Romney's Libyan gamble


Romney: Administration was 'wrong' to stand by statement

A sombre President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton by his side, appeared in the Rose Garden to condemn what he called the outrageous and shocking attacks which killed the US ambassador to Libya and three others.

He paid tribute to the "extraordinary Americans" who were killed and said the US "rejects all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, but there is absolutely no justification for this sort of senseless violence. Nothing."

It was inevitable that these attacks, in Libya and Egypt, have become political in an election year.

In a way they go to the heart of the practice and theory of the Obama foreign policy. They also raise immediate questions about why there wasn't more protection for the embassies, particularly on the anniversary of 9/11.

But the Republican candidate Mitt Romney has seriously raised the stakes by an immediate, very strong, attack on the president's administration.

'Political football'

The president has the huge advantage that when politics is in play he can try to rise above it simply by appearing presidential.

The secretary of state appeared pretty presidential too, with a very strong statement, a short while before, melding a tribute to the ambassador, condemnation of the attack and an assertion of American greatness.

US President Barack Obama: "There is absolutely no justification for this type of senseless violence"

Mitt Romney is a candidate and didn't have the protection of great office to protect him.

He'd made the attack on the Egyptian embassy a part of his election campaign before the Libyan attack happened.

It is central to his case against the president that he has repeatedly apologised for America and that he is too soft on its enemies.

He seized on a statement issued by the US embassy in Cairo, which condemned "the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims - as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions".

Mr Romney called this "disgraceful".

The White House said it had not authorised the embassy statement but this morning at a news conference, before the president spoke, Mr Romney stepped up his attack.

He said that Mr Obama bore responsibility for statements by his embassies and this one was "akin to an apology" adding it was a "terrible course to apologise for American values" and the White House was sending mixed signals.

He's taking a big risk using these tragic attacks to further this political argument, and some are already outraged.

The former ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk of Brookings, told CNN that it was a shame the tragedy was being used as a political football and that it was not appropriate.

There's no doubt that what happened in Cairo and Libya raises questions about President Obama's foreign policy.

What opponents see as a rejection of American exceptionalism and willingness to apologise for his country, supporters portray as an ability to foster alliances with a lower profile on the world stage and greater sensitivity to other cultures, Islam in particular.

Some will question whether that approach has paid off. The president's sporadic support for the Arab Spring saw its only military expression in Libya where these killings took place. Those who warned that America's enemies might have gain power when the dictators fell, will use this to suggest they were correct.

These are serious questions. But Mitt Romney has put a lot of weight on one press release and may find himself spending rather more time defending his own tactics than attacking the president's strategy.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    "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." Dateline Washington (AP) Kasie Hunt.

    Perhaps Candidate Romney will learn the vurtues of patience?

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    203. DownTheShore

    As an American, the thought of Romney having any involvement in our foreign policy is a horrifying thought

    Quite frankly, I'm horrified by the events of just these last two days under this Administration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    As an American, the thought of Romney having any involvement in our foreign policy is a horrifying thought. The man has no personal knowledge of the countries or the societies he's so quick to offer opinions on. All he's concerned about is pandering to the insane far right and will sell his soul for their vote. We don't need a chicken hawk like him as President.

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    196. random:

    Romney was likening Cairo Embassy's statement, which I have ref'd here in a previous post, to an apology. It certainly wasn't a defense of free speech.

    Since Americans don't believe in limiting free speech here, why would our embassy condone it in the ME?

    And why would our prez elevate religious tolerance over free speech when that also is not done here?

    Obama is out of sync.

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    Romney's one statement vs. Obama's and Hillary's handling of the Middle East?

    Which does it make sense to focus on? Which would democrats prefer we focus on?

    If only it were that easy to deflect attention away from the POTUS and onto a candidate. But it is not. Obama is in charge and has been for years. Not Romney. Not Bush.

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    What people are forgetting is how this will come across in conservative America. Obama's response makes him look weak - but then so does Romney's. This is the kind of issue where there doesn't seem to be any response that doesn't end up looking weak.
    At the end of the day Islamic militants are allowed to riot and kill over insults to their religion while getting away with doing the same to us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    Time and again, and particularly in the field of foreign politics, Romney's statements label him a fool. Either that or his mouth is disconnected from his brain. Either way, not what you want in a world leader!

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    As if we needed more evidence that Mr Romney has basically zero in the way of foreign policy credentials he has to go and promulgate wholly desparate bit of political backstabbing.

    Lord help us if this buffoon becomes president. Fasten your seat belts for a hard landing as the US standing in the international community hits bottom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    I think Mitt Romney's words contained far more anger and urgency than the president's. President Obama's corrected statement on the attacks, was also woefully late in coming.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    191. Andrea, as far as I know, nobody apologized for free speech. What American value was Romney saying Obama's administration apologized for?

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    John Gordon Mein Guatemala 1968 attack by Fuerzas Armadas Rebeldes

    Kleo A Noel Jr Sudan 1973 attack by Black September

    Rodger Davies Cyprus 1974 attack during Greek Cypriot demonstration

    Francis E Maloy Jr Lebanon 1976 attack by Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine

    Adolph Dubs Afghanistan 1979 attack by Setami Milli

    Christopher Stevens Libya 2012 attack by al Qaeda Islamic extremists

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    "Mitt Romney is a candidate and didn't have the protection of great office to protect him." Come again? If Obama screws up, his office won't protect him from whatever Romney, the other Republicans, or the press want to say about him. And if he wanted to avoid looking like a fool and being attacked, Romney should have engaged his brain before he set his mouth into motion. It's that simple, Mark!

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    189. MagicKirin
    Yu are missing the point

    Not really, and stop calling me Yu.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    Wake up world - we are all one people!

    Let us celebrate our differences and rejoice in our similarities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    186. random alias

    Romney said it was a "terrible course to apologise for American values." I wonder if he saw the film that ostensibly triggered the embassy attack. It does not represent American values.

    It is, indeed, an American "value" that we do not prohibit free speech based on its level of offense.

    Freedom of speech is normally vociferously defended. Offense take, irrelevant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    Shon (161),

    “… America needs to address the need for censorship on rhetoric and movies that insult the religious beliefs of non Christians especially Muslims ….”

    That simply won’t happen, so there is no need to waste your time on such a wast of time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    ref #186
    Yu are missing the point

    1. It is a movie by a nutcase
    2. This was U.S terriotory and Egypt and Libya are obligated to protect embassies
    3 Morsi is a 9/11 truther and wants Sheik Raman released which is far more offensive.

    Stop making excuses for moslem fanatics

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    How lucky Obama is US President now and not Romney!

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    Mankind should be free to believe (or not) in who and what he wishes - WITHOUT FORCE. Because you don't agree with another's beliefs is no excuse to attack that person or his faith. Cheap characterization of Mohamed is wrong just as it is to do likewise to the Catholic Pope or Joseph Smith (the Mormon prophet) but it is even more wrong to express your hurt by murdering others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    Romney said it was a "terrible course to apologise for American values." I wonder if he saw the film that ostensibly triggered the embassy attack. It does not represent American values. I looked at some bits, and even as a Christian quite unsympathetic to Islam, I can see its portrayal of Muhammad is deeply offensive.

    P.S. Would Romney would like to see the church of Mormon similarly ridiculed?


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