Romney believed that the American embassy in Cairo had issued a a communication expressing regret for hurting "religious feelings of Muslims," after extremists attacked our consulates in Libya and Egypt on September 11.
The GOP nominee saw the embassy statement as a political opportunity to attack the President as a weak American apologist, and he pounced.
"I think it's a -- a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values. That instead, when our grounds are being attacked, and being breached, that the first response to the United States must be outrage at the breach of the sovereignty of our nation."
Unfortunately, in his blatant eagerness to sound like a bad ass and score political points during a still unfolding foreign policy tragedy, Romney lacked many of the salient details.
First, Romney was wrong about when the embassy statement was issued. The original statement was not in fact a post-event apology, but was instead a communication issued prior to the attacks as a preemptive effort to quell a swelling undercurrent of anti-American sentiment that threatened to boil over.
Second, Romney was quick to criticize the Obama administration for the "apology," when the statement had actually been issued by a local diplomat, prior to any State Department or White House approval of the message.
The White House has subsequently issued a formal statement in response to the attacks and disavowed the original embassy message. Additionally, President Obama expressed empathy for the onsite diplomatic personnel, who crafted the original communication from a soon-to-be besieged embassy, rather than from the safety of a campaign office.
In the last two days, I've read numerous articles and accounts about this incident, and I was grateful to see politicians from across the spectrum express disappointment in Romney's poor judgment. Nonetheless, my anger over Romney's actions has become palpable.
The GOP candidate's politicized and overly-nationalistic reaction to the earnest efforts of American embassy personnel, men and women who in service to their country literally feared for their lives, sickens me. And coming from a man whose greatest moments of discomfort in life probably stemmed from a pair of scratchy pajamas, Romney's tough talk is laughable.
The foreign policy of a nation is not a political game, and ongoing foreign policy crises have traditionally (and rightly) been forbidden campaign fodder. When you hold the office of the presidency, words matter and real lives are at stake. With a vast military arsenal at his command, a president has no need for false bravado or ill-conceived macho bullshit.
My last beef with Romney's statement was that it was released before we even knew the identity of the victims in the attacks. As it turns out, among the Americans killed was Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya. The photograph below shows Libyan civilians attempting to aid Ambassador Stevens in the area near the consulate.
Some news outlets opted not to carry the picture because of its graphic nature.
I believe it is important to include it here to help us remember what's truly at stake in the complicated world of foreign policy, and as a horrific reminder that ongoing international crises should never be politicized.
|Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images|