Romney's haste, waste

September 14, 2012 

President Obama’s administration surely has a mess on its hands, with the protests that claimed the lives of American personnel in Libya – including the U.S. ambassador – spreading in the region. The White House and State Department are walking a fine line. They must denounce the violence, as they have. At the same time, it would be foolish if, in the name of free speech, they came stoutly to the defense of the viciously anti-Muslim video that sparked the protests.

Free speech is a right guaranteed to Americans. But exercised irresponsibly, as it was by the provocateurs who made the video, it can have grave consequences.

Mitt Romney’s criticism of the administration’s crisis management won’t lead to riots. He’s entitled to say what he wants. At the same time, Obama’s Republican opponent showed himself to have been in an unseemly rush to find fault while the crisis was still unfolding. When Obama remarked on what seems to be Romney’s “tendency to shoot first and aim later,” he was merely stating the obvious.

The former Massachusetts governor – not much of a foreign affairs portfolio there – took aim at a statement Tuesday from the U.S. embassy in Cairo. “We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others,” the statement said, referring to the makers of the video.

It was hours later that a mob attacked the Cairo embassy, and later still when the attack against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi unfolded, claiming the life of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Yet Romney blasted the statement as amounting to an apology for the attacks – which hadn’t yet occurred.

The State Department, perhaps in an excess of political caution, moved to withdraw the Cairo statement in the wake of the violence. But Romney plunged ahead. “Apology for America’s values is never the right course,” he declared.

Of course not. Neither is criticism of the president so hasty and poorly informed that it reeks of political opportunism amidst a deadly crisis.

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