I thought one statement by Barack Obama was the highlight of last night’s debate. Seeking to land a knockout blow against Mitt Romney’s advocacy of preserving our military spending in the face of the planned sequester, Obama asserted in his patented style:
I think Governor Romney maybe hasn’t spent enough time looking at how our military works.
You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.
Obama’s tone was patronizing at best. Yet it is the substance of Obama’s comments that is their least defensible element. Obama seemed to be saying that naval power was obsolete, or that it could no longer fairly be represented by the number of ships.
Obama didn’t bother to make an argument, substituting a condescending attitude for relevant facts. Max Boot brings out the heavy artillery — facts! — in “On national defense, quantity matters too.” (Bob Owens has more here.)
How about horses? I wasn’t quick-witted enough to think of the role horses had played in our attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan after 9/11. Doug Stanton’s Horse Soldiers tells the story.
What about bayonets? Donald Sensing points out that Obama was also wrong about bayonets. I had no idea they were basic to Marine weaponry, but Sensing’s comment about this component of Obama’s remarks perfectly captures my reaction to Obama’s misguided riff: “Sarcasm and condescension only work if the speaker’s presumption of lofty superior knowledge is borne out by his command of actual facts. You can’t successfully accuse your opponent of being an ignoramus when you don’t know what you’re talking about yourself.” TMZ reports that President Obama has “offended the bayonet community.” Not bad for a night’s work.
And this was no spontaneous outburst on Obama’s part. Rather, it was clearly a planned, premeditated assault on Romney worked up by Team Obama. It wasn’t the video! (video below). It wasn’t even clever politically.