Mr. Obama’s condescending comments in the debate last Monday evoked embarrassment for him as his stature seemed to diminish right in front of my eyes. As if this much younger man with virtually no leadership experience 44 months ago feels so elevated as to lecture a proven, seasoned leader such as Mitt Romney. Mr. Obama’s hubris knows no bounds. The nature of narcissism is such that humility is rarely felt by a man that places high value in the power he thinks he possesses.
The WSJ editorial board published a short column titled, A Game of Battleship? Mr. Obama’s supreme confidence in slamming Governor Romney on the size of the Navy serves to only compound a growing sense among Americans that Obama’s credibility is eroding.
And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we’re counting ships. It’s what are our capabilities.
That was President Obama at Monday night’s debate, rebuking Mitt Romney for noting that the U.S.Navy is the smallest it’s been in nearly a century and may soon get smaller. It would be nice to think the President has been up late reading Alfred Thayer Mahan. To judge by the rest of his remarks on the subject, he hasn’t.
F/A-18C Hornet on Aircraft Carrer Deck (photo source: www.Navy.com)
We mean Mr. Obama’s well-rehearsed jibe that “we also have fewer horses and bayonets” than we did during World War I. This was followed by the observation that “we have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”
Yes, Mr. President. And we have fewer of all of those things, too.
Many historians believe that President Reagan defeated the mighty Soviet empire economically; that by building a strong national defense, the Soviet Union was constantly keeping up until it effectively went broke.
When the Soviet Union fell in 1991, the Navy counted 529 ships in the fleet, including 15 aircraft carriers and 121 nuclear submarines. In 2001 the Navy was down to 316 ships, with 12 carriers and 73 subs. In 2011 the numbers were 285, 11 and 71, respectively. On current trajectory, Mr. Romney said, “we’re headed down to the low 200s,” a figure Mr. Obama did not dispute.
The USS Wilbur, a guided missile destroyer with Mt. Fuji in background (photo source; www.Navy.com)
The President is right that the ships the U.S. puts to sea today are, for the most part, much more capable than they were 20 or 30 years ago. But that’s true only up to a point. Aegis cruisers and destroyers responsible for defending their immediate battle space are now taking on the additional role of providing ballistic missile defense. The tasks multiply, but the ships aren’t getting any additional missile tubes.
Concerns about ship numbers may seem passé. They also seemed passé to many in the late 19th century, which is exactly why Mahan wrote “The Influence of Sea Power Upon History.” If we’ve again become cavalier about maintaining the freedom of the seas, it’s because a powerful U.S. Navy has accustomed us to indifference. Weaken the Navy further, and that’s a luxury we’ll lose.
Ultimately, it is the credibility of the POTUS that allows him to retain authority through reelection. One definition of credibility is “worthy of trust.” The complete erosion of trust was so complete with Presidents Johnson and Carter they lost a second chance to serve (President George H.W. Bush lost mainly because his vote was bifurcated with Ross Perot). It has become most apparent to me and many other Americans that President Obama is no longer worthy of our trust. Daniel Henninger’s weekly column in the WSJ is excellent on this subject: Suddenly, a Credibility Gap:
There have been only two events that could be said to have caused significant movement by voters in the campaign. One was the Oct. 3 Denver debate in which Mitt Romney disinterred political skills that stunned the incumbent and woke up a sleeping electorate. Race on.
The other is Benghazi. The damage done to the Obama campaign by the Sept. 11 death in Benghazi of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three American colleagues has been more gradual than the sensation of the Denver debate, but its effect may have been deeper.
The incumbent president has a credibility gap.
The phenomenon of a credibility gap dates to the Vietnam War and the presidency of Lyndon Johnson. The charge then was that LBJ wasn’t leveling with the American people or Congress about Vietnam. The credibility gap was hardly the only thing that caused LBJ to withdraw from the 1968 election, but it eroded support for his presidency.
Vehicle inside the U.S. Consulate compound in Benghazi, Libya, Sept. 11 (photo credit: AFP/Getty Images
Credibility gaps can be unfair things. They generally involve difficult foreign affairs in which presidents possess information and realities never revealed to the general public, presumably for its own good. That may be what this White House believes about Benghazi. But it is also true that only this White House knows why it allowed the Benghazi disaster to drip though the news from September into October, with no credible account of the attack, even as reporters for newspapers such as this one got the story out.
In time it was no surprise that people began to ask: Was the White House hiding something about an event of enormous gravity to protect the president’s candidacy? For much of the American electorate, that would be cause to start marking down a presidency.
Even by the standards of our celebrified culture, Barack Obama’s personalization of the American presidency has been outsized. He and his political team sought this aura. Hillary and the rest of the cabinet receded, while he rose. In Monday’s debate, Mr. Obama stumbled into a summation of his status: “This nation, me, my administration.” L’etat, c’est me.
Until now, it worked. Despite an awful economy, the president’s likability numbers held firm. Many wanted to believe in this larger-than-life president. His clumsy handling of Benghazi, however, has opened a gap in the president’s credibility…
It may be that voters think both candidates have stretched the truth, but credibility is the coin of a presidency. The political cost of devaluing that coin is higher for an incumbent seeking a second term and higher still for this one. Two weeks from Election Day, Barack Obama has been shown in Benghazi to be a president with feet of clay. It may well take him down.
Contrast Mr. Obama’s loss of trust or credibility with the following statement made by Governor Romney in Colorado this week when he walked out to speak at a much larger audience than he had expected; as reported in The Ulsterman Report:
“Lord, if this is your will, please help to make me worthy. Please give me the strength Lord.”
American Values: “In God We Trust” — “Liberty” — “E Pluribus Unum”
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