On Thursday night, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) formally accepted his party’s nomination for president at the Republican National Convention. During his speech, a mysterious image of a building appeared on the screen behind him, which TalkingPointsMemo identified as Walter Reed Middle School, in North Hollywood, CA. (The school did not grant permission to use its image.) Some suspect McCain had intended to show a photo of Walter Reed Medical Center; the McCain campaign has offered conflicting explanations for the bizarre use of the photo.
Appearing on MSNBC’s Countdown last night, Paul Riekhoff, director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, slammed McCain for completely ignoring Iraq and Afghanistan veterans during his speech, saying the mistaken background was “about as close as Sen. McCain got to veterans issues”:
RIECKHOFF: I think honestly that backdrop, whether it was Walter Reed medical center or Walter Reed middle school — that’s about as close as Sen. McCain got to veterans issues last night. He didn’t mention the word veteran once during his entire speech, didn’t talk about post-traumatic stress disorder, didn’t talk about veterans funding. I think he really forgot where he came from last night.
Watch the entire interview:
Rieckhoff also mentioned McCain’s opposition to the 21st Century GI Bill. “We told America that if Sen. McCain was on the wrong side of the G.I. Bill, it would hang around his neck for the election. That’s exactly what’s happening now,” Rieckhoff said.
McCain’s opposition to the GI Bill is just one aspect of his abysmal record on veterans issues. It’s no wonder, as Rieckhoff said, that we saw “a deliberate attempt by the RNC not to put Iraq and Afghanistan vets out in front.”
MADDOW: On Tuesday night, the RNC ran a patriotic video that used fake soldiers — actors — and a staged military funeral and now trying to make sense of the Walter Reed Middle School backdrop. What do you make of all this?
RIECKHOFF: I was at the convention last night and we were trying to figure out ourselves. We thought it was one of Senator McCain’s seven houses. Clearly now we see it was a slip-up, it was sloppy and pretty pathetic. I think honestly that backdrop, whether it was Walter Reed medical center or Walter Reed middle school — that’s about as close as Sen. McCain got to veterans issues last night. He didn’t mention the word veteran once during his entire speech, didn’t talk about post-traumatic stress disorder, didn’t talk about veterans funding. I think he really forgot where he came from last night. He had an epic, historic opportunity to talk about not just his service as a P.O.W. but what he faced as a veteran coming home and how he was going to learn from that and institute policies and procedures and resources that would help a new generation of veterans. And so I was very disappointed and I think veterans around the country were disappointed.
MADDOW: We did very unexpectedly last night see an Iraq vet, an activist, disrupt part of Sen. McCain’s speech, holding up a sign that said, McCain votes against vets. Before he was dragged out of the hall he yelled that McCain should be asked about his voting record. Do you think McCain is starting to pay a price for his not so great record on veterans’ issues?
RIECKHOFF: He called that veteran “ground noise and static.” That guy’s name is Adam Kokesh, he’s a sergeant in the Marine Corps with Iraq Veterans Against the War, and he’s calling Senator McCain out on his voting record. iI’ve been on this show for a few years talking about the G.I. Bill. We told America that if Senator McCain was on the wrong side of the G.I. Bill it would hang around his neck for the election. That’s exactly what’s happening now. And I also want to note, Kokesh was only one of two veterans who actually got to speak at all during the convention that has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. There was one other guy, Charlie Summers, who was running for Congress in Maine. On the Democratic side, the week before, they had Tammy Duckworth, they had Patrick Murphy, and they had a number of vets from Iraq and Afghanistan who spoke on Thursday night. So it seemed like a deliberate attempt by the RNC not to put Iraq and Afghanistan vets out in front.
MADDOW: And to have one of the two guys getting to speak at the republican national convention, having to speak essentially from rafters without getting dragged out of the room — that says something.