Clinton, McCain woo veterans' group

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - As one might expect because of her opposition to the Iraq war, Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton faced some skeptics on Monday in an appearance before thousands of U.S. war veterans.

Veterans of Foreign Wars listen as Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) speaks during the VFW's 108th National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri August 20, 2007. REUTERS/Dave Kaup

“There isn’t anything she could say that would get my vote,” said Vietnam veteran William Dobbie, of Sterling Heights, Michigan.

“You stay until you win,” Dobbie said of Iraq.

Clinton limited her discussion of the hot-button debate over withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq to brief closing comments in which she said, “I’m not sure there are any good options.”

The New York senator and former first lady focused instead on improving veterans’ services, adding, “I think the best way of honoring their service is by beginning to bring them home and making sure that when they come home that we have everything ready for them.”

Some in the crowd of about 5,000 veterans and family members gave Clinton credit for coming before the national convention of the influential Veterans of Foreign Wars, which in recent years has generally supported Republicans.


“I was impressed by her speech, I really was,” said Sandy Moravcik of Spartanburg, South Carolina, whose husband served in the Vietnam War. “She touched on a lot of important things, like health care benefits.”

But it was far easier for Republican Sen. John McCain, a former prisoner of war who could point to his own status as a third-generation soldier and spoke of a “fraternity of arms.” McCain was applauded loudly and cheered.

“The war in Iraq has not gone well and the American people have grown sick and tired of it,” said the Arizona Republican seeking his party’s presidential nomination but struggling in the polls and fund-raising.

“But we cannot react to these mistakes by embracing a course of action that will be an even greater mistake,” he said.

Clinton won a standing ovation at the conclusion of her 40-minute speech despite concern by some who doubted she could -- or would -- achieve her promises. Others described her as “pandering” and gave her low marks for her call to begin bringing troops home from Iraq.

Marilyn Nee from Whitman, Massachusetts, who said she was an independent, favored McCain over Clinton.

“I like his views right now,” Nee said. “We could be fighting another war on our own shores if we aren’t careful.”

“I liked McCain,” added Carol Budzyn of Warren, Michigan, clad in a red, white and blue polo shirt. “I don’t like us being there (Iraq) but I’m supportive of the effort.”