US & Canada

Libyan attack: US media reaction

US President Barack Obama walks with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to deliver remarks following the death of the US Ambassador to Libya 12 September 2012
Image caption US President Barack Obama walks with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to speak on the Libyan attack

US media reaction to the deaths of four Americans in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi has focused on how it is shaping the presidential campaign, as well as the wider implications.

ABC's Jake Tapper says both Mr Obama and Mr Romney will face questions over the matter.

He writes: "President Obama will face questions about the Arab Spring; some in the foreign policy community, believing stability in the Middle East a more vital interest than freedom for its citizens, have questioned the Obama administration's support for the 'Arab Spring'."

But the highlights that the Romney statement criticising the Obama administration's reaction referred to a statement from the US embassy in Cairo that came before attacks on both diplomatic missions.

Tapper writes: "But GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney will likely face questions of his own today, not only about his foreign policy views (Romney had at least five different positions on Libya as of last October) but about his statesmanship."

NBC also criticised Mr Romney's attack on the Obama administration.

Its commentators say: "Yesterday we noted that Mitt Romney, down in the polls after the convention, was throwing the kitchen sink at President Obama. Little did we know the kitchen sink would include - on the anniversary of 9/11 - one of the most over-the-top and (it turns out) incorrect attacks of the general-election campaign.

They add: "Bottom line: This was news-cycle campaigning by the Romney campaign gone awry. Why didn't the Romney campaign wait until it had all the facts? You'd expect the Sarah Palins of the world to quickly pounce on something like this, and she predictably did. But a presidential nominee running for the highest office in the land?"

But William Kristol, writing in the Weekly Standard, supports Mr Romney, even while adding that "one can question the timing and tone of Mitt Romney's statement last night".

"Romney is right to bring home the weakness of the Obama administration, exemplified in the disgraceful statement issued yesterday, September 11, by the American embassy in Cairo - a statement, I believe, that would have to have been cleared by the State Department."

"I'd add this: Romney deserves credit for emphasizing today that the events in Cairo and Benghazi remind us of the need for American leadership. He refused to cater to what must be a widespread (and understandable, if short-sighted) 'let's just get out of that crazy part of the world' sentiment among the public. He spoke in the tradition of conservative internationalism."

Time correspondent Ashraf Khalil describes the scene on the ground in Egypt and concludes the reaction to the film was "essentially a case of an American group of fringe Christian fundamentalists successfully provoking and enraging a similar group of fringe Muslim fundamentalists".

"Protesters also seemed genuinely unaware just how small a fringe pulpit extremists like Jones control," he writes.

"Some seemed to be under the impression that the video was being widely broadcast on multiple American television channels -when in truth most Americans probably never heard of this video until the embassy was attacked."

In the International Herald Tribune, Harvey Morris shares Christopher Stevens' recent emails with him about his hopes for Libya.

"All in all, it's great to be back," Stevens wrote to Mr Morris, "especially in the 'new Libya,' as people here are saying."

Writing at Foreign Policy, Marc Lynch says the difference in reaction between the Libyan government and the Egyptian government is concerning.

"The response to the eruption by empowered publics, elected leaders and influential voices across political society - including, especially, Islamists - really does matter," he writes.

"Today will be a pivotal moment in the urgent debates about how such movements will respond to political power and a stake in the political system. Libya's leaders thus far look to be passing that test. Egypt's do not."

The National Review's Elliot Abrams also criticised Egypt's security forces for failing at the "elementary responsibility" of the protection of foreign embassies, "one we should insist that Mr Morsi's new Muslim Brotherhood government fulfill".

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