Final Presidential Debate: US Debt Positioned As National Security Threat

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Last night’s final debate on foreign policy oftentimes veered back to domestic issues, particularly the nation’s ailing (but recovering) economy.

“Former chief of the — Joint Chiefs of Staff said that — Admiral Mullen said that our debt is the biggest national security threat we face. This — we have weakened our economy. We need a strong economy,” Mitt Romney said (while answering a question about Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian leader, but OK). He also said that US influence around the world is “receding” because “of the failure of the president to deal with our economic challenges at home.”

“But more importantly it is true that in order for us to be competitive, we’re going to have to make some smart choices right now,” President Obama said later. “… Bringing down our deficit by adding $7 trillion of tax cuts and military spending that our military is not asking for, before we even get to the debt that we currently have, that is not going to make us more competitive.”

So what exactly does the national debt have to do with national security? CNN tackled the question.

“The concern: If the debt continues to grow unbridled, the U.S. government will be constrained in its ability to pay for what it wants to do militarily and diplomatically. And it could limit the country’s leverage with foreign powers,” the outlet writes. “While national security spending is not the primary cause of the country’s debt problem, it accounts for about a fifth of federal spending. And many defense and budget experts think the defense budget is filled with inefficiencies and waste that can be curbed without compromising national security if done smartly.”

Beyond dollars and cents, that’s where strategic spending and budgeting comes into play. Also, horses and bayonets! That entire response from the President — from the Battleship reference to the assertion that Romney isn’t entirely clear about how the military works — was gold.

Getting back to foreign policy — as Bob Schieffer tried to do last night — Romney in many ways agreed with the steps that President Obama has taken in his first term, specifically with respect to the Middle East, which is where most of the foreign policy discussion turned to. The one exception was Israel, where both sides tried to outdo the other in showing their fidelity to the country. Twitter lamented the lack of discussion about Europe, which we would have to agree with. The future of the EU and its financial security will have a major impact on how we deal with that important part of the world.

If there was an area where the two did butt heads it was on the auto bailout and what Romney would’ve done had he been president. If you want to know, you can read this op-ed, published in The New York Times in 2008. He wrote at the time:

A managed bankruptcy may be the only path to the fundamental restructuring the industry needs. It would permit the companies to shed excess labor, pension and real estate costs. The federal government should provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing and assure car buyers that their warranties are not at risk.

In a managed bankruptcy, the federal government would propel newly competitive and viable automakers, rather than seal their fate with a bailout check.

So Gov. Romney, anything you say now besides that is a flip flop.

We have two weeks until election day, so make sure you’re all set to vote.

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