Don't diss defense workers

Reuters

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama speak at the same time as moderator Bob Schieffer (C) listens during the final U.S. presidential debate in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22, 2012.

Article Highlights

  • If you care about foreign policy, you may have been disappointed by the focus on car tires & teachers. #lynndebate

    Tweet This

  • “If your aim is to win in Virginia, it is probably better not to make fun of the naval fleet.” @DPletka

    Tweet This

  • Fundamentally, the question is less about the score that Twitter and spinners give to their favored obsession.

    Tweet This

If what you care about is foreign policy and you tuned in tonight, you may have been a tad disappointed by the focus on car tires and teachers and by Barack Obama’s rather robotic insistence on “nation building here at home.” If you care about national defense and are particularly worried about sequestration (the plan that would likely cut $500 billion from the defense budget in January 2013), the President’s blithe assertion that it won’t happen – no proof, no policy, just “I’m Barack Obama and I approve this message” – may not have convinced you.

On the other hand, Mitt Romney did little more to convey the security costs of a rollback in defense that could mean that, by the end of this decade, Americans will be spending more annually to service their national debt that they will on national security.

Mr. Romney recycled the oft-used sentiment that the President’s request for naval ships will be the smallest since 1917. Mr. Obama quoted Mr. Romney’s talking points back to him, citing the actual year — 1916 – and ridiculed Romney’s failure to understand that the military doesn’t fight with bayonets and horses anymore. But the reality is that Mr. Obama’s request is for a Navy unseen since 1916. And for an Air Force little improved from the one our fathers knew. And for a tanker fleet so ancient, all operations are analog. And for a bomber fleet conceived during the Carter years. In that context, cute horse comments are a lame comeback.

If your aim is to win in Virginia, it is probably better not to make fun of the naval fleet (note to the Obama team). Defense workers in Ohio and Virginia are game for more investment. If you want to score points on national defense, it’s probably best not to be snide (though hipsters love it). Truth be told, many who believe in America’s national mission are comfortable with the “peace through strength” message Mr. Romney sought to convey.

Fundamentally, the question is less about the score that Twitter and the spinners give to their favored obsession. Rather, it’s about who sends a message of American resolve, belief in American power, and commitment to American investment in defense. If that’s what matters to you — be you American voter, adversary, or terrorist — then it’s likely that Mr. Romney’s message, on principle and politics, hit home a little harder than Mr. Obama’s. And that, folks, is what the debates are all about.

Danielle Pletka is the vice president for foreign and defense studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Danielle
Pletka

What's new on AEI

Love people, not pleasure
image Oval Office lacks resolve on Ukraine
image Middle East Morass: A public opinion rundown of Iraq, Iran, and more
image Verizon's Inspire Her Mind ad and the facts they didn't tell you
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Monday, July 21, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Closing the gaps in health outcomes: Alternative paths forward

Please join us for a broader exploration of targeted interventions that provide real promise for reducing health disparities, limiting or delaying the onset of chronic health conditions, and improving the performance of the US health care system.

Monday, July 21, 2014 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Comprehending comprehensive universities

Join us for a panel discussion that seeks to comprehend the comprehensives and to determine the role these schools play in the nation’s college completion agenda.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | 8:50 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Who governs the Internet? A conversation on securing the multistakeholder process

Please join AEI’s Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy for a conference to address key steps we can take, as members of the global community, to maintain a free Internet.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Expanding opportunity in America: A conversation with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan

Please join us as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveils a new set of policy reforms aimed at reducing poverty and increasing upward mobility throughout America.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 6:00 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.
Is it time to end the Export-Import Bank?

We welcome you to join us at AEI as POLITICO’s Ben White moderates a lively debate between Tim Carney, one of the bank’s fiercest critics, and Tony Fratto, one of the agency’s staunchest defenders.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.