First, the president: childishly arrogant, mean, and ignorant. In fact, for instance, the U.S. has more bayonets today than in 1916 because they are Marine Corps standard issue while the entire U.S. military on the eve of American entry into World War I was pitifully small. Too small to deter Germany, among other things. Which was bad. And happened under a Democrat. Like America’s pitifully small military on the eve of World War II. Too small to deter Germany. Under a Democrat. And its dwindling military in the late 1970s. Too small to deter the Soviets. Under a Democrat. Notice a pattern here?
Apparently not. Which brings me to what’s wrong with the governor: seemingly uninterested in foreign policy, he sat there stunned, with neither the knowledge nor the indignation necessary to slap the president down by pointing out that both aircraft carriers and submarines have been around since before Obama’s father was born and the notion that they are recent weapons that reduce the American navy’s need for vessels such as, oh, say, aircraft carriers and submarines is egregious nonsense. (In fact while the first true aircraft carrier capable of launching and landing planes at sea was Britain’s HMS Argus in 1918, the first ever takeoff from a ship and the first ever landing on a ship were both carried out by the U.S. navy over a century ago, off the cruiser USS Birmingham in 1910 and onto the cruiser USS Pennsylvania in 1911.)
“Mr. President,” Romney could have told Obama, “carrier battle groups with submarine escort were the core of our World War II navy; they were the core of our 600 ship navy under Ronald Reagan and they’re still the core of the navy you are shrinking to under half that size today… and it’s now too small. The last time anyone thought battleships were the core of our fleet was on Dec. 6 1941. The things you just described were not new technology when you and I were boys. But they are still vital and you aren’t giving the navy enough of them.” If he’d known… and cared.
Would Romney make a better Commander in Chief? Almost certainly, if only by default. But compare his passion and spontaneous eloquence on, say, Massachusetts public education with his tepid vapidity on national security and you see why so many Republicans were so uneasy about him during the primaries.
Does either of these men tear up when he considers the fate of the USS Yorktown? Could either even describe it? Is it of no significance that, for the first time since 1944, neither presidential candidate has worn his country’s uniform and, for the first time since 1932, no one on either ticket has?
America and the world better hope it doesn’t matter. But neither man’s attitude was reassuring.