Mitt Romney And The American Response To The Embassy Attacks

 

Like it or not, the campaign season is a time for candidates to differentiate themselves from their opponent.  Further, each candidate who is not the incumbent – in this case Romney – is going to posture himself as Presidential.  It might seem that each candidate is in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” position.

Mitt Romney Responds To Obama Administration

Mitt Romney’s Response To The Obama Administration

On Tuesday, September 11, two separate American embassies were attacked resulting in the deaths of 4 American’s including the American Ambassador to Libya.  Mitt Romney, attempting to demonstrate a difference between himself and Obama, used the developing situation as a foil.

At around 10:00 PM EDT Romney issues a 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.

The response that Romney was referring to?

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. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others

Was Romney right?  Is this response appropriate or not?

The answer – It depends.

The Embassy Attack Timeline

It all depends on the timeline of events.  For example, I was off-line most of yesterday afternoon and only this morning woke up to the news of the attack.  Upon hearing of the Egyptian embassy release I had two thoughts:

  1. When protestors are attacking your location, you don’t issue statements that legitimatize those attacking you.
  2. Knowing that protestors had already murdered 4 embassy staff in Libya, the Egyptian staff may simply have been acting to save their lives.

Only later did I investigate the timeline and discovered that .  And it looks something like this:

  • 06:17 – The Cairo embassy issues their statement.
  • 10:00 – Crowds begin to form at the Cairo embassy.
  • 14:47 – Protesters in Cairo tear down the U.S. flag.
  • 14:00 – Crowds began to gather at Libyan embassy.
  • 18:00 – Protestors in Libya storm the embassy.
  • 19:17 – Reports of an American consulate staff shot dead.
  • 20:00 – Cairo embassy staff Tweets affirmation of morning’s statement.
  • 22:00 – Obama administration disavows Cairo statement.
  • 22:30 – Romney issues statement.

It’s clear that there is confusion surrounding the events of the situation in Egypt and that such confusion colored the context of the Cairo statement.  For example, if we believe that the embassy in Cairo released their statement long before the attack on the embassy, their message is better phrased.  However, if their statement is released AFTER the attacks on the Cairo embassy, their statements are grossly irresponsible.

And I think both Romney and Obama were confused by the timing of the statement.

The Politics of Cairo and Libya Attacks

It’s no secret that Romney has little if any foreign relations experience.  Obama is going to, he has to, use this in his critique of the governor.  However, most candidates for the office of President have that exact same knock against them.  This would include our sitting President Barack Obama when he was a contender just 4 years ago.  That being said, Romney is anxious to demonstrate that he has a firm grasp on matters foreign.  Enter the Mideastern violence.

To further complicate matters, Romney and Obama are not only working to manage the chaotic real time events overseas, but they are also keeping an eye on the “campaign ball.”  I feel that had both Romney and Obama been less concerned with that campaign and more concerned with providing leadership, remaining calm in a very charged circumstance and gathered all facts, neither the administration or the Romney camp issued their remarks. See, at 11:00 PM, the Obama administration distanced itself from the Cairo embassy remarks.  In fact, they mentioned that they do not represent the United States.   Here, Obama is making the same mistake Romney makes; they are confused by the timing of the statement.  Seen in the calm of day, the statement issued by Cairo are completely appropriate.  Further, adding that the statements don’t reflect the United States government only adds to the confusion coming from the United States.  If an embassy doesn’t represent the government, what is its role?

When the administration issued it’s statement on Cairo at 11:00 pm, I suspect that Romney felt more confident that the Cairo statement was issued AFTER the violence and not many hours before.  This mistake, now seen to be true, leads to his remarks that the administration is, in essence, apologizing.  I feel relatively confident that Romney was acting on facts as he thought they were and not twisting the timeline to his political favor.  However, the light of day indeed showed his statements to be inaccurate.

Mitt Romney Remarks on Libya and Cairo

Notice Romney standing before a blue background framed by the American flags.  Clearly an attempt to appear Presidential.  Romney takes the tone of the gentle leader.  He’s reporting to America and is trying to show he’s present and managing the situation.

He speaks to the following:

  1. Issues condolences
  2. Issues statement on American’s stance on values
  3. Critiques the Obama administration on the handling of the events
  4. Embraces the Arab Spring and the potential it has
  5. Takes questions

My thoughts on his statements:

  1. He completes the reassuring leader role very well.
  2. At 3:25 he’s asked a question surrounding his statement from the night before.  I think he knows the facts now but doesn’t own up to the fact.  This is where he’s clearly weak and wrong.
  3. He doubles down on the mistake by referring to Cairo’s statement as an apology.
  4. When pushed further on this point, Romney acknowledges that the administration had the exact same reaction that he did.  In this, he’s right.  Both Obama and Romney were confused at the timing of Cairo’s statements and Tweets.
  5. At 4:50 Romney is pushed to explain that if both he and Obama took the exact same reaction, what did the White House do wrong.  Here is where Romney gathers steam.  He’s right when he claims that Cairo is part of Obama’s administration.  He’s right to say that a leader has to take responsibility for his administration.  It’s in this understand of “how things work” that Obama’s critic are correct in leveling the claim that Obama has no leadership experience.  That this is apparent to a 2nd level manager and not to the President of the United States is frightening.
  6. Again he mentions apology.  He slips and is weak by doing that.
  7. When asked if it’s appropriate to engage in politics when the events are ongoing.  His answer is powerful.
  8. He correctly brushes off the trap of hypothetical nonsense.
  9. He’s asked to define his foreign policy.  And does so very well.  The first “branch” as he calls it is to have “Confidence in our cause.”  I think that he hits a home run with this one.  Obama’s critics, e among them, distrust the President greatly.  We don’t believe that Obama appreciates the things that makes America great.  We think that he resents the abuses America has perpetuated around the world.  And if Romney can verbalize the feeling we have, put brackets around this mistrust, he’ll make significant inroads.

Romney made some mistakes, however, those mistakes were made by both Obama and Romney.  But his morning press interview went very well.

One last thing, Obama has a reputation for being a strong speaker.  I’ve never felt that.  I think he delivers a strong speech and can move audiences but his ability to speak succinctly in an ad hoc situation is horrible.  Notice that Romney never pauses, hhmms or haws or takes time to struggle with his next words.  He’s confident and clear in what he’s trying to say.

 

7 responses to “Mitt Romney And The American Response To The Embassy Attacks

  1. So, you defend Romney for overreacting to news without having all the facts?

    As for “hypothetical nonsense”, do you think it’s absurd to ask a presidential candidate how they would handle a hypothetical situation?

    You say the following:
    Was Romney right? Is this response appropriate or not?
    The answer – It depends.

    But it only “depends” in the sense that Romney may have gotten his facts wrong, and thus was mistaken. How can you be wavering on “was Romney right” when your only defense is that he was probably wrong about the facts?

    • So, you defend Romney for overreacting to news without having all the facts?

      Well, first I take him to task for continuing to call this an apology. Then for not admitting he had the timeline wrong.

      Now, onto defending him.

      It appears that everyone thought that Cairo tweeted their statement AFTER they were attacked. Given that everyone was incorrect due to the cloud of war, I think it’s fair to judge both Romney’s AND Obama’s actions in those hours in the context that Cairo issued that statement after.

      The administration recognized that the Cairo statement was inappropriate [in the cloud of war] and issued their own statement disavowing Cairo. Obama was correct in his assessment [again, cloud of war] but was wrong in his actions. Cairo IS the administration, of COURSE it speaks for the United States government. That is, to be honest, what embassies do.

      In his reaction, Romney was correct, in the same way that Obama was correct, in recognizing the wrong statement by Cairo. And Romney called out Obama for backing away from Cairo. Obama handled his critique of Cairo correctly.

      Now, in the morning, should Romney admit that he had the timeline wrong? I think so. But he’s running for office and politicians don’t like to admit they’re wrong.

      As for “hypothetical nonsense”, do you think it’s absurd to ask a presidential candidate how they would handle a hypothetical situation?

      There’s nothing wrong with asking a candidate how he would handle this or that. But it has to be the big macro decisions, yes? This is akin to asking Romney if he would change his policy decisions if the unemployment rate were 7.5% and not the 8.1% that is now.

      But it only “depends” in the sense that Romney may have gotten his facts wrong, and thus was mistaken.

      It seems that everyone was wrong. Wrong to the point that the cloud of war caused folks to believe a thing that was indeed, incorrect. Given that the prevailing “truth” was that Cairo issued their statements after, then yes, Romney was right in the way he acted.

      • “It seems that everyone was wrong.”

        Obama’s statement was that the embassy hadn’t cleared the language with State and that it wasn’t an official statement of the U.S. Government. Romney’s statement was that the embassy was sympathizing with people who murdered our men.

        The former is true, the latter is false. You surely can accept that much. Your only justification for saying Obama is wrong is that the embassy always speaks for the US Govt., as though the govt. is bound by whatever a diplomat says. That is, of course, completely wrong.

  2. It is very clear that Mr. Romney is not ready for the complexities of US foreign policy.

    Worse, it appears that Mr. Romney’s ill-conceived and aggressive stance re events in Libya was in response to right wing goading by the likes of Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh.

    Do we honestly want our nation’s foreign policy dictated by talk radio hosts?

    This week, Mr. Romney effectively disqualified himself from the office of the presidency.

    • It is very clear that Mr. Romney is not ready for the complexities of US foreign policy.

      Hi DGarr, welcome!

      Where do you think Romney made his mistakes? I thought he handled the issue well that night and then again Wednesday morning with his only strikes being that he won’t admit the timing was off and that he continues to insist that we apologized for our beliefs.

      This week, Mr. Romney effectively disqualified himself from the office of the presidency.

      We’ll see. I think he found a number of themes that he can successfully use to pommel Obama. First and foremost among them being able to quantify the fact that Obama doesn’t see America in the same way that most Americans see America. Rather, he wants to “transform” America into a vision he has. A vision very different from most mainstream folks.

  3. Actually Romney was clearly wrong. When a tragedy hits, you don’t criticize right away, you show the US stands united against evil doers and call on Americans to honor the dead and seek justice against the perpetrators.

    Moreover, the fact he was criticized by Republicans and the lead story became his mistake overshadowed any media coverage of what he did well (since most people only see the media coverage). He made an error that will do at least short term damage to his campaign. Worse, it fed into a negative image of Romney that makes it more difficult for him to overcome his very low favorability ratings. That’s the worst point for him – he needs to start building a positive image fast or he’ll find himself too far behind to recover. He has time, but things like this undercut such efforts.

    • When a tragedy hits, you don’t criticize right away, you show the US stands united against evil doers and call on Americans to honor the dead and seek justice against the perpetrators.

      If this is true then I expect an equal criticism from you regarding the action Obama took by disavowing Cairo. He clearly was criticizing for sending the wrong message. Or are you only implying that it’s wrong to criticize the president?

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