Mitt Romney’s history of foreign policy gaffes is growing like an out-of-control Pinocchio’s nose. If the Republican presidential candidate had absorbed the lessons of his pre-Olympic visit to London, surely the blowback from his comments following Monday’s murderous attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya could have been avoided.
“The deadly attack on an American diplomatic post in Libya propelled foreign policy into the forefront of an otherwise inward-looking presidential campaign and presented an unexpected test not only to the incumbent, who must manage an international crisis, but also to the challenger, whose response quickly came under fire,” reports The New York Times.
While President Obama dealt with the killings of an ambassador and three other Americans and deflected questions about his handling of the Arab world, Mitt Romney, the Republican seeking his job, wasted little time going on the attack, accusing the president of apologizing for American values and appeasing Islamic extremists.
But Mr. Romney came under withering criticism for distorting the chain of events overseas and appearing to seek political advantage from an incident that claimed American lives.
The problem is that the Obama statement Romney criticized was issued hours before protests in Cairo and the attack in Libya began and was intended to try and appease Muslims upset at an American-made anti-Islam video.
The Daily Beast didn’t mince words in its reaction to Romney’s statement: “The obvious responsible thing to do when American citizens and public officials are under physical threat abroad and when the details are unknown, and events spiraling, is to stay silent. If the event happens on the day of September 11 and you are a candidate for president and have observed a political truce, all the more reason to wait to allow the facts to emerge. After all, country before party, right? American lives are at stake, yes? An easy call, no?”
“But that's not what the Romney camp did. What they did was seize on a tweet issued by someone in the US Embassy before the attacks in order to indict the president for 'sympathizing' with those who murdered a US ambassador after the attacks. Unf---ingbelievable.”
And the comments from Romney’s fellow Republicans were not much kinder according to The Washington Post. “It almost feels like Sarah Palin is his foreign policy adviser,” Matthew Dowd, who was a top strategist for president George W. Bush, said in an interview. “It’s just a huge mistake on the Romney campaign’s part—huge mistake.”
BuzzFeed quoted a former aide to Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign as saying, “It’s bad . . . Just on a factual level that the statement was not a response but preceding, or one could make the case precipitating. And just calling it a ‘disgrace’ doesn’t really cut it. Not ready for prime time.”
And The Times reported that John Ullyot, a Republican strategist, said, “It’s developed into another distraction that has put foreign policy—not a strong suit for the G.O.P. ticket this time—front and center in an uncomfortable way in a campaign that is becoming less and less about the administration’s job record.”
For his part, numerous media outlets have reported that President Obama told CBS News, “Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later . . . And as president, one of the things I’ve learned is you can’t do that—that, you know, it’s important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts, and that you’ve thought through the ramifications.”
Meanwhile, let’s not forget that U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans lost their lives on Tuesday.
Do you think the reaction to Romney’s statement has been overblown or is well deserved?
Lawrence Karol is a writer and editor who lives with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet staffer and enjoys writing about design, food, travel and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence | TakePart.com