During that much-ballyhooed foreign policy address at the Virginia Military Institute, Mitt Romney repeated a ridiculous lie that has been debunked over and over again over the last couple years. He claimed, as many other Republicans have, that, “The size of our Navy is at levels not seen since 1916.” But this is a great example of how to lie with numbers that have no context. The Navy currently has 285 ships; in 1916, the Navy had 245 ships.
But take a look at the types of ships on the list. Yes, there are cruisers and destroyers but also:
Torpedo BoatsMonitors (that’s kind of a small warship)
These types of boats aren’t on the list anymore. Instead, the current list of Navy ships includes behemoths such as aircraft carriers, “SSBN” (nuclear-powered, ballistic-missile carrying submarines) and “SSGN” (cruise-missile submarines).
In other words, this is an apples-and-oranges comparison. Romney’s line reminds us of a similar strained comparison he made last year regarding the workforce needs to make ships during World War II and today. But in this case he goes even deeper back into history. After all, 1916 is not only before computers, it is before television — even before regular radio broadcasts.
The number of ships we have is absolutely irrelevant; the amount of naval and air power we can project is infinitely higher than at any time in our history. Highly dishonest.