#5: Romney Is More Presidential … and Does His Homework

Watching the third presidential debate made it pretty clear that Romney acts in a more presidential manner than Obama. The lowlight of nastiness and contempt occurred when Obama tried to explain why he does not believe that the Navy needs more ships.

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 has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have 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.

In addition to being condescending during the third debate and in this segment in particular, Obama also suffered the misfortune of not having done his homework before launching this attack against Romney.

Even though Obama only said that we have fewer bayonets today, his tone and body language and the fact that he tied bayonets with horses all clearly indicated – at least to me – that Obama considers bayonets to be antiquated weapons. Unfortunately for Obama, bayonets are still a significant part of the American military arsenal. The army has over 419,000 bayonets, the Marine Corps has over 195,000, and the Marine Corps has plans to order an additional 175,000.

Obama mentioned Osama bin Laden by name six times during the debate, commenting once that “we killed bin Laden.” It seems to me that if Obama really values military personnel the way he says that he does, it would have been more chivalrous to explicitly acknowledge the role of the Navy SEALs in that operation. Or, perhaps Obama – as Commander-in–Chief – might realize that the Navy SEALs under his command still use weapons such as bayonets.

Weapons of the Navy SEALs by Fred Pushies points out that each Navy SEAL is allowed to choose his own “edged weapon” and indicates that those choices include the M9 bayonet. The book concludes that “The Navy SEAL is as comfortable – and as lethal – with a knife as he is with any firearm.”

Standard Marine training teaches Marines how to make deadly use of bayonets. A former Marine passionately defended the value of bayonets in an on-line post:

As a former U.S. Marine, I can attest to the value of bayonet training. When out of ammo, out of touch or in close, it is best to have a bayonet…. It is not archaic or a throwback to the past that the Marine Corps still trains with bayonets. It is not archaic that the U.S. Army and Marine Corps has an active hand to hand combat training program that includes knives and bayonets. For the military and the idiotic few who seem to think that a knife or bayonet or [enthrenching] tool is an ineffective weapon of last resort then I hope they find themselves without one when the situation warrants…. 

On first read, one might think this post was made in response to the final presidential debate, except for the fact that the designation “142 weeks ago” appears above the post. Apparently, Obama has company in scorning the use of bayonets. However, it seems unwise of Obama not to have done his homework before jabbing Romney with his bayonet line. In what some have speculated was a pre-planned line, Obama kindly gave Romney an opening for an effective campaign ad and gave thoughtful indepedents an opening for contrasting the two candidates.

During the debate, Romney proposed increasing the number of ships in the Navy:

The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We’re now down to 285…. I want to make sure that we have the ships that are required by our Navy.

Romney seems to have done his homework on this one. The Naval Sea Systems Command Strategic Business Plan for 2009-2013 says:

We are accountable to the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) to deliver, modernize and maintain a 313-ship Navy that meets the requirements of our national security plan. If we continue to operate with a “business as usual” approach, this goal will not be achieved; we must change.

The Navy’s plan for 313 ships does include the “things called aircraft carriers” as well as “ships that go underwater.” It begs the question of how Obama could appear to be unaware that the Navy’s own plan for 313 ships includes aircraft carriers and submarines. Humorously, my copy of the game Battleship also includes aircraft carriers and submarines, and, so, even that part of Obama’s jab missed the mark. Even the game Battleship is not just a matter of “counting ships.” It t has different ships with different capabilities.

It seems ironic that during the foreign policy debate, Obama’s  tone of voice, smirking, and body language showed him to be the less dimplomatic of the two candidates.

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