In less than two weeks, Americans will elect a president for the next four years — either returning Barack Obama to the White House or opting for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
U.S. politics has always been polarized. And we’ve seen some pretty wild examples of political spin in recent election campaigns.
But few match an interview CNN’s Anderson Cooper conducted with Virginia Gov. Bob McConnell on Tuesday, the day after the third and final presidential debate.
In Monday’s debate, Obama famously mocked Romney’s observation that the number of ships in the U.S. navy is lower than it’s been since 1916.
“Well, we also have fewer horses and bayonets,” Obama retorted, going on to point out that comparing today’s aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines to vessels of 100 years ago was absurd.
Undaunted, Republicans like McConnell, who governs one of the election’s key swing states, was determined to up-end Obama’s words.
The president’s comments were an insult to all sailors who’ve served their country, McDonnell told Cooper, and to Virginia and its proud navy history.
“What I heard (Obama) say was that ship-building and the use of ships is sort of going the way of horses and bayonets.”
Yes, you read that right. He heard the exact opposite of what Obama said.
McConnell then threw out some figures, comparing navy wish lists with actual numbers of ships, and complaining about military budgets.
Cooper followed up: “Gov. Romney’s comments that the navy is at its lowest point since 1916 is also just factually false. You’re well aware that under President (George W.) Bush, the navy was actually smaller in that surface war ships under Obama have gone up 10 per cent.”
“The broader point is … and I don’t know how many times the number of ships has dipped below (that of) 1916, but there is a broader point …”
And with that, the governor sidestepped the question entirely, reverting to the shortfall between actual and desired numbers.
“But we’re actually building more ships,” Cooper countered, citing government projections for the next seven years.
Still, McConnell went on about proposed restrictions on military spending, describing them as “crippling.”
“But didn’t Paul Ryan vote for those cuts?” asked Cooper, referring to Romney’s running mate.
Yes, he did, agreed McConnell. But only because he was forced to do that or see the nation default on its debt.
In other words, Ryan did so against his will. But Obama and others did it just to spite the navy?
Slip, slide, distract, ignore. It’s an astounding study in partisan rubbish devoid of — and in direct contradiction to — the facts.
Pundits in Canada have recently remarked how the Harper government is heading down a similar path: decisions based on strict ideology over pragmatism, and contrary to objective indicators — everything from the long-form census to crime bills.
It’s not often we see anything approaching the ludicrous display Cooper encountered Tuesday. But it does happen.
And when it does, it should raise serious red flags.