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COMMENTARY: Mitt Romney opts for politics over national security

Picture this scenario from last week:

Unrest is fomenting in the Muslim world. Is it due to the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States, the recently notorious and hateful film trailer for “The Innocence of Muslims,” an al Qaeda plot, or the latest storm in the Arab Spring?

Who knows.

The point is, it’s September 11, unrest is fomenting in the Muslim world, and the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, in response to protest against the anti-Islam film trailer, tweets a link to this statement:

U.S. Embassy Condemns Religious Incitement

September 11, 2012

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.

Despite embassy efforts, some hours later protestors attack the embassy in Cairo and remove the U.S. flag.

Other protestors attack the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans are killed in the melee.

While this is all happening, one might imagine the Romney-Ryan campaign hunkered down, carefully crafting a statement for Mitt Romney to deliver, something statesmanlike, something that would reveal Romney’s superior intellect and character without smacking of politicking in the throes of an international crisis, an eloquent statement that would demonstrate:

1. his keen understanding of foreign policy

2. his profound sympathy for the U.S. citizens lost and their loved ones

3. his righteous condemnation of the attacks on U.S. missions abroad, and

4. his support for the U.S. and its commander-in-chief in a time of deadly conflict.

And what, you might ask, did Romney and cohorts eventually come up with?

They wrote a statement that referred to the U.S. embassy’s “first response” as an apology from the Obama administration to the protestors, an apology that Romney implied was delivered after the breach of the embassy in Cairo and after the deadly Benghazi consulate attack. Romney’s statement conflated the sequence of events with incomplete early reports and his campaign’s inaccurate representation of the embassy’s message:

Indeed, Romney’s statement was not accurate, it was not statesmanlike, it was not anything that it could and should have been:

On point 1, to demonstrate understanding of foreign policy, Romney was mute.

On point 2, to express sympathy for those lost, Romney failed miserably, supplanting sympathy with an “I” statement about his outrage, because, apparently, what had happened in Egypt and to the four Americans in Libya was all about Romney and how he felt.

On point 3, again, Romney was all about Romney: In his eagerness to release a statement, theoretically about the attacks, he forgot to condemn them.

And on point 4, well, believe it or not, instead of declaring unity with President Obama, the commander-in-chief of his nation under attack, Romney got it bass ackwards and attacked the president, his political opponent.

In some circumstances, Romney’s statement might be considered at best political mismanagement and at worst treasonous.

In other circumstances, well, consider the adage that one should not attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity. In Romney’s case, it might be a mix of stupidity and incompetence — but surely there’s a hint of someone’s having passed a bottle of malice over the cocktail shaker.

In other words, either Romney is stupid and incompetent or Romney’s campaign advisors are stupid and incompetent — and their collective malice toward Obama appears to have kept them from vetting their work before sending it to the news media, albeit embargoed until midnight on the 11th.

But around 10 p.m. that night, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement condemning the Benghazi attack, the Romney-Ryan campaign, apparently loathe to miss out on an opportunity to beat President Obama to the media punch, decided to let their statement fly early. And fly it did, in the face of fact and seemingly for political gain.

The next morning, as the truth became brutally clear and official statements condemned the attacks from many quarters — President Obama, Egypt’s President Mohamed Mursi, Libya’s interim president, Mohamed el Megarif, and others — Romney’s campaign stood by his misrepresentation.

Now, looking back to last week at the nation in crisis — uncertain if the violence would persist or even escalate — it is evident that Mitt Romney chose politics over national security.

What a bass.



P.S. Some strong comments from U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel.

Kit-Bacon Gressitt's commentary and political fiction can be read on her blog Excuse Me, I'm Writing and is republished by SDGLN, The Ocean Beach Rag and The Progressive Post. She formerly worked for the North County Times. She is also host of Fallbrook's monthly Writers Read open mic and can be reached at kbgressitt@gmail.com.