I didn’t intend to return to the “horses and bayonets” story, but Paul Ryan’s bizarre confusion is worth considering.
To briefly recap, Mitt Romney said “our Navy is smaller now than any time since 1917.” President Obama explained that the comparison doesn’t make sense, since our military and strategic needs have changed dramatically over the last 95 years. Congressman Ryan, meanwhile, is simply lost.
CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell asked the far-right Wisconsin lawmaker about the exchange, and here’s how he responded:
“To compare modern American battleships and Navy with bayonets, I just don’t understand that comparison. Look, we have to have a strong Navy to keep peace and prosperity and sea lanes open…. If all these defense cuts go through, our Navy will be small than it was before World War I. That’s not acceptable. And, yes, the ocean hasn’t shrunk.”
Oh, for goodness sakes. I don’t know if Ryan is being deliberately obtuse or if the guy just doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but Obama isn’t comparing battleships with bayonets. If Ryan expects to hold national office in three months, he’ll need to be much smarter than this.
Let’s explain this simply: as the nation’s military, strategic, and technological needs change over generations, so too does our fleet. Long before Obama became president, the Navy began modernizing and reorganizing for a new geopolitical landscape – and that’s a good thing. As Tim Murphy wrote in January, “[W]e’re getting a lot more bang for our buck – we’ve swapped dreadnoughts, monitors, and 50-gun frigates for air-craft carriers and nuclear submarines. Which would you want in a fight?”
Romney and Ryan, both of whom like to use ships as props without actually understanding national security policy, are effectively arguing, “Yeah, but, you know, fewer ships is bad.”
There’s just no depth of understanding or seriousness of purpose. Some advisor handed these guys a note card with a statistic that sounded provocative, they memorized it, and aren’t well enough informed about the basics to realize that the president made Romney look ridiculous.
Postscript: And just as an aside, when Ryan condemns these dangerous “defense cuts,” he’s talking about sequester he personally voted for. As for the fact that the ocean isn’t “shrinking,” that’s true, but it is rising thanks to the climate crisis Ryan and his allies choose to ignore.