Yesterday, virtually the entire liberal media and some on the right as well made the story of the day not about the murder of our diplomats, not about why we did not prepare for a potential assault, not about whether President Obama’s halting policies had come home to roost, but about why Mitt Romney, after a day of silence from the White House following an atrocious apology issued in Cairo (we now know issued without authorization), spoke out when he did.
As I reported yesterday, an underling, according to the State Department, put out the apology online after it was rejected by the State Department’s Near East desk and he was told to wait. Violence ensued that day. Day turned to night in the United States and the White House was mute. So at 10 p.m. after an entire day without an adequate response, Romney put out a statement. What he said was valid then, as it remains valid in retrospect: “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.”
That was not only correct, but the Near East desk at the Obama State Department essentially agreed. (The press seemed to think Romney didn’t know the timeline, but Romney advisors insist that he did. The Cairo embassy reiterated its sympathetic message after the Cairo embassy had been attacked.)
Moreover, at about the same time Romney was speaking, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (after a day of fuming about the Cairo embassy’s decision to jump the gun) was saying essentially the same thing — and making sure to repudiate the Cairo apology:
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. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who have suffered in this attack. . . .
Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind
So what exactly was the problem? As far as we can see, Romney, the Near East desk and Clinton were in sync. Ah, but where was the president? He apparently had gone to bed and so the day passed without comment from him.
Romney’s comments on Wednesday were likewise on the mark. He expressed condolences and outrage over the deaths of four Americans:
America will not tolerate attacks against our citizens and against our embassies. We will defend also our constitutional rights of speech and assembly and religion. We have confidence in our cause in America. We respect our Constitution. We stand for the principles our Constitution protects. We encourage other nations to understand and respect the principles of our Constitution because we recognize that these principles are the ultimate source of freedom for individuals around the world.
“I also believe the Administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt instead of condemning their actions. It’s never too early for the United States Government to condemn attacks on Americans, and to defend our values. The White House distanced itself last night from the statement, saying it wasn’t ‘cleared by Washington.’ That reflects the mixed signals they’re sending to the world.
That was correct as well, wasn’t it? The embassy in Cairo had confirmed its statement Tuesday, and late Tuesday night Clinton had rejected. Romney had the timeline precisely right. And he ended with a call for resolve: “The attacks in Libya and Egypt underscore that the world remains a dangerous place and that American leadership is still sorely needed. In the face of this violence, America cannot shrink from the responsibility to lead. American leadership is necessary to ensure that events in the region don’t spin out of control. We cannot hesitate to use our influence in the region to support those who share our values and our interests. Over the last several years, we have stood witness to an Arab Spring that presents an opportunity for a more peaceful and prosperous region, but also poses the potential for peril, if the forces of extremism and violence are allowed to control the course of events.”
Later in the day, as the president was jetting to a fundraiser in Las Vegas, Obama took a swipe at Romney, saying he had “a tendency to shoot first and aim later.” Actually, that would describe Obama’s own Cairo embassy. Romney had the facts at each point in the timeline and reacted in much the same way as Clinton did. It was Obama who was lagging and pointing fingers at his opponent. But of course the media knew the real story was that Romney has messed up. Oh, really?