Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bayonets and Submarines

The debate earlier this week contained this exchange:
ROMNEY: Our Navy is old -- excuse me, our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We're now at under 285. We're headed down to the low 200s if we go through a sequestration. That's unacceptable to me...
OBAMA: But 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's changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.

It has since come out in numerous news sources that we actually have more bayonets than in 1916, that they were used in Iraq and Afghanistan, that we used horses actively in Afghanistan, and that we had submarines in 1916 (As did the Germans in sinking some of our ships leading up to our entry into WWI).

The most common response I've seen to this is that it's pedantic and misses the forest for the trees.  I disagree.  It would be pedantic to point out that Romney said 1917 (because by 1917 we had built more ships for WWI) and Obama would have been technically accurate about bayonets if he had also said 1917 (we drastically increased the size of the Army, and thus the number of bayonets, after entry into the war).

The problem with Obama's statement isn't the minor facts, it's that he's using the minor facts to show that his knowledge of modern combat is far superior to either Romney or the Defense Review Board that asked for more ships, thus the dismissive introduction about spending time looking at how the military works.  If Obama had spent the time he claims Romney needs to spend on "looking at how our military works" he would know that every one of our Marines still carries a bayonet, is trained to use them, and have used them in recent conflicts.  Worse his ignorance is practiced.  This isn't a line he came up with on the fly, he had prepared this response knowing that the question would be asked.  He could have justified his decision to hold the number of ships down by some example of how he believes we can adequately project power with the 285 ships we have, but he didn't.  He made a premeditated decision to instead portray Romney as a backwards ignoramus who is stuck in the days when we used bayonets and horses, not understanding that we still use bayonets and horses.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Obama's one point plan

In the debate last night President Obama accused Governor Romney that
Gov. Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan, he has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules.

I disagree with this characterization of Governor Romney's plan, but I'm more interested in Obama's plan:

  • Special rules for the GM bankruptcy to reward politically connected creditors over senior creditors
  • Over 1200 special exemptions to healthcare rules
  • Special loan and grant deals to politically connected green energy firms, several of questionable legality (such as the subordination of the US loans to Solyndra under private loans)

Who wants to have different sets of rules again?

Romney would have let GM go bankrupt. Obama did.

In last night's debate Obama came back to one of his favorite campaign talking points: Romney would have just let GM go bankrupt.  While it's true that Romney would have done so, and said he would in speeches, I'm not clear why it's interesting.  GM went bankrupt and Obama supported it.

The first sentence of the Wikipedia article on the GM restructuring (which is accurate):
The General Motors Chapter 11 sale of the assets of automobile manufacturer General Motors and some of its subsidiaries was implemented through section 363 of Chapter 11, Title 11, United States Code in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York

There are serious questions surrounding how the bankruptcy was handled.  For instance whether TARP repayments could legally be used to bailout automakers, or whether the Federal government actually has the power to subordinate higher priority creditors in order to make sure that union pensions continue to get funded, but Romney and Obama agree that the whole thing should be handled through Chapter 11.  We know that because Romney said so and Obama handled it through Chapter 11.