Mitt Romney is a shit-stirring asshat. Of this, there can no longer be any doubt. Today, he saw fit to insert politics into an international crisis, using the murder of four American diplomats to attack President Obama’s foreign policy. He is rightly being criticized for his attempt to undermine the President in a moment when all Americans should join together; rather than backing down, though, Romney’s congratulating himself on subverting Obama’s position.
In case you somehow missed it, here’s the quick backstory on what Romney did that has every reputable news organization up and in arms. A reckless and incendiary filmmaker made a movie attacking Islam and Mohammed, clips of which were shown on television in the Middle East. Reckless and enflamed mobs rioted in the streets of Egypt and Libya. The Cairo Embassy was besieged, the Libyan Embassy was breached, and four diplomats in Libya were murdered, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Yesterday, as events began to unfold in Cairo, a the U.S. embassy in Egypt put out the following statement, in an attempt to calm the situation:
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.
That’s it. A rational response calculated to defuse tensions, and maybe – just maybe – to keep the people in the Cairo embassy safe. President Obama did not issue a statement while events were still unfolding, but Mitt Romney did. Last night, he issued a statement, saying, “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.” Go back, reread that statement issued by our embassy in Cairo. Find anything disgraceful in it. Still, the GOP chimed in, with Reince Priebus also ascribing the Cairo statement to the President:
Something’s sad and pathetic, Reince, but I don’t think it’s the President….
Speaking of Obama, first thing this morning, after all the facts were known, the President of the United States – the only President at the moment – issued a statement “strongly condemning the outrageous attacks,” and highlighting the “extraordinary service and sacrifice” of those who were murdered.
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.
This was still not good enough for would-be Commander-in-Chief Romney. In a bizarre press conference, Romney weighed in, as if during a campaign we have two Presidents offering equally valid responses to international crises. At this presser, Romney said the following:
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….
I think it’s a — a — a terrible course to — for America to — to stand in apology for our values. That instead, when our grounds are being attacked and being breached, that the first response of the United States must be outrage at the breach of the sovereignty of our nation.
An apology for America’s values is never the right course….
Simply put, having an embassy which is — has been breached and has protesters on its grounds, having violated the sovereignty of the United States, having that embassy reiterate [SIC] a statement effectively apologizing for the right of free speech is not the right course for an administration….
I spoke out when the key fact that I referred to was known, which was that the Embassy of the United States issued what appeared to be an apology for American principles. That was a mistake.
“An apology for America’s values,” or for “free speech”? Where is that in the embassy statement – which, AGAIN, was not issued by the White House, but by our diplomats in Cairo (before the Embassy itself was besieged)? It isn’t there, of course. But the GOP is in love with the fiction that our UnAmerican (black) President keeps apologizing for America to the rest of the world, and they seized upon the Cairo Embassy’s statement as proof. So what is the “American value” that the diplomats in Cairo failed to adequately defend? The Cairo statement condemns the film which so upset the mob. The movie is being promoted by Terry Jones, the Florida “pastor” who brought us last year’s threatened massive Koran burning. It apparently suggests that Mohammed was a pedophile, compares him to a donkey, and claims many of Islam’s most revered figures were child-molesters. The film is a blatant attempt to derail U.S. relations with the Islamic world, and was designed to be as profoundly offensive to devout Muslims as it could possibly be. The right to free speech is, as as the Embassy statement affirms, universal, but abusing that right in this way is worthy of condemnation. This movie – this crude attempt to destabilize a region, to mock and deride a faith and culture – is the “free speech” Romney feels the administration should never “apologize” for.
Even as Cairo was rocked by riots, our embassy staff there upheld the best American values. They reaffirmed the fundamental importance of religious tolerance, assuring the mob that the United States does not share the outrageous views of the filmmakers; that the United States upholds free speech, but condemns hate speech. In short, they were using diplomacy to defuse the situation. Romney would do well to look that one up – and to learn from their example, instead of ridiculing them to win cheap political points.
DI·PLO·MA·CY [dih-ploh-muh-see] noun
1. The conduct by government officials of negotiations and other relations between nations.
2. The art or science of conducting such negotiations.
3. Skill in managing negotiations, handling people, etc., so that there is little or no ill will; tact.