The terrorists who planned and pulled off the attack on the American Embassy in Libya that killed four Americans should be condemned. They are violence-loving extremists with an irrational hate of the United States.
But the people who created and distributed the scurrilous and lie-soaked film that incited Egyptians and Libyans to exercise their right of free protest and thereby inadvertently provided the terrorists cover in Libya are also to be condemned, even if we must support their right of free speech. They (the filmmakers, not the protesters) are also extremists with an irrational hate of Islam.
President Obama’s response to the tragic situation has been appropriate: He has stated unequivocally that the United States is going to track down the perpetrators of the attacks and murders. And he has the track record to back up his resolve, having tracked down Osama bin Laden and other terrorists.
At the same time, though, the President and the Administration have reached out to the Egyptian and Libyan government and also made it clear that they do not condone the message of the film, ironically title, “The Innocence of Muslims.”
History suggests that there is no immediate role for the opposition in this type of crisis. As many have pointed out, past challengers have limited comments to sympathy for the victims and support of the United States. It’s what Reagan did in 1980 and what the Democrats did in the weeks after 9/11. The idea is to show solidarity to the rest of the world and not let politics impede the complicated task of responding to the threat. Months later, opposition criticism might blossom, but not in the 24 or 48 hours after such a tragedy.
That Romney took another path demonstrates once again that he is unqualified to be president. I’m not talking about his positions on issues, but about his basic modus operandi. Romney blundered so badly that even loyalist Republicans like Representative Peter T. King, Peggy Noonan and Ed Rogers have criticized it.
Here are the three major mistakes that Mitt has made over the past two days in his effort to turn the terrorist attacks into a political controversy. Note that he has made all three mistakes in the past:
1. He shot from the hip. Romney made his first statement which condemned the Administration for apologizing to the terrorists and used as evidence a statement the U.S. Embassy in Egypt had issued criticizing the film. At the time, he didn’t know that the embassy’s statement had come before the Libyans gathered outside the embassy in Benghazi and he didn’t know that the terrorists had killed four Americans. As Martin Bashir, Rachel Maddow, Jennifer Granholm and countless other TV journalists have noted, Romney also embarrassed himself by shooting from the hip before all the facts were in about the Chinese dissident Chen Guangchen. Some of his foolish comments about security at the London Olympics could also be seen as examples of “shooting before aiming.”
2. He lied. Anyone who has been following the story closely is probably sick of the expression “double down,” which has been used by journalists of all political persuasions to describe Romney’s statements yesterday afternoon, when he kept repeating that the United States apologized to terrorists, even when the facts emerged. Lying seems to come naturally to this year’s Republic ticket. The lies his running mate Paul Ryan made in his acceptance speech have been thoroughly analyzed by the news media. One commentator has compiled a list of 533 documented lies that Romney has told over the past 30 weeks. That’s a little more than 17 a week, week after week.
3. He broke long-existing etiquette and tradition. As I discussed before, Mitt should have followed the American tradition of closing ranks and expressing sympathy. It’s not the first time that Romney couldn’t figure out proper protocol. Remember that during his disastrous trip abroad he revealed that he had received a special briefing in London from the British government that other foreign leaders have received for years. Unlike all others, Romney made the confidential briefing public. That Romney doesn’t pick up on these standards of governmental etiquette is very surprising, considering his background in business. Perhaps he thinks he’s too important to conform.
Most pundits say that Romney’s foolishness was a desperation move because he sees the polls moving inexorably towards Obama and feels the election slipping away from him.
I disagree: Romney’s statements over the past few days are completely consistent with his past: He shoots from the hip, he lies and he doesn’t have a good sense of etiquette and protocol, at least when it comes to foreign policy. Not the right guy to place in charge of dropping bombs and waging wars.