Last night, Barack Obama had his best debate. But even in his best debate, he looked small and petty, particularly in one crucial exchange with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Romney criticized Obama’s plans to drastically cut military spending, and focused more specifically on Obama’s cuts to the Navy: “our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We’re now at under 285. We’re headed down to the low 200s if we go through a sequestration.”
Obama responded not by defending his record on military cuts – he doesn’t have a record that shows strength on military spending. Instead, he went small. Actually, small doesn’t cut it. He went minute:
Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we’re counting slips. It’s what are our capabilities.
Obama has reduced our military spending policy to a question of bayonets. And this is Obama’s entire campaign in a nutshell. Deaths of our ambassador and three other Americans in Libya? Those are “bumps in the road.” Mitt Romney’s desire to cut from government spending? He wants to cut Big Bird! And as for equal pay for equal work – well, says Obama, all Mitt Romney knows about is binders full of women.
Bayonets. Big Bird. Binders. Bumps in the road. The killer B’s. And they’re a big O.
This president is going small because his record is small. Back in 2008, President Obama was all about soaring rhetoric. Hope and change. During his nomination acceptance speech, Obama went so big that he made the Bible look small:
I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment – this was the time – when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals.
And now he’s talking bayonets, Big Bird, binders, and bumps in the road. He’s minimized our foreign policy to the point where dead Americans are bumps in the road; he’s minimized our military policy so that we’re all just arguing over more or less bayonets; he’s minimized our spending problem so that we’re supposed to talk about Big Bird; he’s minimized our work laws so that it’s all about whether people use binders in job hiring.
Could this president be any more petty? Could he be any less visionary? President Obama’s glorious visions of the future back in 2008 couldn’t have worked out any worse for him, or for the American people. And so he’s falling back on small issues. Tiny victories. Infinitesimal points. Because on all the big issues, Obama has been a dramatic failure.
That’s why Barack Obama is losing this election. In presidential politics, the rule is to go big or go home. But Obama can’t go big, because his record is so small. And so for the next two weeks, we’ll hear misdirected focus on issues that don’t concern Americans for the president. Obama will try to lock up the votes of those Americans who love Big Bird, hate binders, and worry about the cost of bayonets. And Mitt Romney will keep whaling away at President Obama’s inconsequential list of accomplishments.
Here’s the dirty little secret: while Obama talked big in 2008, his vision was always smaller than advertised. He didn’t want a big, bold America; he wanted a bowing, apologizing America. And he’s achieved that. Obama is going small now because he got everything he wanted: a smaller America. We’ll find out on November 6 whether the American public is really prepared to hand the White House back to a man who shrinks American power and influence simply through the smallness of his vision.