Bayonets and battleships

October 23rd, 2012

Judging by social media commentary since yesterday evening’s presidential debate on foreign policy, Obama’s quote about the US military having fewer “horses and bayonets” today has become quite popular—especially among Romney supporters attempting to hold it up as an example of how clueless our president is.

In case you missed the debate last night, Romney criticized Obama on military spending cuts, pointing out that America’s navy is at its smallest size since 1916. Obama retorted: “Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed.” Cue social media explosion as thousands of angry Romney supporters swarm Twitter and Facebook to point out that the military still trains with bayonets, and even utilizes horses from time to time.

Even GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan had something to say on the subject. In an interview that aired this morning on CBS’s This Morning,  Ryan stated “To compare modern American battleships and Navy with bayonets, I just don’t understand that comparison”.

Paul Ryan, like much of the American public, does not understand how analogies work.

Obama’s response would have been perfectly appropriate in a setting where a large portion of his audience wasn’t—for lack of a better word—dumb. He made his point succinctly and even injected a bit of humor. Unfortunately, American education is in such a sad state that much of the population is literally unable to interpret his meaning (Paul Ryan had all night to think about it, and apparently he’s still lost). As a result, Obama’s smart, witty zinger is twisted into ammo for the Romney camp among those too dumb to understand it.

Somebody should probably also clue Paul Ryan in to the fact that there is no such thing as a “modern American battleship” after his comments this morning—we decommissioned the last one 20 years ago in 1992. No navy in the world uses battleships today, because they’re essentially obsolete relics that serve no purpose in modern warfare. Much like bayonets.

Hey, I wonder how our Air Force today would compare to the one that we fielded back in 1916?

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