Romney, in a statement released Tuesday night, had called the president's handling of the Libya and Egypt attacks "disgraceful." Wednesday morning, Romney hastily scrapped a campaign rally in Jacksonville, Fla., dismantling a campaign stage, and instead held a small press conference in which he repeatedly defended his criticism of the administration, slamming embassy officials in Cairo and President Obama. "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. And apology for America's values is never the right course," he said, slamming the Obama administration for "sympathiz[ing] with those who waged the attacks."
The attacks at the consulate in Libya, and a separate incident at the U.S. embassy in Cairo, came on a day of violence and anger over rumors of an anti-Islamic film scheduled for released in the United States and circulated on the Internet.
Romney's assault on Obama was rare among Republicans. Sarah Palin and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus joined him in condemning the president, but no other significant GOP leader thought it prudent to immediately single out the president for criticism. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) all put out statements on the crisis, none attacking Obama.
A host of Republican foreign policy officials were quick to blast the "utter disaster" that was Romney's response.
Romney's reference to an "apology for America's values" was directed at a statement the U.S. Embassy in Cairo put out on Tuesday morning, but that statement, which was itself responding to the outrage over the anti-Islamic film, was issued before the embassy was attacked, despite Romney's statement to the contrary. What's more, the statement does not apologize for America's values, but rather supports a founding American value, religious tolerance, while referencing the "universal right of free speech." The statement in full:
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.
Romney's rash condemnation of the president, released after it was known that there had been U.S. fatalities, calls to mind Sen. John McCain's snap decision in 2008 to suspend his presidential campaign to deal with the financial crisis. The move was judged deeply unpresidential and contributed to his defeat. FULL POST