Let me see if I’ve got this straight:
A privately produced and amateurish anti-Islam film made by expat Coptic Christians in the US and distributed on YouTube is said to spark violent protests in Cairo. The US Embassy there apologies for offending Muslim sensibilities. Violence escalates in Cairo and in Benghazi (cities in countries that have recently undergone American-approved oustings of long-time dictators). It is reported that an”embassy worker” may have been killed in Benghazi. Mitt Romney condemns the Cairo embassy apology in a statement that also condemns the attacks. The Obama administration disavows the apology issued by its own embassy. Later it is announced that the “embassy worker” was actually the US ambassador to Libya, and that three other diplomats were killed as well.
And one of the main responses of the MSM and the left is to condemn Mitt Romney for his statement. I kid you not.
Here’s a good summary of the timeline of events.
The press has been eagerly awaiting a major and important gaffe by Romney, and they’re hoping this is it. I can’t quite see that, though. I can’t imagine that most Americans (at least, the ones following the story, which may not be most Americans) were not as outraged as Romney by the statement of the Cairo embassy at the time.
The fact that this sort of violence occurred in two countries where Obama supported the revolts and the installation of the present governments does not make the president look good. It also seems that Obama either initially approved of the Cairo embassy statement and then backtracked, or had so little communication with and control of the embassy there that it was issuing a rogue statement with which he disagreed during the crisis. Neither possibility makes the president look good.
And now the terrible murder of the US ambassador to Libya, and the three other embassy workers—complete with horrific-appearing visuals conjuring up memories of Blawkhawk Down, but which have recently been reported to be of people taking him to the hospital (hard to believe, but I suppose possible)—spark further outrage, and also do not make the president look good.
In addition: why was the security at the embassy so poor? Could this not have been predicted? Especially on 9/11? Which also does not make the president look good.
And if by saying that I’m “politicizing” the attacks, of course I am. But they are already political; what else would they be, in addition to tragic and anger-provoking? Such an event will naturally engender commentary and criticism, and part of that commentary and criticism will be of the administration on whose watch it occurred.
It is only two short months before the election. One of the major issues—although we don’t hear as much about it as we hear about the economy, or dogs on the roof—is foreign policy. Obama’s has been execrable, and it has featured (among other things) bowing to dictators and appeasement abroad. Whether he approved of the Cairo embassy statement or not, he has created a perception of weakness and lack of fortitude on the part of the US. Some people consider that’s the right way to go—it’s sensitive and all that, and should appease those offended by our actions. Others (and I include myself in this group) think that honor/shame cultures are only inflamed by the perception of our weakness.
[ADDENDUM: (Hat tip: "Artfldgr") It seems likely that the attacks were coordinated and not by spontaneous mobs at all. That makes a great deal of sense, especially considering the locations---embassies in two different countries--- and the date, 9/11, as well as the fact that a rocket seems to have been involved. It has all the hallmarks of coordination by an al Qaeda-esque group.
I have not written about the exact circumstances of Ambassador Stevens' murder because the reports I've read so far are conflicting.]
[ADDENDUM II: Here is the text of a statement Romney issued today. It begins with a lengthy expression of mourning and a tribute to Stevens and the others. Then he adds:
America will not tolerate attacks against our citizens and against our embassies. We will defend also our constitutional rights of speech and assembly and religion. We have confidence in our cause in America. We respect our Constitution. We stand for the principles our Constitution protects. We encourage other nations to understand and respect the principles of our Constitution because we recognize that these principles are the ultimate source of freedom for individuals around the world.
I also believe the Administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt instead of condemning their actions. It's never too early for the United States Government to condemn attacks on Americans, and to defend our values. The White House distanced itself last night from the statement, saying it wasn't ‘cleared by Washington.’ That reflects the mixed signals they’re sending to the world.
The attacks in Libya and Egypt underscore that the world remains a dangerous place and that American leadership is still sorely needed. In the face of this violence, America cannot shrink from the responsibility to lead. American leadership is necessary to ensure that events in the region don’t spin out of control. We cannot hesitate to use our influence in the region to support those who share our values and our interests. Over the last several years, we have stood witness to an Arab Spring that presents an opportunity for a more peaceful and prosperous region, but also poses the potential for peril, if the forces of extremism and violence are allowed to control the course of events.
We must strive to ensure that the Arab Spring does not become an Arab Winter. ]
[ADDENDUM III: Astounding. Just astounding.
And yet I suppose it shouldn't be. Much of the left would dearly like to stifle speech it finds inconvenient.]
[CORRECTION: It was a consulate in Benghazi, not an embassy. Embassies are only in capital cities, and Tripoli is the capital of Libya.]