On “Meet the Press” yesterday, Mitt Romney said he intends to “maintain defense spending at the current level of the GDP,” a claim that’s deeply misleading given his plan to increase defense spending by nearly $2 trillion over the next 10 years.
But as part of the same response, Romney also said, “This sequestration idea of the White House, which is cutting our defense, I think is an extraordinary miscalculation in the wrong direction.” When David Gregory noted the sequester is part of a deal reached with Republican leaders, Romney threw them under the bus, saying GOP leaders made “a big mistake.”
Maybe now would be a good time to note that one of the Republican officials Mitt Romney believes made “a big mistake” is a guy by the name of Paul Ryan – his running mate, who called the sequester deal “a victory” last year.
For his part, Ryan argued on “Face the Nation” that he didn’t vote for the defense cuts he voted for, which probably won’t help his reputation for dishonesty.
The details of this can get a little confusing, but since the Republican ticket appears to be divded against itself on this, let’s pause to set the record straight. What we’re dealing with are two separate sets of proposed defense cuts, not one big package of defense cuts as Romney keeps arguing.
The first set was proposed by President Obama in consultation with the Pentagon and the unanimous judgment of the Joint Chiefs, which would cut defense spending by about $500 billion over the course of the next decade. Republicans generally oppose these cuts – Paul Ryan even accused the Joint Chiefs of lying to Congress when they endorsed the policy.
The second set was proposed by congressional Republicans, not the White House. That’s the one that’s suddenly become so controversial.
To recap, as part of last year’s debt-ceiling crisis, instigated by Republicans, policymakers accepted over $1 trillion in cuts that would be implemented if the so-called supercommittee failed. Democrats weren’t completely willing to roll over – they wanted to create an incentive for Republicans to work in good faith. Republicans agreed: if the committee failed, the GOP would accept defense cuts and Dems would accept non-defense domestic cuts. (Dems originally asked for automatic tax increases; Republicans balked and offered to slash Pentagon spending instead.)
The committee, of course, flopped when GOP members refused to compromise, which put us on the clock for the automatic reductions that Republicans contributed to the very process they insisted upon.
Paul Ryan not only helped lead the way on this, he voted for the agreement itself – the one Romney condemned yesterday.
I suppose the follow-up question for the Republican presidential nominee is, if this was such a bad idea, why did your party come up with it? And if you consider it such a horrible mistake, why’d you invite the guy who heralded this mistake onto your national ticket?