Politics Straight, No Chaser
Anti-Muslim video initiates violence and debate on foreign policy
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 02:09
Last week, the Islamic world erupted in anger over the release of an American-made film that depicted the Prophet Muhammad, a central figure of the Muslim faith, in a grotesque and offensive manner. Thousands of people gathered in the streets of Egypt and Libya, swarming the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. Four Americans, including a U.S. ambassador, were killed in Libya when a group of heavily armed Islamist militants opened fire on the consulate and set it aflame. In the following days, protesters took to the streets in almost a dozen other countries in the north African-Middle Eastern region, condemning the film and burning American flags.
Attention was temporarily diverted from the chaos, however, when Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney decided to assail President Barack Obama for his immediate reaction to the incidents.
“It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administrations’ first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks,” Romney said.
Romney was referring to a statement made by a U.S. Embassy staff member in Cairo. It read, “The [American embassy] 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.”
This statement was posted on Twitter in reaction to the film before the protests even began, however, and was not authorized by the Department of State or any other Obama administration officials.
Romney’s attempt to capitalize politically during the crisis was, therefore, not only inaccurate but also viewed as untimely and insensitive by Democrats and Republicans alike.
“We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Gov. Romney would choose to launch a political attack,” Obama campaign Spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement.
Similarly, Republican Senator Dan Coats told CNN, “I think we need to keep the political focus on the election separate from the possible implications of what goes to security and how to protect our citizens.”
Even more critical, Mark Salter, former chief of staff to Senator John McCain, wrote that the “the rush by Republicans—including Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and scores of other conservative critics—to condemn [Obama] for policies they claim helped precipitate the attacks is as tortured in its reasoning as it is unseemly in its timing.”
Despite criticisms from both sides of the political spectrum and further insight into the timing and origin of the supposed apology, Romney stood firm in his condemnation of the Obama administration. He argued that “the embassy is the administration” and that the statement is “akin to [an] apology” and is a “severe miscalculation.”