Fox News host Megyn Kelly on Tueday said that President Barack Obama may have "gone native" when he mocked Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney by pointing out that the U.S. military no longer used as many "horses and bayonets."
During the third 2012 presidential debate, Romney had criticized Obama because “our Navy is smaller now than any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission, we’re now down to 285."
In response, Obama promised that military spending would not be cut, adding, “I think Gov. Romney maybe hasn’t spent enough time looking at how our military works. You mentioned the Navy, for example. And that we have fewer ships that we had in 1916. Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military has changed.”
During a segment on Fox News the following day, conservative strategist Michael Reagan told Kelly that the "horses and bayonets" line may have been too harsh for undecided voters.
"It showed Barack Obama, who he is: very condescending," the son of the former president explained. "You begin to see why he's accomplishing nothing in Washington, D.C., where my father was accomplishing everything in Washington, D.C. because when he spoke to you, he spoke with you. He did not speak down to you."
"Last night, no respect from the president of the United States towards Mitt Romney, a lot of presidential respect -- as if he were already the president -- from Mitt Romney to, in fact, the other," Reagan added.
"That's an interesting point, that it speaks to an ability to be bipartisan," Kelly agreed. "And whether the president has that, and whether he's been in Washington maybe too long, maybe it's gotten to him and he's sort of gone native because the guy who was going to be hope and change got to Washington, and now he sounds a lot like the people he said he was going to change."
According to Queen's Univ. of Belfast's The Imperial Archive Project, the term "going native" originally referred "to the trepidation felt by the European colonizers in Africa that they may become desecrated by being assimilated into the culture and customs of the indigenous peoples."
"In today's liberal and anti-racist society, ‘going native' is understandably considered a derogatory and offensive term," Sinead Caslin wrote for The Imperial Archive Project.
A recently as last week, Comedy Central's South Park dealt with racism in Hawaii with an episode titled "Going Native."
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms suggests that the term has a more innocent meaning: "to become like the people who have lived in a place for a long time."