The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Woodward Censures Obama, MSM Misses the Point

Bob Woodward, one of America’s most seasoned and well-respected journalists, is in the media spotlight for an op-ed criticizing the White House over the sequester. The MSM didn’t miss a beat jumping into the he said/she said story of an alleged retaliatory threat from the White House. But once again, the media is completely missing the real Bob Woodward story: In an appearance on MSNBC yesterday, he delivered a reproof of the President’s decision not to deploy an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf:

“Can you imagine Ronald Reagan sitting there and saying, ‘Oh, by the way, I can’t do this because of some budget document?’” Woodward said Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“Or George W. Bush saying, ‘You know, I’m not going to invade Iraq because I can’t get the aircraft carriers I need’ or even Bill Clinton saying, ‘You know, I’m not going to attack Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters,’ as he did when Clinton was president because of some budget document?” Woodward added. “Under the Constitution, the president is commander-in-chief and employs the force. And so we now have the president going out because of this piece of paper and this agreement. ‘I can’t do what I need to do to protect the country.’ That’s a kind of madness that I haven’t seen in a long time.”

Woodward is sounding the alarm we’ve been setting off here at Via Meadia: if President Obama asked Congress for emergency funds to maintain America’s fleet in the Gulf, he would get them. Reports suggesting that the US simply can’t afford it undermines any sense that Obama has the will to stop Iran: if the US were serious about military action, Khamenei is likely to think, cutting aircraft carriers from the Gulf simply wouldn’t be an option—budget concerns or not.

Teddy Roosevelt once sent the Great White Fleet on a round-the-world cruise to showcase American naval power even though he lacked the money to bring it home; he simply figured that Congress would have no choice but to appropriate the money for the trip back. Of course, he was right.

Via Meadia thinks President Obama should do the same: send the U.S.S. Harry Truman on its way to the Gulf and tell Congress to figure out what to do when the money runs out. Anything short of that, as Woodward points out, is a risk to national security.

[Update: An earlier version of this post did not draw a distinction between Woodward's op-ed and his later TV appearance. This mistake has been corrected.]

[Bob Woodward photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com; Great White Fleet photo courtesy of the Naval Historical Center]

Published on February 28, 2013 1:24 pm