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Paul Ryan hits back at Obama’s debate Navy jab, says ‘ocean hasn’t shrunk’

Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan had a ready retort for President Obama’s “horses and bayonets” zinger at Monday night’s foreign-policy debate.

“The ocean hasn’t shrunk,” Ryan said in an interview on CBS’s "This Morning." “You still have to have enough ships to have the footprint that you need … to keep our strength abroad where it needs to be.”

One of the most talked-about moments from the third and final presidential debate was Obama’s response to Romney’s criticism of the proposed $1 trillion in defense cuts from last year’s Budget Control Act and sequestration.

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Romney accused Obama of allowing the military to be cut to historically low levels.

“Our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917,” Romney said. “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. That’s unacceptable to me."

Obama responded by saying that sequestration occurred because of Congress, not his administration, and that its effects would not happen.

The president also pushed against Romney’s criticism over the number of ships and planes with a zinger about increases in military capabilities.

“We also have fewer horses and bayonets,” Obama said, adding that fewer ships and planes were needed in an era of aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines.

“It’s not a game of Battleship, where we’re counting ships,” Obama said.

In his CBS interview, Ryan continued to hammer the president over the proposed cuts.

“This trillion-dollar cut in defense will make us weak, will project weakness abroad, and I think Mitt Romney did a great job of contrasting that,” he said. “To compare modern American battleships and Navy with bayonets, I just don’t understand that comparison. Look, we have to have a strong Navy to keep peace and prosperity and sea lanes open. The president, if all of these defense cuts go through, our Navy will be smaller than it was in World War I. That’s unacceptable.”

Ryan dismissed criticism that Romney was too reserved, and had passed on opportunities to attack the president over the administration’s preparedness and response to the September attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya.

“It’s been a story of changing stories by the administration,” Ryan said. “We didn’t want to go into all the different stories of it because what Mitt Romney wanted to do was lay out his vision of the economy, how to have a strong national economy and defense for a strong America.”

The president’s surrogates on Tuesday charged that Romney had shifted positions on foreign policy and spent much of the debate agreeing with Obama on key issues.

“Gov. Romney seemed to be rushing to agree with everything the president had done already,” Vice President Biden said in an interview on NBC.

But Ryan on Tuesday dismissed that charge.

“There are some things where we do agree,” said Ryan. “We agree with the decision to go after Osama bin Laden. We agree with the continuation of the Bush drone policy. Those are things where we agree. Where we disagree is in the president’s poor handling of the Iranian situation. Iran is four years closer to a nuclear weapon. The administration fought us on sanctions in Congress, on sanctions on a bipartisan basis for years, until we finally got bipartisan support to overwhelm the president’s position, and now we have the sanctions in place.”