Debate Number Three

Limited commentary this time, partly because I am no expert on foreign policy so there’s no reason you should care about most of my opinions. On the other hand, the candidates had an exceptionally broad definition of foreign policy, which included trade, deficits, unemployment, education, etc. Commentary also limited by the fact that my attention wandered from time to time.

That said, here are my comments, typed in real time, unedited, not carefully thought through, perhaps in some cases ill-advised:

0. Romney in red tie, Obama in blue, as in first debate; this was reversed in the second. I still want to know if they coordinate this.

1. Romney: “Attacking me is not an agenda”. Good rhetorical move.

2. Obama nodding too much. Also blinking more than Romney.

3. Romney, I think, looking more like the grownup.

4. Loose hair on Romney’s forehead is a distraction.

5. Romney finding excuses to bring up the economy, job market, etc. This was inevitable, I guess.

6. Now Obama finding excuses to bring up tax policy. Also unsurprising.

7. And…….Romney talking about unemployment, balanced budgets, road to Greece, etc etc. Maybe they should schedule a fourth debate so they can get to foreign policy.

8. Oh my lord! Romney off on his “small business” fetish again.

9. Obama: “If you talk to teachers, they’ll tell you class sizes make a difference”. Yes, and if you talk to disinterested researchers, many of them will tell you otherwise (or at least that the difference is too small to justify the cost). If you talk to oil execs, they’ll tell you how important it is to subsidize oil, but maybe the folks with skin in the game are not the best sources for this sort of thing.

10. Obama, who threw a trillion dollars at his friends, bailed out his buddies in the auto unions, etc, says that his budgets are not driven by politics. This is gagworthy.

11. And now Romney gets his info on how many ships we need by asking the Navy — much like getting your info on the importance of class size by asking teachers.

12. Obama: “Sure we have fewer ships now. We also have fewer horses and bayonets.” Great great response.

13. Obama: “I will stand with Israel if they are attacked.” I’m not sure: Is this a major new policy being announced here, off the cuff?

14. Romney is starting to look physically uncomfortable.

15. Romney criticizes Obama’s “apology tour”; Obama responds by changing the subject 100%, talking about some other trip he took. Reminds me of four years ago, when Jeremiah Wright was in the news, and people were asking Obama why he hung out with this loon; he responded by giving a speech about slavery.

16. Obama doing a good job of cataloguing apparent Romney flipflops.

17. Obama defending the bin Laden mission on the grounds that the daughter of a 9/11 victim got closure from it. If he’s making foreign policy on the basis of giving “closure” to a few hundred Americans, then he shouldn’t be president.

18. I still think Romney looks pale and ill, and is getting moreso as the evening goes on.

19. Romney given an opportunity to express qualms about extrajudicial killings via drones; chooses to pass.

20. Obama talks about the importance of making sure middle eastern govts “aren’t corrupt”; does this mean, for example, that we don’t want those govts throwing billions at favored industries?

21. Obama complaining about businesses and workers not getting a level playing field when it comes to trade. Dammit, what’s the fetish with level playing fields? If American consumers benefit form an unlevel playing field, why should the American president object?

22. Level playing fields are for sports (where the competition is supposed to entertain), not for economies (where the competition is supposed to serve consumers).

23. There’s been thankfully little China-bashing tonight.

24. Now it’s Romney arguing for leveling the playing field (not in those terms, but his meaning is the same).

25. Okay, Romney is a total idiot. “They sell us more than we sell them, so it’s clear who doesn’t want the trade war”. I would love to see the argument that gets him from one side of that ‘so’ to the other.

26. Obama gets in a cheap shot with “You’ve invested in companies that ship jobs overseas”.

27. Obama is also a total idiot: “If we’d taken your advice, we’d be buying cars from China instead of selling cars from China”. Why would that be bad?

28. Romney re car industry: “Under no circumstances would I fail to help this industry get on its feet”. Then why should we prefer him to Obama?

29. Romney: “I love teachers” repeated a few times, sounds kinda loony.

30. Romney’s closing much less effective, I think, than Obama’s.

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80 Responses to “Debate Number Three”


  1. 1 1 Martin-2

    27. “If we’d taken your advice, we’d be buying cars from China instead of selling cars from China”

    Is the second one supposed to be “to” China?

  2. 2 2 Pierce S

    Again, Romney failed to point out that it’s not about jobs. It’s about efficient jobs! Obama saved 1000 jobs by blocking cheap tire imports. So we saved inefficient jobs and don’t get the cheap tires!

    Drives me nuts how Romney didn’t point this out in the last debate and then failed to do it again tonight.

  3. 3 3 Paul T

    SL: “Obama, who threw a trillion dollars at his friends, bailed out his buddies in the auto unions, etc, says that his budgets are not driven by politics.”

    According to the Wash. Post, Al Gore is worth $100 million, due to his equity in green energy companies receiving $billions in federal subsidies.

    SL: “Obama talks about the importance of making sure middle eastern govts “aren’t corrupt”; does this mean, for example, that we don’t want those govts throwing billions at favored industries?”

    ho ho ho! Romney will be kicking himself forever, for missing this opening!

  4. 4 4 Paul T

    27. “If we’d taken your advice, we’d be buying cars from China instead of selling cars from China”

    Martin-2: “Is the second one supposed to be “to” China?”

    No doubt.

    And explanation why this ‘criticism’ is asinine, is inconceivable during a political campaign. A candidate has no choice but to mouth homilies about saving auto jobs and industry.

    Furthermore, Obamney has no clue why it’s asinine. They believe the homilies.

  5. 5 5 RandomWords

    ” “They sell us more than we sell them, so it’s clear who doesn’t want the trade war”. I would love to see the argument that gets him from one side of that ‘so’ to the other.”

    Ok, let me give a try to construct what Romney could be thinking.

    Romney starts of by focusing solely on trade between the US and China. He then oberseves that currently China is amassing dollars (or claims to future dollars). If a trade war should break out, both US products and chinese products will get more expensive for buyers in the other country. Since the chinese are holding more claims to US products, a trade war would hurt them more than US citizens and they have thus a higher stake in avoiding it.

    I think Mitt Romney could be thinking along these lines, but then again, I’m so deeply puzzled by what politicians really believe. Both Romney and Obama are intelligent men and have educated economic advisors, so I have to assume that they know more about economics then they pretend to. But the do they then just deceive the voter in full knowledge or do they manage to first deceive themselves?

  6. 6 6 Harold

    I would have thought the tie color was co-ordinated, but apparently not. At least according to Slate, but given the calibre of some of their columnists I am not sure we should trust this source.
    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2012/10/presidential_debate_ties_do_the_candidates_coordinate_their_outfits.html

  7. 7 7 Dave

    Steve do you have a source for 9?

    I’m surprised that smaller class sizes don’t help. I found one on one tutoring amazing when I was in high school. And I can’t imagine having 200 kids in one classroom would be anything but chaos

    Is there any theory to why class size doesn’t matter once you adjust for cost?

  8. 8 8 Harold

    Dave:
    https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/DFE-RR169.pdf

    It is not that class size is completely unimportant, but it not the best way to improve education. It makes most different for youngest pupils (5-7 years).

  9. 9 9 Draco

    Our blue water navy is the single biggest factor contributing to our sole superpower status. While counting number of ships certainly isn’t the most relevant metric for a modern navy’s strength, Obama would be a fool to underestimate (or even misunderestimate) the crucial role of the US Navy in projecting power around the globe and retaining our sole superpower status.

    Trivia question for you all (don’t look it up): after the US Navy, what is the next largest naval force in the world?

  10. 10 10 Kirk

    Random Words (from above): “Both Romney and Obama are intelligent men and have educated economic advisors, so I have to assume that they know more about economics then they pretend to. But the do they then just deceive the voter in full knowledge or do they manage to first deceive themselves?”

    First rule of politics: never tell a voter what he doesn’t want to hear.

    Second rule: Tell the voters what they want to hear.

    Third Rule: Keep it simple.

  11. 11 11 Martin-2

    Draco (9): Second largest naval force in the world? Hmmm the good puzzle theorem states it can’t be China or Russia. I also assume the answer is conducive to your point about the US needing a large Navy sooooo… North Korea?

  12. 12 12 Manfred

    @Dave 6: on class size:

    From what I understand, the issue is not that class size is completely irrelevant – the issue is that if you have crappy teachers, no matter the class size, the children will not learn a bit. But, on the other hand, if you have very good teachers who really know how to convey knowledge to children and have a grip on how to handle them, even in a big class size, the children *will* learn.
    A former colleague of Steve’s at Rochester, Eric Hanushek, has done extensive research. Look him up at Hoover.

    http://hanushek.stanford.edu/publications/Class-Size

    http://hanushek.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/publications/Hanushek%201998%20HouseTestimony%20Class%20Size.pdf

    http://hanushek.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/publications/class%20size.ppi6_.revised.pdf

  13. 13 13 Ken B

    The problem with watching debates is it means you can listen to less music. There’s a reason Nietzsche said “Life without music would be a mistake” not life without debates. Stray music link 3 minutes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZuh9-Fv4Fk&feature=relmfu

  14. 14 14 Martin-2

    I mean “Draco (8)”

    You know that I am called the Count
    Because I really love to *bleep*

  15. 15 15 Ken B

    Re 12. The first rule of snark is, when being insulting be right. Was Obama right? That’s not as clear as Steve thinks it is. http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2012/10/23/about-those-horses-and-ships-obama-romney-debate/

  16. 16 16 Al V.

    @Draco, Total guess here, but I am going to say the U.K. has the largest navy after the U.S. Second guess is France.

  17. 17 17 Al V.

    @Dave and @Harold, Class size does matter, but it is a factor largely based on the collective ability of the students to behave appropriately, and to learn. Assume that an elementary school student spends 4 hours per day in their primary class. If a teacher has to spend, on average, 2 minutes per day per student on individual student behaviour or performance issues, then a class of 30 students means that only 3 of the 4 hours can be devoted to educating all of the students. Increase that average to 6 minutes per day per student, and in a class of 30 students, only 1 hour per day is spent on teaching the full class.

    Thus, in a nice suburban school with attentive, motivated students, class size doesn’t matter. In an inner city school, with a large population of students that have behavioral issues, or don’t come from families that make a priority of education, class size matters very much.

    30 years ago I had a roommate who worked as a substitute teacher in the New York public school system. One day he was assigned to teach math at a middle school in the South Bronx. He returned exhausted that day. I asked him, “What did you teach them today, Craig?” His response, “I tought them to sit down and shut up.”

  18. 18 18 Bill

    Obama critical of Romney for his (supposed) opposition to economic fascism vis-a-vis GM and Chrysler.

    I suppose it would have been to his political disadvantage for Romney to point out the cost of those 1000 tire manufacturing jobs saved by Obama’s restriction on Chinese tire imports. I’ve seen estimates of around $900 thousand per job per year.

  19. 19 19 Harold

    Re 14: the commentary by Tobin seems to have missed the point to a large extent.

    “The decline in naval strength compromises America’s ability to project power abroad.” The whole point was that decline in number of vessels does not equate to decline in naval strength. Tobin seems to have missed that.

    “For all of his contempt for them, it bears remembering that horses played a not insignificant role in the armed forces’ successful fight in Afghanistan, a point that Obama should have remembered. The Army and the Marines operating Afghanistan still use bayonets in close combat”

    Obama said was that we have fewer of them than in 1916 – he did not imply that horses and bayonets were no longer of any use. Tobin has missed that too.

    Whether aircraft carriers need more support vessels than battleshipsd is also not the point – one aircraft carrier might be able to dominate a much larger amount of ocean than one battleship.

    I don’t know if Obama was right, but I do know that Tobin has got it wrong. I am surprised at you, Ken B, for linking to such an inferior commentary.

  20. 20 20 Floccina

    The phrase “ship jobs overseas” grates on me.

    Also I noticed that both expressed a desire to help the economies in the Middle-east but also expressed a silly desire to be energy independent. I find that some what contradictory.

  21. 21 21 nobody.really

    [A]fter the US Navy, what is the next largest naval force in the world?

    Florida Citrus Growers Assn?

  22. 22 22 Ken B

    re 18.
    Oh I agree not all Tobin’s points are good. And any debate about bayonets is frankly a side show. But that’s not the main point. Obama’s response went beyond the one liner SL quoted.

    “You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, 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.”

    That’s pretty dismissive and insulting, a put down. It’s also flippant. So ask yourself: how does that affect a voter? I think how it plays will depend partly on how accurate it is. Seemingly not knowing that bayonets are used daily is a lapse in a man sending soldiers into danger. Whether a count will show ‘fewer’ is not really the point because Obama’s point was about a proper understanding of the nature of war and the modern military not a historical factoid about bayonet numbers. Most people don’t care about bayonets, but they care about taking the lives of soldiers and American defences seriously.

    Did Obama display an understanding of the modern navy and armed forces that Romney clearly lacked, so clearly lacked that the mockery was just, the supercilious dismissal deserved? I think Steve’s take on the exchange is probably wrong.

  23. 23 23 Harold

    Draco (8). Intriguing question. It brings to mind an old story.
    Shortly after WWII when the US Navy surpassed the Royal Navy as the largest in the world, an American warship ties up next to an English warship. An American sailor leans over and yells to a British sailor “How’s the world’s second largest Navy doing?” The Brit replies: “Just fine, mate. How’s the world’s second best doing?”

    Not a very good joke, unfortunately.

    I could not resist looking up the answer – I wonder if your source agrees with the one I have?
    SPOILER ALERT
    Don’t look if you don’t want to see…
    http://www.mapsofworld.com/world-top-ten/world-top-ten-countries-with-largest-navies-map.html

  24. 24 24 Ken

    “Sure we have fewer ships now. We also have fewer horses and bayonets.” Great great response.

    A “great great response” that only highlights his ignorance of fighting in Afghanistan. It’s a “great great response” if you are unaware of modern terrorism and that any war fighter, including in the modern era, can only carry a finite number of bullets. It’s a “great great response” for the over 90% of Americans who have never been in the military and the even larger percentage who have never been associated with infantry or confronted with the idea of being face to face with people who wants to kill you.

    And the aircraft carriers Obama is so enamored with? There are eleven in the US navy. That’s right, eleven to patrol roughly 75% of the earth’s surface.

  25. 25 25 Harold

    Ken B. (21) “I think how it plays will depend partly on how accurate it is.” Am I reading it wrong? It seems entirely accurate to me, although I am not a military expert.

    “Seemingly not knowing that bayonets are used daily is a lapse in a man sending soldiers into danger” How did you infer that Obama thinks bayonets are not used every day (are they?). I didn’t see any reference or implication about how often bayonets are used. The only thing that is actually stated as fact is that there are fewer bayonets, so if we want to talk facts we must stop there. It would be quite reasonable to extend it beyond the literal meaning of the words to try to see what he meant. I took the main point to be that bayonets (and horses) are not as important to the army today as they were in 1916. As far as I know that is true. If it is false, then I may have it wrong.

    He was saying that Naval strength has not necessarily diminished because we have fewer ships, which I think is true.

    Draco (8) of course, “Naval Force” does not necessarily mean “navy”

  26. 26 26 Ken B

    @Harold: Look also at Ken’s response. Obama’s answer — the reasons Steve liked it — was that it was a snappy put dfown. Whatever its literal truth it was dismissive of bayonets as well as Romney. I am questioning whether it’s as effective as SL imagines. We’ll see.

    Someone being snide should know submarines are boats not ships too.

    As a matter of pure fact I wonder if we don’t have more bayonets than in 1916. The US armey was pretty small in 1916, and lack of preparedness was an issue. I’m sure someone will do the research, but I wouldn’t be surprised either way.

  27. 27 27 James

    Draco – assuming by “naval force” you don’t mean blue-water ships then I believe the US Army has the second largest naval force. They once had more boats than the US Navy but no longer.

  28. 28 28 Bill

    Perfect assessment of the China/trade segment of last night’s debate. (HT, Scott Lincicome)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hfYJsQAhl0&sns=tw

  29. 29 29 Ken B

    @Floccina: At my previous employer we used to wrap jobs in tyvek, strap them in bundles, and air-freight them to the highest foreign bidder.

  30. 30 30 Ken B

    A more substantive follow up to Harold.

    Part of Obama’s mockery was about aircraft carriers. Obama’s mockery actually carries a point of substance: the way we do it now with a few really big super carriers (about 11 I think) is *better* than a larger number of smaller ships. This is really an arguable point. More small ships can be more flexible and less vulnerable. This is like having lots of nodes in your network not one big server. It might have been easier to send a small close by ship to Benghazi for instnace (I do not know, just illustrating). But Obama’s snark has comitted him to a certain position. Rhetoric has consequences and a quick applause line can turn into a liability. Or rather it can be ‘not optimal’

  31. 31 31 Dave

    Yeah I didn’t quite get Romney’s “it’s pretty clear who doesn’t want a trade war” comment.

    I couldn’t tell if he meant China or the USA.

    I’m assuming since jobs and not consumers are the issue, he meant China right?

  32. 32 32 Ken B

    “Yeah I didn’t quite get Romney’s “it’s pretty clear who doesn’t want a trade war” comment.”

    Mitt Romney, master of the Zen koan.

  33. 33 33 Ken B

    As I predicted, someone did the math. More bayonets now http://senseofevents.blogspot.com/2012/10/obama-wrong-about-bayonets.html

    Now getting the number of bayonets wrong is not an issue. But when you sneer you need to be right or you’re fair game for reverse sneers and a certain kind of mockery that would normaly be off limits.

  34. 34 34 iceman

    Part of the issue of class size is that all else is not equal, in the sense that reducing class size requires hiring more teachers which involves dipping down further in the potential teacher ‘talent pool’. (Or if you don’t believe that, it’s quite an indictment of the tenure system.) This reinforces the point that the most important factor is teacher quality. I’d bet many of us can think of cases where we’d prefer one teacher leading our child’s class in a group of 30 over another in a group of 15. I believe the general conclusion of the studies on this has been that reducing class size is not the most effective use of $X to improve educational outcomes.

    On ships – is part of the “projecting power” idea that the very symbolism of having more ships visible in more parts of the world has deterrence value?

  35. 35 35 Glen

    I think it’s totally fair to talk about the importance of small business, even if you don’t think they’re more important than large ones. Why? Because many regulations have a disproportionate impact on small businesses. They impose high fixed costs that a large business is more likely to be able to cover. It’s no surprise that the largest firms often support regulations; they hobble the competitive fringe. Government subsidies also tend to benefit larger companies because they’re in the best position to lobby for and access them, though SBA subsidies and the like might balance that somewhat. So if you’re looking for ways to deregulate in order to unshackle the economy, talking about small business is a sensible place to start.

    And yes, larger companies hire more people and produce more stuff. Nevertheless, small businesses aren’t negligible. They’re a large enough chunk of the economy to be worth worrying about.

    That said, I don’t really know what policies Romney advocates that would allegedly help small business. If he’s pushing for privileges or subsidies of some kind, then I agree with Steve that Romney is taking the wrong tack.

  36. 36 36 Harold

    Shipping jobs overseas must be harder now that we have fewer ships. That’s why Ken B’s ex boss used to air-freight them perhaps.

    Re Bayonets. The article counts soldiers, not bayonets. There is likely to be a strong correlation, but it is not definative – they might have had a stockpile of bayonets in 1916.
    OK, Obama may have got the detail wrong, but if you look back to my interpretation (25) that still stands. Bayonets and horses are less important to the army than they were in 1916. Obama was entirely correct to point out that counting ships in different eras is not a good was to assess naval dominance. However, I now have to agree that the snarky tone was a little misguided, since the fact was apparently wrong.

    It is odd that a submarine is a boat. Various definitions seem to exist – a boat can be carried on a ship, or a boat can be lifted out of the water, but there are several exeptions, a submarine being one of them.

  37. 37 37 Harold

    Re Draco (8) I have read that the USA reserve is the second biggest naval force – I don’t know if that counts as separate from the Navy. And the good old Royal Navy is apparently second in “power projection” terms.

  38. 38 38 Steve Landsburg

    Harold:

    Obama was entirely correct to point out that counting ships in different eras is not a good was to assess naval dominance. However, I now have to agree that the snarky tone was a little misguided, since the fact was apparently wrong.

    Perhaps a better reply would have been: “So, Governor Romney — would you prefer to be defended by the United States Navy of 2012, or the United States Navy of 1916?”

  39. 39 39 Patrick R. Sullivan

    Obama attempting to pull rank on Romney as a military historian is pretty amazing. But, for the record, ‘ships’ don’t go underwater, they’re called boats. As in U-boat, one of which sunk the Lusitania back in 1916 (coincidentally).

    Aircraft carriers have been around since the mid 1920s. Hawaii having been attacked by planes launched from them in 1941–maybe Obama heard about it as a boy growing up there.

    We probably do have more bayonets now, given how small our military was in 1916. But, it is clearly not an obsolete weapon, as the Brits just decorated a soldier for leading a bayonet assault against the Taliban last month.

    So, who was it that came across as a military dilettante again.

  40. 40 40 Ken

    Steve,

    Perhaps a better reply would have been: “So, Governor Romney — would you prefer to be defended by the United States Navy of 2012, or the United States Navy of 1916?”

    Who brought up 1916? Romney didn’t. It would have been a non-sequiter as is your post. You’re letting yourself get side tracked because you liked Obama’s quip, but now realize just how stupid it actually was.

    Obama’s point was that it’s all right to have fewer ships because we have fewer horses and bayonets for the same reason: ships are old news and not needed as much anymore. Of course, he didn’t say why. He was just snarky about it. And wrong.

    Then he compounded the issue even more by saying we have carriers. Yes we do. Eleven of them. The effective radius of a carrier is close to 250 miles for patrol of the planes associated with it. That’s a max coverage of 196,250 square miles per carrier. Any idea how many square miles of ocean we have? And do you have any idea of how expensive carriers are? And all the planes that go on them to give it that effective range? Any idea how many more smaller ships could be built instead of these carriers giving the navy much more flexibility and a lot less central command and control? Instead of having a few ships that have huge foot prints, it’s likely better to have a lot of cheaper ships with smaller foot prints. Certainly as an economist, you know just how bad command and control can be and just how awesome decentralization is.

    If you’re going to be snarky, you have to be right and on point. Saying what he said was wrong. Saying what you think he should have said would have been off point.

  41. 41 41 Al V.

    Per the link to the counting of bayonets, as @Harold points out, what was actually counted in the linked post was servicemen and servicewomen, not bayonets. Both my grandfathers served in World War I, and the pictures that we have of them with weapons always include a bayonet. I suspect (although I do not know) that having a bayonet attached to ones rifle was standard practice in WWI.

    If I look at pictures of soldiers in Afghanistan today (for example http://www.historyguy.com/war_in_afghanistan.html), I do not see bayonets attached to weapons. I’m sure that soldiers carry knives, but I wonder if an M16 even has a place to mount a bayonet. When was the U.S. Army’s last bayonet charge? Wikipedia says it was during the Korean War.

  42. 42 42 Martin-2

    Ken (39) – One question about the claim that aircraft carriers are less cost effective than small ships. If this is true then why did we build them?

    Al V. (40) – Good point about the article. My guess is that the knife pictured up top can be attached to a gun and function as a bayonet.

  43. 43 43 Economiser

    Ken:

    Romney brought up 1917. When Obama replied, he quoted 1916. See:

    “ROMNEY: Our Navy is old — excuse me, our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917.

    Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1012/82712_Page4.html#ixzz2AAdyfBK4

    Also, you say we have eleven aircraft carriers. Why do we need eleven aircraft carriers? America shouldn’t be playing world policeman. I bet that eleven aircraft carriers is more than sufficient to fight any war the US needs to fight. And if we enter another world war conflict, we can build more. Our military is far too large as it is.

  44. 44 44 Martin_M

    According to political scientists Brian Crisher and Mark Souva, in 1916 the U.S. controlled about 11% of the world’s naval power, third behind the UK (34%) and Germany (19%). In 2011, the U.S. was the dominant naval power, controlling about 50%. Russia was next with 11%.

    Source: http://themonkeycage.org/blog/2012/10/23/how-strong-is-the-u-s-navy-really/

  45. 45 45 Ken

    If this is true then why did we build them?

    Same reason we have an incredibly expensive and ineffective federal government.

  46. 46 46 Ken

    Romney brought up 1917.

    Fair enough.

    America shouldn’t be playing world policeman.

    False. Liberty needs to be aggressively protected through soft and hard power.

  47. 47 47 Mike H

    One question about the claim that aircraft carriers are less cost effective than small ships. If this is true then why did we build them?

    The US built a large burst of aircraft carriers from 1943-1947. Those that survived the war were mostly decommissioned in 1946-1947 or in the 1970′s.

    There was a smaller burst of aircraft carrier building in the late 50′s, with three completed in 1961. These were mostly decommissioned in the 1990′s.

    The existing fleet was mostly built at a more or less steady rate of about 1 per 3-4 years between 1975-2009. The timing of these additions correlates moderately well with the decommissioning of older carriers.

    I would suggest
    * the 1940′s batch were built because the USA was involved World War 2.
    * the 1960′s batch were built because the USA was involved the Vietnam War. Or maybe just the cold war generally. This doesn’t explain why so many were scrapped in 1969-1971 and not replaced.
    * the ships in the current fleet were built to replace older ships.

  48. 48 48 Sam

    I think the best line of the debate was when Romney said “America has never dictated to other countries, we have freed countries from dictators. Now, can we please get back to talking about what Iran can can’t have, and what China can and can’t sell to us?”

  49. 49 49 Paul T

    RW: “Both are intelligent men and have educated economic advisors, so I have to assume that they know more about economics then they pretend to. But do they then just deceive the voter in full knowledge or do they manage to first deceive themselves?”

    Kirk: “First rule of politics: never tell a voter what he doesn’t want to hear.
    Second rule: Tell the voters what they want to hear.
    Third Rule: Keep it simple.”

    Indeed.
    But those same 3 rules apply to those advisors, regarding what to tell the boss, do they not?

    I see no reason, or evidence, that they know more about economics than the proles.

  50. 50 50 Joel

    If china wants to give us their tires for cheap, why shouldn’t we take them? Why is it better to waste an American’s time making a tire, when he can make twenty pairs of jeans with the same effort and trade them for two tires? Is this how the government ‘creates jobs’? If you want to ‘create jobs’, it’s a lot faster to just go about burning down houses. That aught to ‘stimulate’ the construction industry.

  51. 51 51 Ken B

    @Steve re 38. Yes, that would have been a much better response. It would have been a completely different one too. It would not be the kind of snark whose wisdom I was disputing.

  52. 52 52 Ken B

    28. Romney re car industry: “Under no circumstances would I fail to help this industry get on its feet”. Then why should we prefer him to Obama?

    Because he might be lying. Expressed versus revealed preference.

  53. 53 53 Ken B

    @Martin-2 re 42: ” One question about the claim that aircraft carriers are less cost effective than small ships. If this is true then why did we build them?”

    Perhaps conditions were different then? Perhaps it was an error? But for *my* point it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Obama’s snark commits him to the position that not only is 11 the right number but that it is so obviously the right number that only an idiot would question it. Otherwise how is the dismissive insulting snark justified?

    That’s why, pace Steve, the answer is a bad one not a good one.

    To avert misunderstanding, let me be clear. I am criticizing Steve’s praise and perception here, like I did about the Benghazi thing, and making a general point about rhetoric, not arguing Obama was right or wrong on any issues.

  54. 54 54 Dave

    Ken B – looks like you’ve eaten your Weeties this morning

  55. 55 55 Ken B

    On vacation I went on a tour of the British Navy port at Portsmouth. I saw a smallish ship — not a boat! — with one smallish gun on the front. It looked rather feeble. In fact it was a high tech self aiming rail gun that (the tour guide said) can produce more firepower than the entire broadside of a WWII heavy cruiser.

    I mention this because it shows that naval technology changes, bolstering Obama’s point and exploding Romeny’s point, and that naval technology changes, bolstering Romney’s point, and exploding Obama’s point. After all Romney argued that a comparison to 1917 numbers was relevant, and Obama argued that the status quo, decided some time ago, was ideal.

    Are technicalities of naval armament really suitable subjects for presidential debates? or do both men look like they’re posturing? Just asking.

  56. 56 56 Ken B

    @Dave: :) yum. And I’m just gearing up to do battle over at Murphy’s. I expect … fireworks.

  57. 57 57 Dave

    Murphy’s?

  58. 58 58 Ken B

    @Dave: Free Advice on Steve’s blog roll. Home of Robert P Murphy, and site of a raging debate on the subject of Steve’s latest Krugman post.

  59. 59 59 Dave

    thanks! will check it out…

    i’ve read some of Murphy before…can’t believe I haven’t heard of this!

  60. 60 60 iceman

    Point 15 – “people were asking Obama why he hung out with this loon; he responded by giving a speech about slavery”

    The main point I was able to distill from that celebrated speech on race was that the “path to a more perfect union” requires us to move beyond our “particular grievances”, and instead focus on (“bind them to”) our *shared* grievances (aka “aspirations of all Americans”). Examples were crumbling schools, lines in the ER, shuttered mills and homes for sale. But the very next sentence said it also means “taking full responsibility for our own lives.” But later it said we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. But the general idea was summed up in this punchline: “This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will *ship it overseas* for nothing more than a profit.” [Does that make this a “two-fer” for present purposes?] Quite confusing but beautiful rhetoric.

  61. 61 61 nobody.really

    @Martin-2 re 42: ” One question about the claim that aircraft carriers are less cost effective than small ships. If this is true then why did we build them?”

    Perhaps conditions were different then? Perhaps it was an error? But for *my* point it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Obama’s snark commits him to the position that not only is 11 the right number but that it is so obviously the right number that only an idiot would question it. Otherwise how is the dismissive insulting snark justified?

    ???

    Can anyone quote the language wherein Obama commits himself to the position that 11 is the right number of aircraft carriers?

  62. 62 62 Ken B

    @61: Implicitly, by mocking Romney for questioning it. It’s a rhetorical committment in that he cannot now concede, ‘OK maye 23 small one would be better’ without looking bad. As a result of his mocking tone. I discuss the political logic more above. Scroll up.

  63. 63 63 nobody.really

    Can anyone quote the language wherein Obama commits himself to the position that 11 is the right number of aircraft carriers?

    @61: Implicitly, by mocking Romney for questioning it. It’s a rhetorical commitment in that he cannot now concede, ‘OK maybe 23 small one would be better’ without looking bad. As a result of his mocking tone. I discuss the political logic more above. Scroll up.

    Translation: no, no one can quote such language.

    Here’s my take: Romney says Obama is underfunding the military — and, as part of that assertion, notes that the US Navy has fewer ships now than in the past. Obama denies that he has underfunded the military, noting that he has INCREASED funding for the military every year he has been in office.

    I find no place where Obama ridicules ships or bayonets; instead, Obama ridicules Romney’s argument that we can judge the adequacy of military spending by comparing the number of ships we have today to the number in 1916. And, frankly, I share Obama’s conclusion on that score.

    But here’s the text; judge for yourself:

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: You should have answered the first question.

    Look, Governor Romney’s called for $5 trillion of tax cuts that he says he’s going to pay for by closing deductions.

    Now, the math doesn’t work but he continues to claim that he’s going to do it. He then wants to spend another $2 trillion on military spending that our military’s not asking for.

    Now, keep in mind that our military spending has gone up every single year that I’ve been in office. We spend more on our military than the next 10 countries combined — China, Russia, France, the United — United Kingdom, you name it, next 10. And what I did was work with our Joint Chiefs of Staff to think about what are we going to need in the future to make sure that we are safe? And that’s the budget that we’ve put forward.

    But what you can’t do is spend $2 trillion in additional military spending that the military is not asking for, $5 trillion on tax cuts, you say that you’re going to pay for it by closing loopholes and deductions without naming what those loopholes and deductions are, and then somehow you’re also going to deal with the deficit that we’ve already got. The math simply doesn’t work.

    But when it comes to our military, what we have to think about is not, you know, just budgets, we got to think about capabilities. We need to be thinking about cybersecurity. We need to be thinking about space. That’s exactly what our budget does, but it’s driven by strategy. It’s not driven by politics. It’s not driven by members of Congress and what they would like to see. It’s driven by what are we going to need to keep the American people safe?

    That’s exactly what our budget does….

    MR. ROMNEY: Our Navy is older — excuse me — our Navy is smaller now than any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We’re now down to 285. We’re headed down to the — to the low 200s if we go through with sequestration. That’s unacceptable to me. I want to make sure that we have the ships that are required by our Navy.

    Our Air Force is older and smaller than any time since it was founded in 1947. We’ve changed for the first time since FDR. We — since FDR we had the — we’ve always had the strategy of saying we could fight in two conflicts at once. Now we’re changing to one conflict.

    Look, this, in my view, is the highest responsibility of the president of the United States, which is to maintain the safety of the American people. And I will not cut our military budget by a trillion dollars, which is the combination of the budget cuts that the president has as well as the sequestration cuts. That, in my view, is — is — is making our future less certain and less secure. I won’t do it.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: Bob, I just need to comment on this. First of all, the sequester is not something that I proposed. It’s something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen. The budget that we’re talking about is not reducing our military spending. It’s maintaining it.

    But I think Governor Romney maybe hasn’t spent enough time looking at how our military works. You — you mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets — (laughter) — 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 ships. It’s — it’s what are our capabilities.

    And so when I sit down with the secretary of the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we determine how are we going to be best able to meet all of our defense needs in a way that also keeps faith with our troops, that also makes sure that our veterans have the kind of support that they need when they come home. And that is not reflected in the kind of budget that you’re putting forward, because it just don’t work.

  64. 64 64 Patrick R. Sullivan

    ‘Are technicalities of naval armament really suitable subjects for presidential debates?’

    Compared to Big Bird and contraceptives for middle aged law students?

  65. 65 65 Paul T

    nobody.reallyandtruly: “Romney says Obama is underfunding the military… Obama denies, noting that he has INCREASED funding for the military every year he has been in office.”

    I refer you, and the imperial contenders – one of whom has putatively lectured on constitutional law – to Article I, Section 7, of that late document, the U. S Constitution, sadly taken off life support some years ago -

  66. 66 66 Ken B

    @Paul T: It was taken off life support because the president didn’t increase spending on it … :)

  67. 67 67 Ken B

    @nobody.really:
    “You — you mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets — (laughter) — 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 ships. ”

    If you don’t think that’s mockery you must be a very forgiving soul. And mockery in a debate has meaning and consequences. Steve thought it was a killer answer. I think it was a costly one, and I explained why. (I am not taking an issue on which candidate is right. I in fact noted they were both just posturing.) I am explaining how I think it will play politically and why. You cannot mock a position like that and then concede it is reasonable. So Obama cannot now concede the argument we need a bigger navy of smaller ships is better. You are looking for an argument about logic. I am addressing a question of appearance and rhetoric.

    You should look at poll numbers where this comment made a big splash, like Virginia.

  68. 68 68 nobody.really

    I find no place where Obama ridicules ships or bayonets; instead, Obama ridicules Romney’s argument that we can judge the adequacy of military spending by comparing the number of ships we have today to the number in 1916. And, frankly, I share Obama’s conclusion on that score.

    But here’s the text; judge for yourself:

    “You — you mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets — (laughter) — 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 ships. ”

    If you don’t think that’s mockery you must be a very forgiving soul.

    Oh, absolutely, this is mockery. As I said, it’s mocking Romney’s argument that we can judge the adequacy of military spending by comparing the number of ships we have today to the number in 1916.

    And mockery in a debate has meaning and consequences…. You cannot mock a position like that and then concede it is reasonable.

    Uh … ok; Obama has limited his opportunity to acknowledge that judging the adequacy of military spending can be done by comparing the number of ships in the US navy today and in 1916. Doubtless this will have grave consequences for us all.

    (And yes, I’m engaged in mockery. I await the breathless reports about its consequences.)

  69. 69 69 Steve Landsburg

    nobody.really:

    Uh … ok; Obama has limited his opportunity to acknowledge that judging the adequacy of military spending can be done by comparing the number of ships in the US navy today and in 1916. Doubtless this will have grave consequences for us all.

    Hear, hear.

  70. 70 70 Ken B

    @68 and 69: You’re right, that part of it is pretty unimportant. But reinforcing the perception of many that Obama is snooty, aloof, and flippant about defence issues? Not so clear. That Obama scored a big one on Romney there? Clearly not. But he could have, had he eschewed the sneering. I see opportunity cost.

  71. 71 71 Ken B

    @nobody.really (& Steve): Imagine that Obama had not mocked and belittled Romney and made a reference to Battleship etc. Imagine he had said something like this (which he almost did):

    But I think Governor Romney maybe hasn’t spent enough time looking at how our military works. You — you mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. We do, but we have more powerful ships, with completely different technologies and completely different roles and responsibilities. What matters is what are our capabilities, what are our needs. And just counting ships is not only the wrong way to look at that, but facile. It’s playing politics with a serious matter.

    No satisfying “oh snap” moment I grant you, but Romney’s posturing is exposed for all to see, with none from his opponent.

  72. 72 72 iceman

    With the side benefit that many undecideds would’ve looked up the word “facile”.

    Probably a smarter response by the prez, and less dear — the “(laughter)” line may have sealed Virginia as red.

  73. 73 73 nobody.really

    You should look at poll numbers where this comment made a big splash, like Virginia.

    Probably a smarter response by the prez, and less dear — the “(laughter)” line may have sealed Virginia as red.

    Dudes, dudes, dudes….

    Romney goes on national television to say that he’s going to increase the size of the US navy by a net 30 ships or more — and the only reason you can find for why more people in Virginia might suddenly favor Romney is because of a laugh line?

    And I suppose the best explanation for Obama’s popularity in Michigan is some Romney gaff?

    Once upon a time this was an econ blog….

  74. 74 74 iceman

    Well sometimes it’s about logic and game theory (and blue ice cream cones and physical / metaphysical / mathematical concepts I’ve never heard of). Come to think of it, what we’re really talking about here is the true cost-benefit of a seemingly brilliant zinger; was it worth the laughs, or might the prez want to go back and rephrase if he could? E.g. something like “I like ships too, we’re just going to build different, bigger ships”, which might play better in an important swing state than a line that could be interpreted as suggesting one thinks ships are less important going forward, sarcastically delivered? In Michigan of course both candidates are trying to appear as pro-car as possible.

    It’s OK either to say you think it was a great line, or not so great in the broader ‘strategery’. Nobody’s perfect (no pun intended) and Romney sure as hell would like a few do-overs.

    Have a nice weekend.

  75. 75 75 Tom

    Landsburg is making the point that reducing class size does not improve student performance, therefore, class size is not correlated to student performance. By analogy he ridicules Romney for relating naval power to the number of ships in the Navy (11). I seriously doubt that you would not find a correlation between the strength of the Navy and the number of ships. If the current Navy increased by 10%, Landsburg argues by analogy that this would have no correlation to the strength of the Navy. I also find it interesting that Landsburg finds it less disturbing (by the amount of time devoted by him in the comments) that Obama spent trillions on his friends (10) than Romney spending trillions on national defense.

  76. 76 76 Steve Landsburg

    Tom:

    If the current Navy increased by 10%, Landsburg argues by analogy that this would have no correlation to the strength of the Navy.

    On the other hand, if the current Navy increased by 10%, you have argued that the entire expanded Navy would fit in two bathtubs and a backyard swimming pool.

    I know you’ve argued this via the exact same methods you used to divine what you say I’ve argued.

    If you wish to discuss this any further, please start by providing further justification for your claims about where you could fit that expanded Navy.

  77. 77 77 Ken B

    @nobody.really: re 73: First please don’t taunt those of us who live in Michigan. It’s depressing enough already. But in fact the recent polls here are very close.

    Second, I think I explained the lost opportunity for Obama clearly enough. Romney postured, and was very vulnerable to a more serious response.

    People on ths blog seem awfully touchy on the subject of navies. Including our host who doesn’t seem to have noticed that if we ALSO build a big enough bath tub we can actually fit the navy in just one of them, much less two and a swimming pool.

  78. 78 78 nobody.really

    So maybe the key to granting Grover Norquist’s wish — government small enough to drown in a bathtub — is building a big enough bathtub…?

  79. 79 79 nobody.really

    Obama’s snark commits him to the position that not only is 11 the right number [of aircraft carriers] but that it is so obviously the right number….

    How does the US’s fleet of aircraft carriers compare with everyone else’s?

  80. 80 80 Cmares28

    You should do a debate commentary on the Jon Stewart v. Bill O’Reilly showdown. It is easy for me to see why progressives can’t stand Bill O’Reilly. He has absolutely no logical foundation to any of his arguments. I cringe to think that his statements are the only defense of some of the arguments made by libertarians that potential voters will hear.

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