John McCain criticized Barack Obama for being soft on military matters on Monday, telling an audience in Lee's Summit, Missouri:
"Of course, now [Obama] wants to increase [the size of the military]. But during the primary he told a liberal advocacy group that he'd cut defense spending by tens of billions of dollars. He promised them he would, quote, 'slow our development of future combat systems.'"
Before I explain why that's stunningly disingenuous, let me point you to the Obama statement that gives rise to John McCain's opprobrium.
"I will cut tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending. I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of Future Combat Systems."
Here's the deal. The "future combat systems" that McCain says Obama will jeopardize is actually Future Combat Systems, a specific, controversial program within the DOD that John McCain himself has suggested eliminating. Here's McCain's top policy man explaining to the Washington Post what spending cuts McCain will use to balance the budget:
Balance the budget requires slowing outlay growth to 2.4 percent. The roughly $470 billion dollars (by 2013) in slower spending growth come from reduced deployments abroad ($150 billion; consistent with success in Iraq/Afghanistan that permits deployments to be cut by half -- hopefully more), slower discretionary spending in non-defense and Pentagon procurements ($160 billion; there are lots of procurements -- airborne laser, Globemaster, Future Combat System -- that should be ended and the entire Pentagon budget should be scrubbed) and reductions in mandatory spending ($160 billion) from a mix of excessive agricultural and ethanol subsidies, slower health care cost growth, Medicaid savings from the expansion of private insurance, and other reforms.
Like I said, stunningly disingenuous.
But the larger point is also phony. John McCain also wants to save money by "cut[ting] tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending," as Obama suggests. It's an integral part of his plan to balance the budget, as you can see above.
On both a specific point and a general one, McCain is making Obama look like a weak-on-defense liberal by criticizing him for positions McCain himself holds. Straight talk indeed.