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Romney's Fatal Libya Blunder | The Nation

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Robert Dreyfuss

Bob Dreyfuss

News of America’s misadventures in foreign policy and defense.

Romney's Fatal Libya Blunder


Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney leaves the podium after he makes comments on the killing of US embassy officials in Benghazi, Libya, while speaking in Jacksonville, Florida, Wednesday, September 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

The idea of Mitt Romney in the White House is a scary, scary thought after his bungling of the Libya crisis, and the Stormin’ Mormon just keeps making it scarier—including putting out Liz Cheney as spokeswoman for his anti-Muslim bigotry. The question I’d like to hear reporters ask Mitt, if they ever get a chance to get within 100 yards of him, is: “OK. You’ve condemned the extremists who killed the ambassador. You blasted the State Department for its statement urging respect for all religions, including Islam. Now, will you criticize the extremists who made the film that sparked the crisis?” So far, not a word from Romney about radical right Christian anti-Muslim bigots, including: Florida’s Terry Jones, the nutball, Koran-burning preacher who promoted the film; various extremist, Egyptian Copts; Steve Klein of California; and the mystery man who supposedly made the film.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, even placed a call to Jones to try to shut him up. Two years ago, then–Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had to call him, too. I worry that if Romney called Jones, he’d egg him on.

The Lede Blog at the New York Times has a wonderful summary of the crackpots behind the YouTube video that triggered the crisis, including a pretty good rundown of the odd cast of characters behind it, and Adam Nagourney in the Times writes about Steve Klein. It’s easy to poke fun at the crazies who made the film, even while expressing horror at the damage it’s touched off: attacks on US embassies in Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Tunisia, so far. But the real issue, still, is Romney.

To recap: after the Libya attack, which killed four American diplomats, Romney found himself compelled to attack President Obama for supposedly expressing sympathy for the terrorists. His statement:

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.

Outside of the Wall Street Journal, which is cheering Romney on, editorial writers have ridiculed Romney for his foreign policy gaffe. The Washington Post says of the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens: “That it instead provoked a series of crude political attacks on President Obama by GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney is a discredit to his campaign.” And it adds:

At a news conference, Mr. Romney claimed that the administration had delivered “an apology for America’s values.” In fact, it had done no such thing: Religious tolerance, as much as freedom of speech, is a core American value. The movie that provoked the protests, which mocks the prophet Muhammad and portrays Muslims as immoral and violent, is a despicable piece of bigotry; it was striking that Mr. Romney had nothing to say about such hatred directed at a major religious faith.

And the Times, in an editorial, opined that Romney “showed an extraordinary lack of presidential character by using the murders of the Americans in Libya as an excuse not just to attack Mr. Obama, but to do so in a way that suggested either a dangerous ignorance of the facts or an equally dangerous willingness to twist them to his narrow partisan aims.”

But Romney, as countless commentators have pointed out, doubled down after his initial blunder, saying yesterday:

I think it’s a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values, that instead when our grounds are being attacked and being breached, that the first response of the United States must be outrage at the breach of the sovereignty of our nation. An apology for America’s values is never the right course.

Of course, need it be said that neither President Obama nor anyone in the administration apologized for anything. And is Romney saying that “America’s values” are upheld by the crackpot critique of Islam from Klein, Jones et al.?

Liz Cheney, satanic offspring of the ex-VP, was trotted out by the Romney campaign for her Wall Street Journal screed, which said in part:

In response to the attack in Cairo, diplomats there condemned not the attackers but those who “hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” The president appeared in the Rose Garden less than 24 hours later to condemn the Libya assault and failed even to mention the attack in Egypt. The message sent to radicals throughout the region: If you assault an American embassy but don’t kill anyone, the U.S. president won’t complain.

A Wall Street Journal editorial, called “Romney Offends the Pundits,” has the gall to write: “His political faux pas was to offend a pundit class that wants to cede the foreign policy debate to Mr. Obama without thinking seriously about the trouble for America that is building in the world.”

Gail Collins, writing a column for the Times, happily quotes from Romney’s full statement after the criticism slammed him. It’s a nice read:

They clearly—they clearly sent mixed messages to the world. And—and the statement came from the administration—and the embassy is the administration—the statement that came from the administration was a—was a statement which is akin to apology and I think was a—a—a severe miscalculation.

Clear as mud?

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