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Posted by on Sep 13, 2012 in 2012 Elections, International, Politics | 3 comments

Negative Fallout From Mitt Romney Libya Comments Continues

Bill Day, Cagle Cartoons

Does Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney know something that most serious political analysts — including Republicans — don’t kow?

Romney’s comments on Libya and the Obama administrations response to it and the death of the American ambassador here are not being defended high and low by prominent GOPers in Congress. On this issue, Romney seems increasingly living on a political Gilligan’s Island populated by currrent supporters: talk show hosts, campaign spinners and professional talkers on cable TV and internet partisans who will defend him due to the Democratic/Republican 2012 political war no matter waht.

But how will his comments eventually play with independent voters? I’m betting they will play poorly — that he’ll come across as all too eager to immediately leap into the news cycle and try to convert a tragedy into a political attack point before he had the facts.

And although one of his campaign bigwigs made it clear a few months ago that the campaign won’t halt assertions no matter what thoe bothersome fact checkers may say, he isn’t doing to well in the fact checking department. For instance, the AP absolutely decimates him in their fact check. Here are just a few excerpts from the piece which must be read in full (but won’t be read at all by those who are repeating Romney’s mantra due to fears it could hurt him in the election):

The gunfire at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, had barely ceased when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney seriously mischaracterized what had happened in a statement accusing President Barack Obama of “disgraceful” handling of violence there and at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.

“The Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks,” Romney said in a statement first emailed to reporters at 10:09 p.m. Eastern time, under the condition it not be published until midnight.

In fact, neither a statement by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo earlier in the day nor a later statement from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton offered sympathy for attackers. The statement from the Cairo Embassy had condemned anti-Muslim religious incitement before the embassy walls were breached. In her statement, issued minutes before Romney’s, Clinton had offered the administration’s first response to the violence in Libya, explicitly condemning the attack there and confirming the death of a State Department official.

AND:

Early Tuesday morning, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo got word that demonstrators, angry about an anti-Islamic film produced in the U.S., were gathering in the streets. It issued a safety warning to Americans: Stay out of the streets.

As the situation became increasingly tense— but while the crowd was still peaceful — the U.S. Embassy in Cairo issued a statement condemning what it called “religious incitement” as it worked to calm the tensions.

“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 said at 6:18 a.m. EDT, shortly after noon Cairo time.

That’s the statement that Romney referred to as the administration’s “first response.” By Wednesday morning, the Republican nominee was at a podium in Jacksonville, Fla., saying that statement “appeared to be an apology for American principles.” It’s a theme Romney has hammered against Obama throughout his presidential campaign, including in his campaign book, “No Apology.”

But the embassy’s condemnation of religious incitement hardly amounted to an apology

AND AT THE VERY END:

In Washington, Republican foreign policy veterans called Romney’s initial statement premature and rushed, with limited facts and an incomplete understanding of what was happening in Egypt and Libya. Romney’s team also was unclear about the timeline of when the Obama administration weighed in.

One Republican official advising Romney’s campaign on foreign policy and national security issues painted a picture of a Romney campaign more focused on ensuring Romney’s evening statement made it into morning news stories than on waiting for details about what had happened.

This official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering Romney’s campaign, said that as word of violence spread, campaign aides late Tuesday watched tweets coming out of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo that were criticizing the filmmaker rather than condemning the attackers, and saw an opportunity to criticize Obama.

It wasn’t until Wednesday morning, when the U.S. confirmed the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, that Romney’s team recognized the severity of the situation — and that, the night before, it had opened itself up to criticism for politicizing a diplomatic crisis.

There is a lot more detail so go to the link and be sure to read the AP fact check in its entirety.


Part of a Washington Post editorial:

J.CHRISTOPHER STEVENS, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, was a skilled and courageous diplomat who repeatedly placed himself at risk to support the cause of a democratic Libya. His death, along with those of three other Americans, during an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday is a tragedy that should prompt bipartisan support for renewed U.S. aid to Libyans who are struggling to stabilize the country. 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.

Mr. Romney’s first rhetorical assault came Tuesday night in response to a statement by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, which was also besieged by demonstrators Tuesday. His statement claimed that the administration’s first response was “to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” In fact the embassy statement was issued before the protests began; referring to an ugly anti-Islam film that was the focus of demonstrators, it condemned “those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious belief of others.”

Mr. Romney did not then know the extent of the Benghazi incident — his statement referred only to “the death of an American consulate worker.” So it was stunning to see the GOP nominee renew his verbal offensive Wednesday morning, when the country was still absorbing the news of the first death in service of a U.S. ambassador since 1988. Though reports were still sketchy, it appeared that a militant jihadist group, Ansar al-Sharia, took advantage of the Benghazi protest to stage an armed assault that overwhelmed the Libyan security force at the consulate.

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:

As for Mr. Romney, he would do well to consider the example of Republican former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, who issued a statement Wednesday lamenting “the tragic loss of life at our consulate,” praising Mr. Stevens as “a wonderful officer and a terrific diplomat” and offering “thoughts and prayers” to “all the loved ones of the fallen.” That was the appropriate response

.
Meanwhile Obama, when asked by a reporter, said Romney has a tendency to “shoot first and ask questions later”:

The Politico notes how isolated Romney is on his charges (but, again, he has Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and some others so what does he care?):

Senior Republicans on Capitol Hill are leaving GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney out on a limb after he criticized President Barack Obama’s “disgraceful” handling of the assault on the U.S. embassy in Libya, which led to the death of U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens.

Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee who personally knew Stevens, refused to assign any blame to the Obama administration.

“My heart is with Mr. Stevens, my former staff member, my friend,” Lugar told POLITICO on Wednesday. As a Pearson Fellow to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Stevens served as a staffer for Lugar in 2006. Lugar helped shepherd Stevens’s nomination as ambassador through his panel earlier this year.

“I’m not going to make any comment about the political. None,” the senator added.

While Romney was very critical of Obama in a morning statement on the Libya attacks, senior Republicans across the board avoided criticizing the administration shortly after Stevens’ death was announced.

Obama didn’t even get a mention in most GOP press statements blasted Wednesday morning.

“We mourn for the families of our countrymen in Benghazi, and condemn this horrific attack,” House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement Wednesday.

“Eleven years after September 11, this is a jolting reminder that freedom remains under siege by forces around the globe who relish violence over free expression, and terror over democracy — and that America and free people everywhere must remain vigilant in defense of our liberties.”

Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also declined to invoke Obama, signaling that for a second day in a row this was a time for Americans to come together and put election-year politics on hold. On Tuesday, Republicans and Democrats gathered on the steps of the Capitol to mark the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, in a long piece on The Politico which is highly critical of Romney on several fronts, asks:

Who told Mr. Romney to issue a political broadside against the commander in chief the day after a U.S. ambassador was murdered?

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank:

NBC News reported on Tuesday morning that Mitt Romney’s campaign was “throwing the kitchen sink” at President Obama: With prospects fading, the Republican challenger was trying any and all lines of attack to see what might stick.

But the problem with throwing the kitchen sink is you might break a pipe — and then you’ve got a real mess.

Such was the soggy condition Romney found himself in Wednesday morning. The previous night, his campaign had fired off a premature statement that falsely accused Obama of apologizing to the people attacking U.S. embassies in Libya and Egypt. “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.”

However, the supposed apology — a statement opposing the “misguided individuals” behind a U.S.-produced film that offended Muslims — came out before the attacks, was issued by career diplomats in Cairo without clearance from Washington, and was disavowed by the White House. This misfire became far more serious when news emerged later that the U.S. ambassador to Libya and that the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other embassy staffers had been killed in the attacks Romney had just politicized.

………As Romney has pursued his kitchen-sink strategy this week, he and his party have pivoted from the economy, where Obama is most vulnerable, to national security, where Obama is strongest. The outcome has been a series of dubious attacks.

AND:

Even after news that Ambassador Christopher Stevens had been killed, Romney continued his assault Wednesday morning, saying that “the administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt.”

But other top Republicans, including House and Senate leaders, declined to join his criticism of Obama, and the campaign issued talking points to campaign surrogates to try to manage the furor. By Wednesday afternoon, Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, was called upon for clean-up duty.

“This is a time for healing,” Ryan said, without repeating Romney’s broadside.

That sounded presidential. Romney might wish to follow his understudy’s lead — and grab a mop

.

A cross section of Tweets:

AMERICAblog [email protected]
Romney gets capital of Libya wrong in press conference about attacks http://bit.ly/QRB6en

58m Top Conservative Cat [email protected]
Maybe Romney does have all his facts wrong about Libya, but don’t you want a president who will act rashly when American lives are at stake?

1h David Corn [email protected]
Video: On Hardball I suggest Romney’s Libya blunder was a “have you no decency” moment.

1h Donna Brazile [email protected]
Former Romney Adviser on Libya: “They Stepped in It” http://zite.to/Q3DDCZ via @zite

2h John Aravosis [email protected]
AP: Romney lied, advisers saw Libya/Egypt violence as “opportunity” http://www.americablog.com/2012/09/ap-romney-adviser-says-campaign-saw.html

2h Jonathan Alter [email protected]
Romney Libya fiasco is about judgment, prudence, instincts, class–he showed none while presidency demands all.

3h Ari Fleischer [email protected]
Going on @AC360 2night 2talk about Romney statement on Libya/Egypt violence. He’s been hit by a double standard&media bias.

4h ThinkProgress [email protected]
GOP foreign policy hands blast Romney response to Libya tragedy: An “utter disaster,” “not presidential” http://thkpr.gs/Qjt2Ei

5h Lean Forward [email protected]
Matthews: Mitt Romney’s bumbling Libya response shows how ‘desperate’ he is: http://leanforward.msnbc.com/_news/2012/09/12/13834091-matthews-mitt-romneys-bumbling-libya-response-shows-how-desperate-he-is?lite #msnbc2012

Is the “Libya surprise” the death knell for the Romney campaign? http://nyr.kr/OHoY02 #gop
Expand

7h Chris Rock [email protected]
I guess Michelle Obama was right. “Politics doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are.” We see you Mr. Romney. We see you ### Libya

8h Chris Rock [email protected]
I’ll give Mitt Romney credit for this: He lost the election before I even got out of bed this morning. #Libya #GOP2012
http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/09/12/romney-camp-tries-to-manage-fallout-from-libya-response/

11h Dogs Against Romney [email protected]_Romney
[email protected] caught smirking as he leaves podium after politicizing deaths of Americans in Libya. Chilling photo.

11h Benjamin Armbruster [email protected]
Why the hell is Romney smiling after he spoke about Americans getting killed in LIbya? http://pic.twitter.com/MFx2QgqX via @sunnkaa

21h The Mittani [email protected]
So @MittRomney is attempting to politicize the death of my friend in hopes of winning an election. How sad.

A few of Andy Borowitz’ tweets:

Andy Borowitz ?[email protected]
Romney is starting to make his trip to the London Olympics look like the pinnacle of modern diplomacy.

2h Andy Borowitz [email protected]
You would think Mitt Romney would be better at foreign policy given how much time his money has spent overseas.

7h Andy Borowitz [email protected]
When our embassy is attacked, we are attacked. Romney’s Libya comments display the patriotism of someone who keeps his money in Switzerland.

10h Andy Borowitz [email protected]
As reprehensible as Romney’s Libya comments are, it’s comforting to know that he’ll soon contradict them.

Newsy.com’s summary:

CNN’s video of Romney’s press conference yesterday where he double-downed rather than admit any errors:



And The National Journal’s Major Garrett
reports that Team Romney is digging in and thinks this is a good strategy:

Romney and his entire team dug in amid criticism from Democrats and public second-guessing in some Republican quarters about the wisdom of using a foreign-policy crisis that left four Americans dead to initiate a broader debate with Obama on his post-Arab Spring policies. The core of Romney’s criticism was that the U.S. Embassy in Cairo sought to appease menacing protesters threatening their compound and did not immediately denounce them or Libyan protesters after U.S. diplomatic territory in both nations was compromised.

..Romney’s criticism came amid a swirl of news bursts from Benghazi, Libya, where it now appears a premeditated terrorist attack was launched with military precision against the U.S. Consulate. In the smoking aftermath of fire and destruction, four consulate personnel, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, lay dead.

Two senior Romney advisers told National Journal that the campaign doesn’t care that the statement it criticized was issued long before U.S. grounds were breached. The larger point, the advisers said, was that neither the Obama State Department nor the White House withdrew it or repudiated it while the crisis was unfolding in Cairo or in the streets outside the consulate in Benghazi. The White House began distancing itself from the original Cairo embassy statement after Romney leveled his criticism shortly after 10 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday.

“That was the wrong path. It didn’t work. Under Governor Romney we will defend free speech. And we don’t apologize,” one adviser said.

Romney injected himself into both fast-moving situations, putting politics squarely into the maze of U.S. foreign-policy crisis management. Romney’s team acknowledged the inherent risks, but said that the time had come for a debate over the future of the Arab Spring and the threat of Islamic extremists seeking political and military clout in nations emerging from dictatorship.
Some conservative Republicans came to Romney’s defense. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., called Romney’s criticism “absolutely right.”

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., complained of Obama’s “foreign policy of appeasement and apology.” And House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., said Obama has “met threats and thugs with apologies and concessions.”

But there was some criticism, bewilderment, and plenty of mostly silence from others.

The problem here: Mitt Romney also is now clearly dividing his own party. That’s not usually a terrific recipe for someone who is running for President who needs to have a party united behind him — and defending him — on key assertions and strategy moves.

Bob Englehart, The Hartford Courant

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