Conservatives have made an admirable attempt thus far to turn President Obama’s “horses and bayonets” zinger in their favor. Mostly, they have been doing this by lying.
What Obama said was that the military uses “fewer horses and bayonets” than it used to, because technology changes over time. Obama was making the point that comparing the number of ships our Navy had in 1916 to the number it has now, as Mitt Romney was doing, is a ridiculous way to gauge military strength, since the ships we do have are vastly more powerful than they used to be.
But some conservatives are pretending that Obama actually claimed that the military uses no horses or bayonets anymore. And the military does use them sometimes, so Obama is a moron! Media Matters gathered some of the more prominent examples:
Immediately following the debate, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace highlighted that a Marine “tweeted Fox News and said the Marines still use bayonets. So it may not be clear who doesn’t understand what the military currently uses.”
Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin complained that “Mr. Snarky Commander McSnark” was “lecturing Romney on how we don’t have bayonets anymore.” At Breitbart.com, Joel Pollak also purported to fact-check Obama, writing that “the military still uses bayonets.”
Fox Nation has similarly posted a story headlined “Mr. President, US Special Forces Rode Horses Into Afghanistan.”
Meanwhile, a guy who sells bayonets to the military tells TMZ that Obama is “ignorant … because our soldiers still use bayonets.” But again, Obama didn’t say that we never use bayonets or never use horses, so all these arguments and criticisms are directed at a straw man.
But Paul Ryan isn’t embracing the straw-man tactic. Instead, on CBS This Morning, he insisted that the whole bayonet analogy was so confusing, he couldn’t even wrap his famously wonky head around it:
“To compare modern American battleships and Navy with bayonets - I just don’t understand that comparison.”
Is it really that complicated? Let’s break down this analogy SAT-style: Outdated ships are to modern ships as outdated weaponry (such as bayonets) are to ____. Now, Ryan might guess something like “horses” or “the ocean,” but the answer is “modern weaponry.” This is a form of logical reasoning that most Americans master around the age of 17.