President Obama’s horses-and-bayonets quip in this week’s debate presented an opportunity for the Republican running for Virginia’s U.S. Senate race and a potential minefield for his Democratic rival.
Former Republican governor George Allen accused Obama of making light of a shrunken Navy at a time of looming defense cuts know as “sequestration.”
Former Democratic governor Timothy M. Kaine, meanwhile, issued a statement that took pains to neither praise nor criticize Obama’s remark. It said only that Kaine would “work with both parties to continue strategic investments” in the military.
And what about the former Navy secretary whose Senate seat Kaine and Allen are trying to win?
Sea power has also been a longtime priority for Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.). In 1988, Webb resigned his post as Secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan, partly because he believed the Pentagon wasn’t committed to building enough ships. At the time, the Reagan administration had a stated goal of building a 600-ship Navy – more than twice the current size.
What was Webb’s take on Obama’s remark?
His office declined to comment.
During his final debate with Obama on Monday night, Republican challenger Mitt Romney contended that the Navy has fewer ships than it did in 1917. Obama, arguing that modern nuclear-powered aircraft carriers cannot be compared to battleships of old, replied, “We also have fewer horses and bayonets.”
While Republicans pounced on the comment and Democrats danced around it, the statement hardly seemed to make waves in Hampton Roads, despite the region’s huge shipyards and Naval base.
In a story in today’s Washington Post, even some fervent Romney supporters said they took no issue with Obama’s point.