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Bill Clinton jabs Romney, Ryan on DoD spending proposals

Sep. 6, 2012 - 11:02AM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
Former President Bill Clinton stands Sept. 5 with President Barack Obama, left, on stage during day two of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on in Charlotte, N.C.
Former President Bill Clinton stands Sept. 5 with President Barack Obama, left, on stage during day two of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on in Charlotte, N.C. (Alex Wong / Getty)

Former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday jabbed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for proposing to give the Pentagon trillions of monies it has not requested.

Clinton used his Democratic National Convention speech to defend President Barack Obama’s first-term record and to sharply criticize Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

The 42nd president attacked Romney’s vague proposal to boost annual Defense Department spending and a 2013 federal budget plan written by Ryan. The House Budget Committee chairman’s spending blueprint would give the military $30 billion more than Obama requested in February. Ryan’s budget also proposes increasing the Pentagon’s base budget by tens of billions of dollars each year through 2022, when it would total nearly $710 billion.

Clinton told an audience at Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena and millions watching on television that Romney and Ryan, during the GOP’s convention last week in Florida, failed to present “an acceptable alternative to President Obama.”

“You see, they want to go back to the same old policies that got us into trouble in the first place,” Clinton said. “Cut taxes for high-income Americans even more than President [George W.] Bush did. To get rid of those pesky financial regulations designed to prevent another crash and prohibit future bailouts. To increase defense spending 2 trillion dollars more than the Pentagon has requested without saying what they’ll spend the money on; to make enormous cuts in the rest of the budget.”

Clinton’s prime time broadside suggests the Democrats are ready to make Pentagon spending a campaign issue as the 2012 White House race enters the homestretch.

The GOP White House hopefuls offered few specifics last week about just how those new defense dollars would be spent. Romney, however, has made clear on the campaign trail he would buy more Navy ships.

The official Republican Party policy platform, formally adopted last week at its convention, features several defense-themed sections. But those sections mostly criticize the Obama administration for retiring aircraft and ships and shrinking the Army and Marine Corps, and charges the White House is blocking efforts to modernize the U.S. nuclear arms fleet. It is unclear whether Romney would use his proposed Pentagon budget inflation to reverse some or all of the Obama administration’s plans.

The GOP platform does promise to develop “the full range of military and intelligence options to defeat Al Qaeda and its affiliates,” as well as new cyber war tools.

The Republican platform signals a sharp departure from the Obama administration’s national security strategy, which it dubs “a budget-constrained blueprint that, if fully implemented, will diminish the capabilities of our armed forces,” adding the current plan “significantly increases the risk of future conflict by declaring to our adversaries that we will no longer maintain the forces necessary to fight and win more than one conflict at a time.”

In contrast, the Democrats’ platform signals that party would welcome more Pentagon spending cuts, singling out the expensive nuclear arms arsenal as a candidate for reductions. The Obama administration has justified its military budget cuts, end-strength shrinkage plans and program cancellations by arguing that the emerging threat picture is best tackled by a leaner, more agile force.

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