In a series of events yesterday President Obama’s failure of leadership on the domestic and foreign policy fronts was on display. We received another warning of a debt-rating downgrade, and two embassies were attacked, with several Americans killed. The red light is flashing over the White House: FAIL.
The Post reports on the deaths of the U.S. ambassador in Libya and others after an Islamist attack on the U.S. Embassy:
U.S. Ambassador to Libya John Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed Tuesday in an assault on the American consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi, the White House said.
In a statement issued by the White House early Wednesday morning, President Obama said he had directed an increase in security at U.S. diplomatic posts around the world. CNN reported that the Defense Department has dispatched two Marine anti-terrorism security teams to Benghazi to reinforce security there
An increase in security? That’s it? The president’s statement was farcical, issuing an empty condemnation with no statement regarding an appropriate U.S. response or our determination to go after those responsible. The president seemed to acknowledge the purported motivation for the attacks (release of clips from a film defaming the prophet Mohammed) while saying it still didn’t justify the attack. He said: “While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.” Wrong. The Islamists need no excuse to attack, and we would do well to stop feeding the narrative that Western “insensitivity” sparks violence.
And then there was Egypt. Before Islamist mobs attacked the embassy, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo issued a sort of apology for the anti-Mohammed film, condemning “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.” Late in the day Secretary of State Hillary Clinton disavowed the statement, but she, like the president, could only come up with words of sympathy for the dead Americans and a useless condemnation of the violence. This was fecklessness personified. Every embassy around the world should be forewarned; anti-American forces can certainly be emboldened today.
These assaults were quite simply acts of war, attacks on U.S. sovereignty and the murder of our citizens. The president’s appallingly weak reaction to the incidents yesterday in Benghazi as well as the assault on our embassy in Cairo highlights just how unprepared and disengaged he is on matters of national security. Before our eyes, in the maelstrom at two embassies and in the economic doldrums, he is transforming into Jimmy Carter.
Romney issued a statement last night on the two attacks: “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 is a good start, but these events are of such import and so perfectly encapsulate the president’s incoherent approach to the Middle East that Romney would do well to speak out himself quickly and forcefully, explain why we have reached this sorry state of affairs, and explain what he would be doing differently.
This is a big deal, and it is further fodder for Romney’s argument that the president neglects the hard work of governing, either because he doesn’t know how to reach consensus or because he’s afraid it will negatively impact his re-election prospects.
Then at home there was the threatened downgrade of our bond rating. Mitt Romney came out swinging this morning at Obama over news yesterday that Moody’s might again downgrade the U.S. bond rating if the White House and Congress don’t adapt “to specific policies that produce a stabilization and then downward trend in the ratio of federal debt to GDP over the medium term.”
In a statement, he denounced the president’s failure to address the fiscal cliff: “For nearly four years, President Obama has presided over reckless spending and runaway debt. And now it’s clear that all Americans will pay the price, with another potential credit downgrade and over $5 trillion in new debt that the next generation will be forced to repay. Americans deserve real leadership — not a president who is content to keep passing our bills on to the next generation.” Again, this should be followed up by forceful statements by the candidates.
This can be a presidential moment or a lost opportunity. We’ll see if Romney can finally seize the day, making the definitive case that Obama is an unacceptable commander in chief and flawed economic steward. Romney’s advisers can finally put to rest the notion they are slow-footed and too buried in polling to run a successful campaign. It will be a telling day.