Romney only hurts himself with attack on Obama response

Bill Neely

Former International Editor

Mitt Romney responded to the consulate attack in an address from Jacksonville, Florida. Credit: Jim Young / Reuters

In two months, Mitt Romney hopes to win the US Presidency. But he's just made another serious mistake which may help convince Americans he is not the man for the job.

For the first time since 1979,an American diplomat has been murdered abroad. Chris Stevens, the US Ambassador to Libya, was killed in the closing hours of September 11 in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi.

Diplomats in the building - and across the Arab world - knew angry crowds were ready to protest at an American low budget movie made by a man with strident anti-Islamic views. The American Embassy in Cairo released a statement shortly after noon yesterday condemning the "continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims."

Later, after protests in Cairo, it made a second statement denouncing the "unjustified breach of our embassy."

Just before midnight Mitt Romney decided to put out an angry statement.

His anger was directed at President Obama as much as at the protesters. But he got the timing of his country's statements and the attacks totally wrong. He seemed unaware that the first Embassy statement had been issued many hours before the Cairo - and Benghazi - buildings were targeted.

He said:

Romney also said he was "outraged" at the attacks on the Embassy and consulate. Attacking the President is one thing. Attacking him after the death of one of America's ambassadors is bad politics and atrocious campaigning. The Romney campaign had one aim in mind; to reinforce the perception that Barack Obama is, at the very least, a Muslim lover and - in the warped belief of America's right wing - is a Muslim himself.

Romney has done nothing to hold back the campaign attack dogs who pedal this garbage. And in his latest gaffe, he simply got the facts wrong about the worst attack on America's diplomatic service in decades.

Instead of waiting until the chronology was clear, a desperate campaign reached for a faraway stick to beat Obama with. And it backfired.

Yet today the Romney campaign says it's sticking by its statement. What he said is what we might have expected Sarah Palin to say four years ago. But not a man hoping to lead America and direct its responses to just such an incident in the future.

Flying abroad and criticizing America's closest ally about its preparation for the Olympics is one thing. Criticising the President after the murder of a US diplomat in order to score cheap, tawdry political points is quite another.