Obama Defends Himself On McCain's Military Service Charges

(CBS)
From CBS News' Maria Gavrilovic:

CHICAGO -- Barack Obama dismissed John McCain's claim that he is not a credible advocate of veterans issues because he never served in the U.S. military.

"I didn't serve as many people my age because Vietnam was over by the time I was of draft age and we had then moved to an all volunteer army," Obama told reporters last night on the flight back from Puerto Rico.

"But obviously I revere our soldiers and want to make sure they are being treated with honor and respect."

Obama later said he will "cede to no one the ability to talk about veterans issues." He said his grandfather was a veteran and vowed to "advocate fiercely" on their behalf. Obama then took a jab at McCain for not supporting the GI Bill.

"John McCain will have to decide whether he thinks that the current level of benefits or the current performance of the VA is sufficient. If he does, then that's a substantive debate that we'll have in November."

Today, Obama will deliver the commencement address at Wesleyan University, where he will speak in Senator Ted Kennedy's place.

"I have the distinct honor today of pinch-hitting for one of my personal heroes and a hero to this country, Senator Edward Kennedy," Obama will say, according to his prepared remarks. "Teddy wanted to be here very much, but as you know, he's had a very long week and is taking some much-needed rest. He called me up a few days ago and I said that I'd be happy to be his stand-in, even if there was no way I could fill his shoes."

"I did, however, get the chance to glance at the speech he planned on delivering today, and I'd like to start by passing along a message from him: 'To all those praying for my return to good health, I offer my heartfelt thanks. And to any who'd rather have a different result, I say, don't get your hopes up just yet!'"