While the Democrats prepared for the second night of their convention, Sen. John McCain delivered his own type of convention speech before a friendly audience of military veterans.
The Arizona Republican spoke in Phoenix at the national convention of the American Legion, an organization that counts him as member.
McCain received a warm welcome as the Navy hymn "Anchors Aweigh" played, and as he commended veterans for their service.
In his speech, McCain criticized his rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, for opposing the Iraq war and for telling Russia that it could not charge into other countries.
"If I catch Sen. Obama's drift, then our failure 'to lead by example' was the liberation of Iraq from a dangerous tyrant. And if he really thinks that by liberating Iraq from a dangerous tyrant, America somehow set a bad example that invited Russia to invade a small, peaceful and democratic nation, then he should state it outright — because that is a debate I welcome," McCain said.
McCain also vowed to reform the Veteran's Affairs health care system and renewed his pledge to provide disabled and low-income vets with a government insurance card that they could use at health care facilities outside the VA system.
He said that did not mean he wants to cut VA services. McCain said any additional cost would be offset by more accountability in the system. "My reforms would not force anyone to go to a non-VA facility and do not signal privatization of the VA. Use of the card would be optional. Only high-quality health care providers would be used.
"Participating veterans would incur no additional charges, and my reforms would not replace any scheduled expansion of the VA network," he said.
McCain left to a standing ovation. But Tim Collmer of New York thought that McCain did not go far enough and wanted him to propose mandatory VA funding levels.
Still, Collmer recognized that McCain was delivering a message that the audience wanted to hear. "Like most politicians, he talked to the group," Collmer said. "But I think the VA reforms are the biggest thing, and I'm glad to see he's doing that."
On Wednesday, the American Legion convention will hear from Vice President Dick Cheney, Democratic Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and Obama via videotape.