Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 1, 2010

PUTTING THE PENTAGON BUDGET ON THE TABLE?.... When the White House started talking up the notion of a spending freeze (which isn't really a spending freeze) last week, officials outlined a proposal with modest reductions in discretionary spending not related to national security.

There are a few unfortunate angles to this, but one of the key problems is taking defense spending out of the equation. Fred Kaplan noted the other day that if we're looking to cut the budget, the Pentagon shouldn't be excluded.

I was surprised to see House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) explain yesterday that he agrees.

"I don't think any agency of the federal government should be exempt from rooting out wasteful spending or unnecessary spending. And I, frankly, I would agree with it at the Pentagon. There's got to be wasteful spending there, unnecessary spending there. It all ought to be eliminated...."

Well, what a pleasant surprise.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week that if we're going to start taking a scalpel to the budget, there's no reason the Pentagon should necessarily get a pass. And just a few days later, her Republican counterpart expressed an identical sentiment on national television.

Boehner probably didn't mean it, and would go after anyone who tried to eliminate wasteful spending from the Defense Department. Indeed, last April, the Obama administration trimmed some unnecessary spending from the Pentagon, and GOP lawmakers accused the president of "ravaging the military at a time of war."

But maybe Boehner's remarks should simply be taken at face value, and the Democratic leadership should use this as an opening for some "bipartisan" fiscal responsibility.

Steve Benen 9:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (22)

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It's an obvious trap. Propose anything specific and you'll have wall-to-wall accusations that Indonesian Muslim terrorist Obama is trying to gut the thin green line protecting 'murikins from Bin Laden.

If you were being realistic, unnecessary spending at the Pentagon would encompass about 80% of what they do. Until you realize that the "necessity" is political rather than military.

Posted by: jimBOB on February 1, 2010 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

We can't even take Boehner's face at face value.

Posted by: martin on February 1, 2010 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Thou shalt not even consider looking at the

Holy Cash Cow.

It shall not be discussed.

For it is written,

God loves the Pentagon and all

who derive their sustenace from it,

be they government or civilian.

Posted by: tcn123@earthlink.net on February 1, 2010 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

We can't even take Boehner's face at face value.
Posted by: martin

LOL. thread winner.

Posted by: oh my on February 1, 2010 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

But maybe Boehner's remarks should simply be taken at face value, and the Democratic leadership should use this as an opening for some "bipartisan" fiscal responsibility.

(snicker) Are you serious? At this point Republicans have demonstrated that nothing they say should be "taken at face value". If they say that water is wet, you'd better check first.

If Democrats suggest any cuts in the Pentagon budget Republicans will be back with their accusations that Democrats are "weak on defense". Boehner will deny that he ever said that the Pentagon budget could be cut. And the corporate-controlled media will ignore the video of him saying otherwise and let him get away with it.

Unless Boehner is thinking of cutting the U.S. military's aid to all those ni . . . er, non-citizens down in Haiti. I'm sure he believes that is "wasteful spending or unecessary spending".

Posted by: SteveT on February 1, 2010 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Of course it's a trap. But there's nothing wrong with sniffing it out from a distance to see if it's a dangerous trap.

Posted by: Christopher on February 1, 2010 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

It would be sane it would be sensible, it's also a trap.

Posted by: Jamie on February 1, 2010 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

Without doubt there are programs at the Pentagon that need to be scrapped because they are no longer needed by the military. There are probably other programs that need to be strengthened. The F-22 was one. We just aren't going to dogfight with Islamic Fundamentalists and drones are rengering manned fighters obsolete anyway. On the other hand if we are going to be outward directed fighting multiple insurgencies all over the world at the same time, we need more and better trained boots on the ground.

The real trick will be cutting a lot of pentagon generals off from their pet projects. Every project has at least a platoon of general officers pushing. None of those generals are going to volunteer to kill their own project. For every general there are probably two congressmen fighting for jobs in their district.

The political courage to cut a program can only come from the White House. Political courage? This White House? Good luck.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 1, 2010 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

He spent too much time in the tanning bed. Look for an artful non-retraction retraction soon.

Posted by: g. powell on February 1, 2010 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Just so we understand the calculus: A freeze or cut in military spending is off the table because to reduce the billions going for defense could, or could not, result in another terrorist attack like 9/11. But by all means lay the budget axe to domestic discretionary spending when we know for certain that about 40,000 Americans die prematurely each year for want of adequate health care.

The only reason I can think of that conservatives are willing to tolerate such slaughter each year is that they figure, if you can't afford health insurance you don't belong here anyway, and if you die before your time as a result, then good riddance. We're an empire now, we need a people who are lean, mean and resourceful not a drag on the system.

Posted by: Ted Frier on February 1, 2010 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

I must confess I have never before really looked at the budget, I notice however that the funding for the wars is included, did Bush ever show the funding for war in his budgets?

Posted by: JS on February 1, 2010 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Apparently Baucus wants the jobs bill to go through his committee now, the bill the democrats have been working on for months, isn't Baucus the one who told his town hall meeting that he was on the senate committee for healthcare to slow down the bill!

Posted by: JS on February 1, 2010 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Just in case you haven't figured out the rule yet, here it is: Republican suggested cuts to the Pentagon budget are about "rooting out wasteful spending" and limiting Big Government. Democrat suggested cuts to the Pentagon budget (even if they are the exact same cuts!) are about "emboldening the terrists" and weakening us in a time of war.

It's not really hard to understand. Republicans good, Democrats bad.

Posted by: biggerbox on February 1, 2010 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Call their bluff

Don't waste this opportunity. The Republicans own the military. Everybody knows it. So the President should basically ASSIGN the task of detailing military spending reductions to the Republicans in the House and Senate (with concurrence from Speaker Pelosi and Maj. Leader Reid.)

Of course, all their recommendations would go through the normal review and debate political process. But the President and Congressional Leaders would make it clear that REDUCING THE DOD BUDGET has been specifically assigned to THE REPUBLICAN PARTY.

Make them OWN it. And then judge them by their performance.

This is a winner for the Democrats - and quite possibly, for the nation.

Posted by: Zandru on February 1, 2010 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Well look at the bright side when our economy collapses, the terrorists won't be so jealous of our freedoms any more.

Posted by: Jamie on February 1, 2010 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't it ironic that the trillions we pour into "defense" may end up bankrupting us as a nation? Maybe that was bin Laden's strategy all along... and thanks to the Republicans, it's working.

Posted by: dalloway on February 1, 2010 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK



"We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. Allah willing, and nothing is too great for Allah," bin Laden said in the transcript.


Posted by: Dave on February 1, 2010 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Face value?
I believe it was Truman Capote who said :
"I wouldn't believe a word out of his mouth even if his tongue was notarized. Everything out of his mouth is a lie including "and " and "the"

Posted by: John R on February 1, 2010 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

You can't take Boehners word for spit these days - I swear he lives in some alternate reality.

Did you see him on MTP yesterday spewing the same old talking points - "government takeover" - yada yada yada - as if they president hadn't shot down all that baseless nonsense on Friday. And Gregory just let him roll with it.


Posted by: Jilli on February 1, 2010 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

When politicians talk about cutting the defense budget, they mean searching for instances of $5000 toilets or unnecessary weapon-development boondoggles. I think that such things are peanuts compared with what needs to be done, which is to go for an extended period of time--say 10 years, maybe--without getting involved in a damn war. War is expensive, even if you ignore all the killing of innocents.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on February 1, 2010 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, I know. Let's start with Speaker Pelosi's family military travel budget!

Posted by: Timetester on February 1, 2010 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

SteveT has a good point: if Boehner sees any waste in the Pentagon, humanitarian aid is it. Boehner would probably also be good with any reductions that impact military personnel, such as pay freezes or reductions in their benefits.

But I'll never believe that the man would find a single weapons system that was "wasteful" in his view.

Posted by: nightshift66 on February 1, 2010 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK
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