No serious presidential candidate has ever stooped this low. Romney’s comments on the Benghazi attack reveal that he does not have the knowledge or the temperament to steer America through a turbulent world. He never has been and never will be ready to be Commander-in-Chief. Mitt Romney disqualified himself from being president this week.
Mother Jones has a succinct rundown of the most important statements:
I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.
Before the protesters attacked the compound, the U.S. mission in Cairo  said in a statement: “The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.”
The embassy statement was not a response to the attacks because it was issued several hours before the attacks even occurred. The Washington Post helpfully passes along the actual first response to the attacks from the Obama administration:
“I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement. “As we work to secure our personnel and facilities, we have confirmed that one of our State Department officers was killed. We are heartbroken by this terrible loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who have suffered in this attack.”
….She added that although the United States “deplores” any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, “there is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”
FactCheck.org gives a scathing indictment of Romney’s statement. The nonpartisan referee reports that there was no apology in any statement issued by the embassy or the Obama Administration, and Romney has events backwards, criticizing the embassy’s statement in light of the attacks which had not yet happened when their statement was issued. As we know, though, Romney and Ryan–Feckless and Reckless–have made it clear that they won’t surrender to the Factinistas.
There are several aspects of Romney’s attack that are appalling and disgraceful. Romney criticized embassy staff who were fearing for their lives. When the US embassy in Cairo issued the first statement condemning the inflammatory anti-Islam video, they were surrounded by thousands of irate protesters. When protesters scaled their walls, the embassy reiterated its condemnation of the video, and condemned the illegal breach. When Mitt Romney said they were apologizing for America, they literally could see through their windows a mob of thousands of people who weren’t there to talk. Mitt Romney said they apologized for America while they were serving America, defending America’s values in a turbulent country and fearing for their lives. They were on a mission to serve America while staring death in the face and Mitt Romney basically called them chicken.
When it became clear that Ambassador Chris Stephens and three other staffers had been killed in the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi, Romney gave another statement. He said the embassy is the Administration and should not have apologized for America. He said that the President and Secretary of State were only sending mixed signals when they issued stronger denunciations of the attacks. This is an incredibly feeble attempt at making a “the buck stops here” line of argument against Obama. This is not Reagan denying knowledge of Iran-Contra. The embassy clearly issued the statement without higher direction in the heat of the moment and was later overruled by the White House and State Department, but crucially, the initial statement does not remotely reflect Romney’s characterization of it.
President Obama said about the embassy’s statement:
“In an effort to cool the situation down, it didn’t come from me, it didn’t come from Secretary Clinton, it came from people on the ground who are potentially in danger. And my tendency is to cut folks a little bit of slack when they’re in that circumstance, rather than try to question their judgment from the comfort of a campaign office.”
The embassy personnel were also walking a tightrope between expressing understanding of the particular religious sensitivities of the region while also standing by core American principles. There’s a word for this. It’s spelled D-I-P-L-O-M-A-C-Y. Mitt Romney clearly has never seen this word before and does not understand what it means. Because he attacked America’s diplomats for exercising diplomacy–again, while staring death in the face–churlishly twisting their statements and the timeline to try to tie it to the president at a highly sensitive moment.
The families of the four diplomats killed in Libya can take some small solace, for what it’s worth, in knowing that their loved ones died serving their country nobly and honorably and went willingly into a volatile region hoping to make a difference because they believed in the mission. But Mitt Romney doesn’t see it that way. Mitt Romney believes, and has reiterated, that they were cowards who apologized for America even as they were murdered. It’s enough to bring tears to the eyes to think that Mitt Romney would treat brave Americans with such craven disrespect as they were being killed.
Romney’s statements have horrifying implications for how he would govern. Romney has implied, and restated to make sure you understand, that he believes that an American president should never seek to understand other cultures. The president should never try to understand the facts and details of a situation. The president should never work with nuance or even try to see the big picture. The president should never seek to instill calm in a tense situation. The president should always seek to escalate any volatile situation. The president should always provoke and confront. The president should never pick his battles, but should always thump his chest and bellow for America’s inherent superiority on the world stage. The president should create enemies wherever possible and lash out at them. Even President George “Bring ‘em on” W. Bush would blanch in horror at this approach to foreign policy.
The statements reveal that Romney has a childish understanding of free speech. The crux of his whole attack is that the Administration “apologized” for free speech. The speech in question comes from a video (I watched part of it and I don’t suggest it) whose only purpose was clearly to defame Islam and insult Muslims. The actors even claim to have been duped as to the real purpose of the film. This makes sense, since the most inflammatory lines were blatantly dubbed over in post-production. The film’s alleged director was convicted of bank fraud in 2010. His film was advertised by Terry Jones, the extremist Florida pastor who has burned Korans in the past, in spite of a personal plea not to do so from former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The director “Bacile” and Jones are two babies playing with a gun. Though they unequivocally have the right to freely express their idiotic opinions, the rest of us also have the absolute right to tell them to please shut the hell up.
The reason free speech works is because when the ignorant bigots open their mouths, there are far more people who rationally explain why they’re wrong. Americans are mature enough to understand that the Cairo embassy staff found themselves in the bull’s eye of this equation and responded accordingly. Free speech in America is robust enough, especially when compared with the region in question, that we can encourage our people to use it responsibly. Just as mature Muslims understand that theirs is a religion of peace and reject the terrorists who hijack their religion, so too, mature Americans should understand that with freedom of speech comes responsibility of speech and reject the ignorant bigots who poison that right. In fact, based on the available evidence, the only reasonable conclusion one can come to about what happened this week is this: idiots in our country intentionally provoked idiots in their country, and good people died as a result. Romney doesn’t want to lay responsibility where it belongs with the idiots on both sides, but with the victims who died serving America.
When you go to the polls on November 6th, remember this. Four Americans served their country, pursuing nuanced diplomacy bravely, even as a mob broke into their compound. They were murdered because hate, fueled by ignorance on both sides of the globe, led terrorists to attack them. And then Mitt Romney attacked them.