ST. PAUL — Fred Thompson was by far the most well-received speaker last night, and the former senator’s detailed recounting of John McCain’s service and captivity in Vietnam produced more than a few tears inside the Excel Center. But the energizing moment, Thompson’s big applause line about McCain, came later:
He has been to Iraq eight times since 2003. He went seeking truth, not publicity. When he travels abroad, he prefers quietly speaking to the troops amidst the heat and hardship of their daily lives. And the same character that marked John McCain’s military career has also marked his political career. This man, John McCain is not intimidated by what the polls say or by what is politically safe or popular. At a point when the war in Iraq was going badly and the public lost confidence, John stood up and called for more troops. And now we are winning.
Not only did that last phrase (“now we are winning”) bring down the house, the whole paragraph encapsulates some of the biggest differences between last week’s Democratic convention in Denver and this week’s Republican convention in St. Paul. Last week, the surge in Iraq simply did not exist. Both Barack Obama and Joe Biden opposed the surge, so it was simply ignored. This week, there is an honest assessment of why peace rapidly is taking hold in Iraq, and an acknowledgment the surge was essential to that peace. Last week, all of America’s troops were victims who needed more government programs. This week, our troops are heroes who deserve our respect and gratitude.
One way Americans can honor the troops is by doing everything possible to ensure they can vote in the election. There is movement in both the House and Senate to do just that. On the Senate side, Sens. Wayne Allard (R-CO) and John Cornyn (R-TX) are sponsors of the Military Voting Protection Act of 2008. In the House, Reps. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) have sponsored a similarly named bill. Both are efforts to address problems reported by the the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) in a September 2007 study on military and overseas absentee voting.
In 2006, elections officials counted only 48 percent of the ballots cast by overseas members of the military who requested absentee ballots, according to the EAC. The top reason officials rejected the ballots: They “were received by the election offices after the deadline stipulated by state law.”
Both bills charge the secretary of defense with collecting absentee ballots of overseas military voters and delivering them to state elections officials via air transport, using tracking capabilities. The bills also would eliminate the notary requirement on voted ballots and allow for electronic submissions of requests for absentee ballots. Military personnel have little control over their geographic assignments, and measures like these ought to make it easier for them to exercise the same voting rights enjoyed by civilians.
Nobody knows better than the troops in the field that not only are we now winning in Iraq, but it is because of the surge that our fortunes changed. These troops deserve to have their voices heard in November.
- Of the 2,000 protesters who showed up yesterday at the Republican National Convention, 135 people will be charged with felonies in connection with property destruction and other violence.
- Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. commander in Iraq, said declining violence in Baghdad raises the possibility that American combat troops could leave the capital by next summer.
- The former Soviet republic of Georgia is moving to rebuild its military in expectation of more Russian violations of Georgian sovereignty.
- US Weekly, the tabloid magazine published by Barack Obama supporter and Rolling Stone magazine founder Jann Wenner, next week will feature a cover with this screaming headline: “Babies, Lies and Scandal: John McCain’s Vice President.”
- Local governments in Britain are recruiting “citizen snoopers” to rat out neighbors who don’t comply with mandatory recycling laws.