For the duration of the campaign, one of Mitt Romney's (and the Republican Party's) favorite criticisms of President Obama's tenure as commander-in-chief has regarded our incredible shrinking Navy. It now has fewer ships than any time since 1917! While this is technically a true statement, Politifact has given the claim its trademark "Pants on Fire" rating and explained why it is incredibly misleading:
Counting the number of ships or aircraft is not a good measurement of defense strength because their capabilities have increased dramatically in recent decades. Romney’s comparison "doesn’t pass ‘the giggle test,’ " said William W. Stueck, a historian at the University of Georgia.
Obama made a similar argument when Romney brought up the "smallest Navy" canard during the foreign policy debate tonight ... but with enough snark to build the Empire Snark Building. "Well governor," Obama said, "we also have fewer horses and bayonets." He then went on to explain the existence of aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines as if Romney was a 3-year-old child.
The GOP is hoping to spin the exchange in Romney's favor by referring to it as "Obama's patronizing line of the night," but, if we had to guess, it will be more widely seen as Obama's "superior grasp of military issues" moment of the night.