President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney clashed in an exchange about the size of the U.S. military in what may end up being the signature dialogue of the third and final presidential debate.
"Our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917," Romney said. "The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We're now at under 285. ... We're headed down to the low 200s if we go through a sequestration. That's unacceptable to me."
Romney also said the U.S. Air Force is "older and smaller" than at any time since it first flew in 1947 and that the U.S. has begun to move away from its traditional stance of being able to simultaneously fight wars on two fronts.
"I think Governor Romney maybe hasn't spent enough time looking at how our military works," Obama said, beginning a sharp assault on Romney's foreign policy knowledge.
"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.
"And so the question is not a game of Battleship," Obama continued, "where we're counting ships. It's what are our capabilities."
As some observers pointed out, the remark may have added insult to injury, considering Romney is the owner of a horse that competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics.