The president may have stepped in it with his glib, dismissive "horses and bayonets" crack in Monday's debate, but Laura Vozzella is determined to provide cover fire from her foxhole at the Washington Post.
"Navy country not riled by Obama 'bayonets' jab," blared the Metro section headline to Vozzella's October 24 story. "As Republicans criticize debate barb, folks in southeast Va. shrug it off," added the subheader. In fact, Vozzella insisted, "it seemed to hardly make a ripple in Hampton Roads," an area in southeastern Virginia with a large military and shipbuilding presence.
"In more than a dozen interviews, shipbuilders and Navy families -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- mostly said Obama was just stating the obvious: Numbers aren't the whole story when it comes to naval power."
Of course that is true, but in an age when America's -- and the civilized world's -- greatest maritime threat is piracy, it doesn't hurt to have a larger fleet that is better able to patrol shipping lanes to deter and combat that piracy.
But alas, that wasn't even considered in Vozzella's piece, where those she cited supporting President Obama seemed fixated on America's maritime nuclear deterrent capability.
"Some of the things we put out in the water can do what two ships used to do," Vozzella quoted Arthur Fladger, who supports President Obama and is a "nuclear refueler at Newport News Shipbuilding." Vozzella also quoted Obama-backing engineer Ernie Smith, "A modern ballistic submarine, you can shoot a nuclear missile halfway around the world."
Vozzella, of course, found two Republicans to agree with the typical Democratic assessment. "[E]ven some Romney supporters agreed that the flap over the president's comments was uncalled for," the staff writer added. "Uncalled for," of course suggesting that these Romney backers thought the criticism was inappropriate or distasteful. But what did they actually tell Vozzella? (emphasis mine):
Among them were Nancy and Jack Magee, both in their 80s, who were lunching at the Pancake House just down the street from the Navy base in Norfolk.
Jack, 87, spent 36 years in the Navy and captained two submarines. Nancy, 83, worked for the Navy before having their first child.
Both plan to vote for Romney because they believe he will do more to beef up defense. But they had no problem with Obama’s comment.
“War is fought differently now,” Nancy said.
So the Magees like Romney because he will beef up defense, which suggests they think President Obama is not doing enough to do the same. And, once again, yes, war is fought differently now, especially at sea, where piracy off the coasts of southeast Asia and the horn of Africa are the pressing threats, not the nuclear-armed Soviet Navy of Cold War vintage.
Vozzella finally got around to finding "the outlier in this unscientific man-on-the-street survey,"one Jose Navarro, who "voted for Obama four years ago but considered himself undecided this time around -- until the president uttered the horses-and-bayonets crack."
"The comment pushed him into Romney territory," Vozzella explained:
“That kind of turned me off,” said Navarro, 51, who does database administration as a civilian Navy employee. “That was kind of sarcastic and unpresidential. . . . He sounded pompous.”
So Navarro was an Obama voter in 2008, was undecided, and Obama's snark pushed him into the Romney column. Yet to Vozzella, he's an "outlier" and not an example of how the president may have alienated folks who could easily have stayed in his column. Indeed, right after quoting Navarro, Vozzella turned to a Republican, a Democrat, and a libertarian to close out the article, each of them saying the crack was a non-issue to them:
Back in Newport News, one Romney supporter also took issue with the comment, though he was not particularly on fire about it.
“It could have been said different,” said one of them, Wayne Edwards, 54, who installs granite countertops in homes and resurfaces decks on Navy ships as a private contractor.
The comment did jump out at Romy Singh, owner of the 7-Eleven just outside the shipyard gates. Rearranging bottles of Gatorade in his store, he said his business depends heavily on the military. Yet, he had no quarrel with the president’s remark.
An Obama supporter, Singh said he was more concerned about Romney’s aggressive stand on China.
“That made me uneasy,” he said.
Chad Bailey, 27, who leans libertarian, said Obama’s comment didn’t make his ears perk up, even though he works as an electrical instructor at the shipyard.
“It didn’t really hit home,” he said.