The best defense is a good offense, so the proverb instructs, but in John McCain’s case, it may be the opposite.  After having hammered Barack Obama on economic philosophy for the last two weeks, McCain raised national security as a campaign theme in Tampa this morning:

Sen. John McCain on Wednesday sought to steer the presidential-campaign conversation to national security, saying rival Sen. Barack Obama had given voters “no reason” to believe he could protect the nation from grave threats.

Sen. McCain’s brief national-security speech was a departure in an election season dominated by the economy. The Republican presidential nominee reminded his audience that world threats will be present after the current financial crisis is resolved.

“The question is whether this is a man who has what it takes to protect America from Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda and other grave threats in the world,” Sen. McCain said of the Illinois Democrat. “And he has given you no reason to answer in the affirmative.”

Obama surrogate General Scott Stratton responded that Obama had pledged to increase ground forces and “invest” in 21st-century capabilities.  He did?  That would be a major shift from Obama’s position in the primaries:

Obama specifically says he will stop investments in “unproven” missile defense systems, which have proven quite successful and promising over the same period of time as the presidential campaign.  Missile defense would certainly qualify as a 21st-century capability, but Obama wants to unilaterally stop investing in it.  And he doesn’t stop at missile defense, either.  He promises in that clip to end spending on a wide range of military systems; his running mate, Joe Biden, has specified the F-22 as one program that will get the axe even while the US struggles to maintain its aging fighter inventory.

Obama operates from a disarmament mindset, a bad philosophy in the best of times and borderline insane in the middle of a war.  Biden acknowledges that our enemies will rush to “test” the inexperienced Obama if he wins the election.  If Obama’s busily defunding military investments, what kind of an answer will he be able to give?  Meanwhile, his Congressional colleagues envision an Obama victory as a mandate to cut defense spending by 25% — which will hardly help “invest in 21st-century capabilities”.

Polling shows that McCain enjoys a significant lead in national security over Barack Obama.  With the financial collapse quiet for the moment, this may be a good time to leverage that into a final-week push to convince undecideds that Obama simply isn’t ready to adequately defend the nation.