If you exist on the grid, you likely heard about President Obama’s “horses and bayonets” remarks during Monday’s foreign policy debate. Here’s the President:
“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.” – President Barack Obama (emphasis mine)
Following those comments, the Twittersphere immediately latched on to what would obviously become the phrase-of-the-debate (the previous debate: Romney’s “binders full of women”). Obama supporters cheered the “zinger” and the jokes came streaming through my Twitter feed. There wasn’t much of a response from the conservatives I follow. At least, not until the next day.
I was listening to a conservative Anchorage radio talk-show, and the host brought up the “horses and bayonets” line; except, he was characterizing the President as saying that we no longer had horses and bayonets in our military. A number of callers called in, stating that the Marines are still issued bayonets and do some training with them. Other callers stated that members of the military that they knew were upset with the President for not knowing that they still had bayonets. With each caller repeating something similar, the event quickly evolved from President Obama’s witty comment to President Obama putting his foot in his mouth. One caller even called in to state that there are still some horses owned by the military, so President Obama doubly screwed up. Again, a lot of this centered around the military being mad at the President for getting it so wrong.
I hate to be pedantic, but people are omitting one of the words the President said, to turn what many Obama supporters thought was a great jab, into the President making a careless mistake. The fact of the matter is that the President said that today’s military has fewer horses and bayonets than our military used to have — not zero horses and bayonets. And I think we can all agree that bayonet and horse numbers in the United States military is probably at an all-time low.
If the smoke would have ever cleared, people could have realized that they’re having an argument on semantics. The fact that the President made a case about our military remaining strong, yet evolved from previous versions, was overshadowed, both by his supporters that relished the remarks, and his opponents that decided they would just pretend he said something slightly different and then go on the attack for his “mistake”.
Unfortunately, this is probably all that will really stick from what was supposed to be a debate on foreign policy but lacked the real substance that Americans deserve to hear from the two candidates vying to lead their country.