Mitt Romney mostly ducked questions about his military plans in the third and final presidential debate Monday night -- offering President Barack Obama the opportunity for perhaps his most devastating strike of the three verbal jousts.
Asked about his plans for the military, Romney at first dwelled on domestic issues before repeating his talking points warning that America's Navy and Air Force are shrinking to their smallest levels in generations, leaving the country unsafe.
"Our Navy is smaller now than any time since 1917," Romney declared. "Our air force is older and smaller than any time since it's founded in 1947."
Then President Barack Obama struck back, quickly sinking Romney's rhetorical battleship and zinging the former Massachusetts governor as woefully out of touch on modern military matters.
"I think Gov. Romney maybe hasn't spent enough time looking at how our military works," Obama said. "You mentioned our Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we had in 1916. Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have ships that go under water," Obama deadpanned.
"The question is not a game of Battleship where we're counting ships. It's what are our capabilities," Obama said, arguing that he's worked out a very careful plan for reshaping a modern military with the leaders of the armed forces.
Romney's charge of a shrinking military was premised in part on looming sequester Congress passed last year as part of the budget-cutting deal, including some $500 billion in military cuts.
Obama shot back that it was Congress, not him, who passed that bill, and he pledged that those cuts would be headed off.
"It will not happen," Obama declared, before also noting that his budget actually maintains military spending.
Earlier he noted that U.S. military spending had gone up every year under his administration.
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