WORD GAMES.

John McCain's latest attack on Obama shows he is either extremely ignorant of military policy or he's counting on both voters and reporters to be ignorant of military policy. Yesterday, McCain began by distorting one of Obama's statements by omitting the relevant context:

“Of course, now he wants to increase it,” McCain told an audience in Lee’s Summit, Missouri Monday. “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.’”

What Obama actually said was:

“I will cut tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending,” Obama said in the video. “I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of Future Combat Systems.”

Aside from McCain omitting the word "wasteful," McCain seems intent on misrepresenting "Future Combat Systems" as general military funding. The reporters at CNN seemed to be unaware that "Future Combat Systems" should be capitalized because it refers to a specific military project, not the development of military technology in general.

FCS has come under criticism because while billions have been invested, gains have been slow to come, and the program has cost more than originally intended, further draining the Army's ability to recover from the strain of two sustained international conflicts. FCS has had some successes, most notably in drones that can be used to scout IED's. The Washington Post had an article on FCS last year that summed up the problem:

"The Army has some huge long-term budget problems," said Steven M. Kosiak, vice president of budget studies at the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments, a defense think tank. The question isn't so much how the government will pay for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan now, he said. That's being covered by supplemental budgets. The issue is how the Army will afford Future Combat Systems at the same time it's grappling with the cost of adding 65,000 troops and covering rising health care and compensation expenses. "Can you really afford to equip and upgrade the rest of the Army?" Kosiak said.

You can if you're a "fiscal conservative" whose budget numbers are basically imaginary. But more frustrating here is the McCain campaign's deliberate deception. At first, I wasn't sure whether McCain himself knew what FCS was. But as Shawn Brimley points out, McCain criticized the program for being wasteful in 2005, saying,  "I am concerned that the Army has not adequately protected taxpayers’ interests." 

Obama was talking about redirecting funding from one tremendously expensive military program in order to properly rebuild our standing forces, he wasn't talking about cutting military funding in general. But since most people don't know that "Future Combat Systems" refers to a specific program, he gets away with it. If McCain thinks that the military should be expanded but FCS should continue to be fully funded, he should say that.

McCain concluded:

“Sen. Obama told the extreme left what they wanted to hear during the primary, now he’s trying to tell you what he thinks you want to hear,” McCain responded in Missouri. “My friends, you may not always agree with me but you will always know where I stand.”

In a fiery, smoldering pair of pants.

--A. Serwer

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