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I was a child when Captain Kangaroo was the children's program to watch. I was already a teenager when Sesame Street came a long, so I had never heard of Snuffleupagus, who was Big Bird's imaginary friend and only Big Bird could see him; he was "invisible" to all of Big Bird's friends. That was until the 17th season (1985) when Big Bird showed Snuffleupagus to his friends so that they would know he was real.

In his op-ed at The Washington Post argues Dan Milbank starts by saying that the controversial Big Bird ad and the claim that Romney would cut funding for PBS from the federal budget was distracting the Obama campaign from what it should be focusing on; the budget cuts Romney wants to make that he won't tell us about.

There was quite a bit of controversy when the ad was released. According to The New York Times.

The creators of “Sesame Street” had asked Mr. Obama to leave Big Bird out of it. And even some Democrats said the ad, suggesting that Mr. Romney would be tougher on “Sesame Street” than on Wall Street, was not the salve that nervous party activists and volunteers were looking for.

(snip)

Aides said the spot was to run only on cable, including comedy programs, and was meant to direct the focus to the budget priories of Mr. Romney, who criticized Mr. Obama for talking about “saving Big Bird” instead of “saving good jobs.”

“The idea was to provoke a discussion and create a little viral activity, and we’ve done that,” said David Axelrod, the president’s chief strategist.

Obama Campaign Tells Supporters: Steady On

The ad did accomplish both the discussion and the viral activity. In less than 24 hours it had been viewed more than 1.1 million times. Unfortunately, as I learned when I posted the ad in a diary yesterday, a lot of people objected to the ad because the Obama campaign did not obtain permission to use images of Big Bird from Sesame Street.

In his op-ed, Milbank argues for another reason for the Obama campaign not to focus so much effort on what Mitt Romney said at the debate about Big Bird and funding PBS because it's a red herring. Yes, it's the one budget item that Romney acknowledged that he wanted to cut; but Milbank argues that we should be focusing on something different. Namely an emergency hearing about “The Security Failures of Benghazi” [PDF] that the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, has called for today at noon while Congress is in recess. Why would he do that?

The purpose of the pre-election hearing, presumably, is to embarrass the administration for inadequate diplomatic security. But Issa seems unaware of the irony that diplomatic security is inadequate partly because of budget cuts forced by his fellow Republicans in Congress.

For fiscal 2013, the GOP-controlled House proposed spending $1.934 billion for the State Department’s Worldwide Security Protection program — well below the $2.15 billion requested by the Obama administration. House Republicans cut the administration’s request for embassy security funding by $128 million in fiscal 2011 and $331 million in fiscal 2012. (Negotiations with the Democrat-controlled Senate restored about $88 million of the administration’s request.) Last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Republicans’ proposed cuts to her department would be “detrimental to America’s national security” — a charge Republicans rejected.

Ryan, Issa and other House Republicans voted for an amendment in 2009 to cut $1.2 billion from State operations, including funds for 300 more diplomatic security positions. Under Ryan’s budget, non-defense discretionary spending, which includes State Department funding, would be slashed nearly 20 percent in 2014, which would translate to more than $400 million in additional cuts to embassy security.

Forget Big Bird. What about the Snuffleupagus in the room?

Check out the article Milbank referenced from February 2011 and familiarize yourself with what happened because later today we will certainly be witness to a hearing where Issa is going to attempt to point the finger at the Obama Administration for failing to protect Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya by not providing appropriate security after it was the Republicans in Congress who refused to provide adequate funding.
Clinton also said that it was "somewhat frustrating" that funding for the work done by State and USAID is not classified as "security" spending despite the national security implications of that work. She added that Boehner acknowledged that Defense Department officials are among the "strongest supporters" of the State Department and USAID.

"Our strongest supporters, as the speaker mentioned to me, are the leaders of our military and our Defense Department; Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen, General Cartwright and so many others," Clinton said. "Why? Because they understand that if we don't have a robust civilian presence in these frontline states, we cannot make the progress that we are seeking. ... Our colleagues in the Defense Department have been our strongest supporters, and the speaker is well aware of that."

(snip)

"The American people know we're broke -- we're borrowing 41 cents out of every dollar we spend," Boehner spokesperson Michael Steel said. "Right now, we need to stop the Washington spending spree so the economy can grow and the private sector can create more jobs. We have confidence that the soldiers and diplomats serving in harm's way will have the resources they need to protect America."

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) also dismissed the notion that the House Republican plan would endanger national security.

Secretary Clinton: House Republican budget cuts will endanger national security

It was Ryan's budget which Boehner and Cantor defended, and Issa and other Republicans who voted to cut the State Department's budget. Now they don't want to take responsibility for their failure to sufficiently finance overseas diplomatic operations. And it is these types of "real cuts" that Romney would make that Milbank warns we should be focusing on. In fact, according to Milbank:
The Romney campaign argues that such extrapolations are unfair, because Romney and Ryan haven’t specified which programs they would cut and by how much. And that’s the problem: The danger in Romney’s plan is not in the few cuts he has detailed but in the many he has not.
Once again, Mitt Romney is asking Americans to trust him just like Americans trusted the Republicans with control of the House of Represents that underfunded the State Department and deserve their share of the blame for the deaths of Americans in Libya.

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