A Ghost of Vetoes Past

Now that Barack Obama has openly vowed to veto the defense bill to stop the F-22, one might ask: When was the last time a President defied a Congress run by his own party just to cancel one specific weapon? We don’t know for sure, but it may have been Jimmy Carter in 1978. His target was a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier that the Navy wanted and Congress inserted into the bill over White House objections. Carter was determined to win, and wielded his veto. According to the Aug. 28, 1978 issue of Time, Carter “maintained that its huge cost would divert funds needed for the buildup of NATO forces.” However, the story did not end there. Over the next year, the “carrier veto” became a potent club for Carter’s political opponents, especially Ronald Reagan. When the Iran hostage crisis erupted, Carter put two aircraft carriers in the Gulf of Oman. By Spring 1980, Congress had put the same carrier into the budget and overwhelmingly approved it. This time, Carter signed. That carrier—CVN-71—is at sea today as USS Theodore Roosevelt. It deployed to the Indian Ocean on Sept. 19, 2001, and launched US strikes against the forces of Al Qaeda in the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.