career out of public service. Watch it:

McCain himself, however, has a more ambiguous stance on public service.

Though he is now a solid supporter of AmeriCorps, he initially voted against its creation and later joined conservatives “in efforts to zero-out funding.” To his credit, McCain has publicly announced that his opposition to the program was “wrong,” and he has since co-sponsored legislation to expand the corps.

But despite campaign claims that he “has constantly spoken to the need for young Americans to serve a cause greater than their self-interest,” McCain has not proposed a comprehensive public service plan of his own. As NPR notes, “McCain said military service is the noblest of all causes. But otherwise, he seems to view public service as something that happens more or less outside of government.”

The Politico noticed the same thing, and wrote that McCain “has yet to offer any proposals to expand or transform national service outside of the military.” And even now, on a day during which McCain will spend an evening discussing service, his campaign website provides no national service plan beyond a page of links to other organizations.

Obama, meanwhile, has laid out a clear plan to encourage public service, in the form of an expanded AmeriCorps, five new “corps” – Classroom Corps, Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, Veterans Corps and Homeland Security Corps – and a $4,000 college credit “for Americans willing to complete 100 hours of public service a year.”

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