Romney targets non-existent defense cuts

In a speech on Friday, Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney made an important vow:

“As President, on Day One, I will focus on rebuilding America’s economy. I will reverse President Obama’s massive defense cuts. Time and again, we have seen that attempts to balance the budget by weakening our military only lead to a far higher price, not only in treasure, but in blood.” [emphasis added]

In fact, Romney, whose ignorance about national security and foreign policy has often been rather amusing, wants the Pentagon budget to get even bigger.

Standing among retired airplanes on the U.S.S. Yorktown, a decommissioned World War II aircraft carrier, Mitt Romney told a small group of veterans on Thursday that given the global threats to America’s interests, the nation’s defense spending should be increased instead of cut.

Let’s take these one at a time. First, Romney believes President Obama has approved “massive defense cuts.” Here, however, are the Pentagon budgets over the last six years, with the red columns showing defense spending under Bush, and the blue columns showing defense spending under Obama.

I realize Romney can be a little slow on the uptake, but when the Pentagon gets more money — in some cases, even money it didn’t ask for — that’s not a “cut.” If Romney wants to be taken seriously on these issues, he should probably take the time to brush up on these pesky details. The guy’s been running for president non-stop for five years, so the fact that he’s still confused about this isn’t encouraging.

Second, Romney, who claims to be concerned about deficit reduction, wants to increase defense spending? The United States spends nearly as much on its military as every other country on the planet combined, and the former Massachusetts governor believes officials looking to cut the federal budget should look elsewhere?

Here are two simple questions for Romney, should any enterprising campaign reporters want to follow-up on this:

1. If defense spending shouldn’t be cut, where will Romney find savings to bring the budget closer to balance?

2. If defense spending should be increased, how will Romney pay for it?

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.