John McCain, for example, is outraged that the President mocked Romney's talking point about Naval strength. And being a naval aviator himself, and thus presumably aware of the advent of aircraft carriers, and the son and grandson of admirals, who better than McCain knows how little has changed in the Navy over the past century.
"Frankly, I don't understand why the president wants to take these kind of cheap shots -- bayonets and horses, what's that all about?" he said. "You know, when I debated then-Senator Obama I didn't criticize or belittle his lack of experience on national security issues. And he seemed to take these kind of cheap shots. ... I kind of resent it."He resents it? Because he never took any cheap shots and the prima donna celebrity lightweight during his own campaign? He and his campaign argued that Obama was weak, inexperienced, wrong and dangerous, and has been continuing to push the "Obama is weak" line through the present, but no cheap shots... on that subject during the actual debates? [Added: "I didn't criticize or belittle his lack of experience on national security issues"... not so true.]
Unlike Senator Obama, my admiration, respect and deep gratitude for America's veterans is something more than a convenient campaign pledge.
I take a backseat to no one in my affection, respect and devotion to veterans. And I will not accept from Senator Obama, who did not feel it was his responsibility to serve our country in uniform, any lectures on my regard for those who did.Hm. Those sounds like a cheap shots to me. Maybe McCain means "I made no cheap shots on that subject during the debate, just before, after and by proxy."
McCain would have been better served by pointing out to Romney that his talking point was really, really weak, even if it got laughs or applause when tossed out like red meat to low-information Republican voters, and that when you carry a weak talking point into a debate you should expect your opponent to be ready for you. Or, if McCain suddenly prefers rational, reasoned debate, being in a position to defend Romney's claim on its substance. Would McCain dispute this: In a theoretical sea battle, if you put the U.S. Navy on one side and all of the other navies in the world on the other, the U.S. Navy would prevail?2 Does McCain think it's good for the U.S. and its projection of power to pretend that the Navy is weak?
If something truly is a "cheap shot", it should be easy to refute on the facts. The "weak navy" cheap shot is easily refuted on the facts - Obama's response was shorthand for what, to somebody like McCain, should have been obvious from the day Romney started reciting that line. John McCain should be in an excellent position to explain why Romney's point holds.
The fact that McCain, like so many Republican partisans after the past three debates, is resentfully pounding the table about "cheap shots" and the like rather than explaining how Romney's claims make sense comes pretty close to an a collective admission of Romney's substantive weakness. Romney and Ryan do best when they are reciting poll-tested claims that they believe will sound good to his intended audience, despite having little to no relation to fact, calculated to make the President look weak or ineffectual. I'm surprised that McCain still needs this explained, but sometimes your opponent fights back - and when you telegraph your punches, sometimes you make that easy.
In fairness, if you are of the school that the best defense is a strong offense, sputtering rage about how unfair things were to your candidate may seem like a reasonable response to his having lost two consecutive debates.
1. The gist of the skit:
Change Bank: "We make change for you. You got a $1, we can give you 20 nickels. Or we can give you 5 dimes, a quarter, and 25 pennies - its all up to you."2. That's not what the modern Navy is designed to do, so I'm not putting that forth as a definitive test of naval strength, but if you want to compare "then and now", it seems like a fair measure of relative strength.
Customer/Narrator: "How do you make money?"
Change Bank: [deadpan] "Volume".