McCain: Obama’s Bayonet Remark Shows 'A Degree of Ignorance' About Naval Strategy

By Matt Cover | October 24, 2012 | 9:11 AM EDT

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) endorses Mitt Romney for president in Manchester, N.H. on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012. (AP Photo)

( - Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) said that President Obama’s quip about the military not needing horses and bayonets during the third presidential debate on Monday showed that Obama lacked “maturity” and “judgment.”

“To make a smart remark about horses and bayonets, about planes that fly off aircraft carriers, you know, to me, is not only unpresidential but it shows a lack of maturity along with his lack of judgment,” McCain said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday.

McCain, a Vietnam-era naval commander, noted Obama’s lack of military service saying that he couldn’t understand why the President felt the need to “denigrate” his opponent.

“I don't know why the President of the United States feels it necessary to denigrate, and basically insult, his opponent. This line about horses and bayonets, astonishing that he would say such things as that as he did throughout. This is a man who has never known anything about national defense or national security or served in the military.”

Obama’s attack on former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney came during an exchange over Romney’s plan to increase the size of the Navy. Obama made the remark to mock Romney’s plan, saying that the number of ships in the Navy was irrelevant because it had become more technologically advanced.

“You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines,” Obama said Monday.

“And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we're counting slips. It's what are our capabilities.”

McCain, whose father commanded U.S. naval forces during Vietnam and whose grandfather pioneered the use of aircraft carriers during World War II, said that Obama’s remark showed “a degree of ignorance” about naval strategy, saying that the U.S. did in fact need a large number of ships, particularly in the Pacific.

“When the president made the statement about "they fly airplanes on and off aircraft carriers," that was both demeaning to Mitt Romney and it was also showed a degree of ignorance on the part of the president,” McCain said.

“You do need aircraft carriers and you need submarines and you need naval presence the same way you did back then. And to then justify a steady reduction in shipbuilding, obviously does not, shows a misunderstanding of the size of the challenge we face in the Asian Pacific region. And so, to say, as the president did "well we fly airplanes off of aircraft carriers" and this horses and bayonets statement, is not only bad taste and frankly inappropriate for a president of the United States, but it's also wrong.”