Romney remembers what ‘peacetime’ means, after all

ROMNEY REMEMBERS WHAT ‘PEACETIME’ MEANS, AFTER ALL…. In a published op-ed yesterday, former Gov. Mitt Romney (R) slammed President Obama for launching “one of the biggest peacetime spending binges in American history.” It’s a bizarre argument for several reasons, not the least of which is that this isn’t peacetime.

After this caused a bit of a stir yesterday afternoon, the presidential candidate’s team walked it back. As it turns out, Romney’s claim wasn’t intended to be a factual statement.

That word “peacetime” doesn’t really jibe, does it? Team Romney has an explanation for that: It was a mistake.

“He meant to say since World War II,” said Romney’s PAC spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, in an e-mail.

I suppose there are more charitable ways to interpret the defense, but I’m inclined to agree with Jed Lewison, who didn’t find the explanation especially persuasive.

Uh, say what now? How do you go from making a point about “peacetime” spending to saying you meant post-WWII? And how do you make that mistake in the first place?

Dave Weigel thinks it’s because Romney meant to talk about domestic spending, but if we’re not talking about military spending, then World War II is irrelevant. Plus, it’s silly to talk about spending since 2001 without talking about the military. According to data available from the CBO on discretionary spending, from 2001 to 2010, defense spending increased by 125%. Domestic spending went up by 92%. In dollar terms, if defense spending had just increased at the same rate as domestic discretionary spending, it would be $100 billion lower than it is today, saving well over $1 trillion over the next decade.

Of course, none of that helps explain what the hell Mitt Romney thought he was saying when he said America was in “peacetime.” Or how in the world he could have confused post-WWII era with “peacetime.”

Before we move on from this little flap, I was curious to see how (and whether) the media picked up on this. The DNC pushed the story yesterday afternoon, and Vote Vets released a rather scathing response.

Would it be enough to get political reporters’ attention? Not really; major media outlets generally didn’t care. If Google News and Nexis are accurate this morning, Reuters ran an article, but the AP ignored the story. Politico had a short piece, but the major dailies — WaPo, NYT, WSJ, LAT, USAT — didn’t mention it in their print editions. I couldn’t find any mentions in broadcast media at all.

I’m curious — if an inexperienced Democratic candidate with no background in foreign policy or military affairs described a time of multiple wars as “peacetime,” would he or she ever live it down? Or would it be seen as evidence that Dems lack credibility on international affairs?