Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney comments on the killing of U.S. embassy officials in Benghazi, Libya, while speaking in Jacksonville, Fla., on Wednesday. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

Indeed, Mitt Romney’s maturity and judgment, based on a lifetime of experience in both the private and public sectors, are central to the rationale for his candidacy. But how does that square with his “shoot first, figure out the timeline later” response criticizing the Obama administration in the wake of a national tragedy?

Instead of treading carefully, Romney popped off.

On Tuesday night, Romney went so far as to accuse the administration of sympathizing with the protesters who had attacked the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and the consulate in Benghazi, where one American death had already been confirmed. Later came word that Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans had been killed by a rocket that struck their car as they tried to leave.

“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,” Romney said. “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.”

The president’s first response was to condemn the attacks, and no one in the administration in any way sympathized with those who launched them.

Yet on Wednesday, Romney stood by his first reaction, and maintained that a perfectly benign statement of religious tolerence issued by the embassy in Cairo before the attacks began amounted to “an apology for American principles.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton watches as President Obama speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House on Wednesday to condemn the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which left U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

The film reportedly sparked the protests in Cairo, but U.S. officials have said the attack in Libya may have been a coordinated terror plot. The White House has said that the embassy statement Romney characterized as an Obama apology was not even approved by Washington.

After the grounds of the Cairo embassy were breached, tweets out of the embassy’s account said, “This morning’s condemnation (issued before protest began) still stands.”

Romney insisted, through those tweets out of Cairo, the administration was “sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt instead of condemning their actions.”

“I think it’s a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values,” he told reporters. “An apology for America’s values is never the right course.”

Of course, President Obama has condemned the attacks and vowed that those responsible will be brought to justice.

Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, 42, was far more judicious at a campaign event Wednesday, calling this “a time for healing.” Like other Republican leaders, including Senator John McCain, House Speaker John Boehner and former secretary of state Condi Rice, he issued the sort of somber message you’d expect from a grown-up at a time like this.