Throughout history, U.S. leaders have tabled petty partisan bickering when faced with a national tragedy, rightly realizing the importance of standing side-by-side in a show of solidarity.
Apparently, that lesson in compassion escaped Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s attention. Within hours of the deaths of four Americans — including the first U.S. ambassador to be killed in the line of duty since 1979 — during an outbreak of violence in Libya, Romney made the stunning decision to launch an attack on the administration.
Worse still, he didn’t even have all of the facts before launching his blistering condemnation of President Barack Obama and his administration, issuing a statement that said, “The Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”
Setting aside the shamefully inappropriate timing of such a missive, the fact remains that his statement is also not accurate.
“Romney seriously mischaracterized what had happened,” noted The Associated Press in a Fact Check story last week. According to the AP, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was the first person in the Obama administration to respond to the attack in Libya, and she issued this statement minutes before Romney sent his: “I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today. As we work to secure our personnel and facilities, we have confirmed that one of our State Department officers was killed. We are heartbroken by this terrible loss.”
Earlier in the day, as the situation first began to escalate in Egypt, a statement by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo did condemn “religious incitement.” It was hardly an apology, however, and one can hardly fault the Cairo Embassy for trying to tamp down tensions before they reached a boiling point.
Within hours, U.S. missions in both Libya and Cairo were attacked. Yet instead of admitting to his mistake the next morning, Romney continued to try to fan the flames.
The gaffe was so egregious that a number of Republican foreign policy experts spoke out against the sentiments expressed by their party’s presidential pick.
Mark Salter, former chief of staff to Sen. John McCain and a regular critic of Obama, wrote in a RealClearPolitics piece that “to condemn (Obama) for policies they claim helped precipitate the attacks is as tortured in its reasoning as it is unseemly in its timing.”
While Matthew Dowd, a former political adviser to President George W. Bush, told the Washington Post, “It almost feels like Sarah Palin is his foreign policy adviser. It’s just a huge mistake on the Romney campaign’s part — huge mistake.”
Dowd’s got a point, as Palin was one of the few GOP voices to side with Romney.
Page 2 of 2 - “We already know that President Obama likes to ‘speak softly’ to our enemies,” she posted on Facebook. “If he doesn’t have a ‘big stick’ to carry, maybe it’s time for him to grow one.”
Perhaps Palin has forgotten that Obama is the one who brought down Osama bin Laden, or maybe she was just too proud of her penis reference to care about pesky facts, but when the only support Romney can get is from the likes of this less-than-class-act it’s a sure sign his campaign is in trouble.
However, according to a number of published reports, including a Politico inside-look at the Romney campaign published late Sunday, personality clashes, finger-pointing and infighting are common among senior staffers, and the campaign — riddled with errors and struggling under a muddled message lacking substantive policy details — is in complete disarray.
On the heels of all of that comes news about an “abrupt” shift in strategy for the Romney campaign that is in the works ... although staffers reportedly can’t even agree on what direction their course correction will take.
But all of this does make one wonder. If Romney can’t even manage his own political campaign, what hope does he offer the American people that he could competently lead an entire country?
Amy Gehrt may be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the newspaper.