Mitt Romney’s lack of qualifications in the foreign policy arena became even clearer with his statement regarding the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Libya and the U.S. embassy in Cairo. Even as it became obvious that his remarks were ill-advised and he had the timing wrong, instead of walking back his comments, Romney stood by them. Doing so has caused many people, including Republicans, to question his judgment.
“The comments were a big mistake, and the decision to double down on them was an even bigger mistake,” Steve Schmidt, who was a senior adviser to Republican Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, told CBS News. “There are legitimate criticisms to be made but you foreclose on your ability to make them when you try to score easy political points. And the American people, when the country is attacked, whether they’re a Republican or Democrat or independent, want to see leaders who have measured responses, not leaders whose first instinct is to try to score political points.”
This all started on Sept. 11, when the Romney campaign issued a statement accusing the Obama administration of apologizing to the people who attacked a U.S. consulate in Libya and our embassy in 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,” said the Romney campaign.
The problem was that the “first response” actually came before the attacks. The embassy staffers in Cairo had been trying — unsuccessfully — to head off violence as word spread among Muslims about an anti-Islam Internet video put out by a Southern California man. Following the assaults, officials were working to sort out the facts and identify the attackers. There were reports that an al-Qaida offshoot carried out the attack in Libya — possibly in retaliation for a drone attack that killed an al-Qaida leader in Pakistan. Ambassador Chris Stevens, three other Americans, and a number of Libyans were killed in the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Romney’s comments drew negative reaction from across the nation. They were seen as hasty, unseemly, and an example of poor judgment. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, for example, said Romney’s “baseless criticism calls into question not only his judgment but also his sensitivity, sense of decency and even his humanity.” Virginia’s Roanoke Times said the comments “cast further doubt on the Republican presidential nominee’s ability to navigate sometimes roiling foreign policy seas.” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted that Romney “violated the cardinal rule that in times of foreign strife, politics stops at the water’s edge” and asked: “If an incident like the Benghazi attack can so befuddle him, what would he do in a larger crisis?”
President Obama is quite right when he says that Romney “seems to have a tendency to shoot first, aim later.”
Those who followed the race for the GOP presidential nomination know that this isn’t the first time Romney has made ill-advised comments on foreign policy or in a foreign country.
During his speech at the Republican National Convention, Romney failed to mention the still-in-progress war in Afghanistan or thank the troops for their service there. As the Christian Science Monitor observed, the omission quickly became the biggest take-away from the speech.
Back in July, when he traveled to London for the Olympics, Romney insulted the Brits when he told NBC News he saw “a few things that were disconcerting” about London’s preparations. Moving on to Jerusalem, he offended Palestinian leaders by suggesting that cultural differences explain why Israelis are more economically successful than Palestinians.
Earlier this year Romney said that Russia is “without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe,” prompting many to wonder: What decade is he living in? Republican Colin Powell, who served as secretary of state under President Bush, remarked: “Come on, Mitt, think. That isn’t the case.”
Add it all up: Romney’s ill-advised comments on Libya, on top of his failure to mention the war in Afghanistan in his acceptance speech, on top of his insulting the Brits and the Palestinians, on top of his calling Russia our No. 1 foe. Then ask yourself: When there’s a national emergency, is Romney the person we want answering the phone in the White House at 3 a.m.?
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