Sen. McCain released the following statement today in response to Sen. John Kerry's patronizing remarks on Monday:
Senator Kerry owes an apology to the many thousands of Americans serving in Iraq, who answered their country's call because they are patriots and not because of any deficiencies in their education.
Americans from all backgrounds, well off and less fortunate, with high school diplomas and graduate degrees, take seriously their duty to our country, and risk their lives today to defend the rest of us in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
They all deserve our respect and deepest gratitude for their service. The suggestion that only the least educated Americans would agree to serve in the military and fight in Iraq, is an insult to every soldier serving in combat, and should deeply offend any American with an ounce of appreciation for what they suffer and risk so that the rest of us can sleep more comfortably at night.
Without them, we wouldn't live in a country where people securely possess all their God-given rights, including the right to express insensitive, ill-considered and uninformed remarks.
Kerry's remarks are a disgrace, but not surprising. Though ineptly delivered, Kerry's line on the uneducated, poor soldier is a myth routinely pushed by the Left. From the March 12, 2006 New York Times:
The American military does not depend on poor recruits to sustain itself, argues Tim Cavanaugh in ''Middle-Class Warfare: Military Recruits and Poverty'' in Reason magazine.
In different ways, Democrats and Republicans both subscribe to the notion that recruits are poor kids driven to enlist by desperate financial conditions. Most recently, it's been an argument for the draft: Impose conscription, the idea goes, and it won't just be poor kids going to war.
Now the conservative Heritage Foundation has analyzed enlistee demographics by looking at household incomes in the zip codes recruits come from. The results indicate a pool of recruits drawn mainly from the middle class. The largest group of new recruits in 2003 -- 18 percent -- came from neighborhoods with average annual household incomes of $35,000 to $40,000, compared to a median household income of $43,318. In all, the top two-income quintiles (comprising households with incomes starting at $41,688) produced 45 percent of all recruits in 2003. A mere 5 percent came from neighborhoods with average incomes below $20,000 per household.
The Heritage findings make sense: While the military offers some attractions in terms of education, training and life experience, the effort and commitment required are so great that service in the enlisted ranks will always lose a cost/benefit comparison with even the most humble minimum-wage job. Noneconomic, nonrational motivations such as patriotism, self-esteem building, or just the desire to change one's life are more compelling factors in the decision to join up.
Good for McCain for nailing Kerry on it.