Mitt Romney wants a bigger government, so long as its the kind with more guns and fewer social programs.
“We have two courses we can follow: One is to follow in the pathway of Europe, to shrink our military smaller and smaller to pay for our social needs,” Romney told a San Diego crowd of some 5,000 on Monday outside the Veterans Memorial Center and Museum. “The other is to commit to preserve America as the strongest military in the world, second to none, with no comparable power anywhere in the world.”
Notice the obligatory reference to Europe. In the parlance of the modern-day right, Europe means several things: weakness, socialism, un-Americanism. Europe is not so much a swear-word as it is a sneer-word.
Notice also the implication that in order to pay for “social needs” Romney believes we would have to cut military spending. This is an odd admission, remarkable for its honesty. In a country so hostile to raising revenue in order to pay for social programs or military adventures, we either need to cut defense spending or continue to pile on debt. That or dismantle the welfare state entirely, a venture too many conservatives these days unthinkingly support—even while fear-mongering about Medicare spending cuts during the healthcare debate.
Either way, Romney not only wants a bigger military, he wants the biggest, most amazing military the world has ever seen, regardless of cost. This declaration is meant to differentiate Romney from the current “European” Obama administration, even though defense spending has risen to record levels under the current president.
According to a recent survey from Gallup, Romney already has the veteran vote wrapped up, leading Obama by double-digits among the country’s military vets. One thing the right has done very well is paint Obama as a weak military leader despite his successes, which include (but are not limited to) killing Osama bin Laden and overthrowing the Libyan regime. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Obama’s foreign policy, painting him as weak or dovish is dishonest at best.
But we’ve learned by now that honesty is no more one of Romney’s virtues than small government is a desired end-goal of the right. In that sense, Romney is exactly the man for the job, a nominee the Republican party truly deserves.
Erik Kain is guest blogging while Kevin Drum is on vacation.