It was arguably the biggest takedown of the 2012 presidential campaign. In the third debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney, the Republican complained, “Our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917…. Our Air Force is older and smaller than at any time since it was founded in 1947.”
The former governor had used the same argument many times on the stump, and the prepared president pounced. “Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed,” Obama explained. “We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we’re counting ships. It’s what are our capabilities?”
It was a rough moment for Romney, whose canned talking points were made to look ridiculous.
And yet, there was Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) last week, delivering a big speech on foreign policy, embracing Romney’s argument as his own.
“[President Obama] wasted no time stripping parts from the engine of American Strength. He enacted hundreds of billions in defense cuts that left our Army on track to be at pre-World War II levels, our Navy at pre-WWI levels, and our Air Force with the smallest and oldest combat force in its history.”
First, the defense cuts were part of the Republicans’ sequestration policy, not the White House’s agenda, making this an odd line of attack. Second, Romney’s discredited argument from three years ago isn’t any better now.
Bloomberg Politics had a good piece, noting that the far-right senator’s arguments “don’t add up.”
[T]he numbers of ships and planes don’t define U.S. military capabilities. Modern warships, notably aircraft carriers and submarines, are far more effective and lethal than their World War II predecessors.The Air Force is preparing to field the costliest jet fighter ever built, Lockheed Martin’s F-35, and already has the second generation F-22 with stealth characteristics. Advances in precision guidance and intelligence collection make even older aircraft such as the F-15 and F-16 far more capable than the jets that preceded them.
Romney at least had a decent excuse – he had no foreign policy experience, no national security experience, no working understanding of how the military operates, and he hadn’t even held public office for the six years leading up to the 2012 campaign.
Rubio, on the other hand, is currently a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and he’s basing much of his campaign on his alleged expertise on international affairs. What Rubio’s excuse for being so routinely confused about the basics?