Saturday, May 18, 2013
If Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was looking for a statement to make about the attacks in Cairo and Benghazi Monday night, he might have tried this one:
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets supporters at his campaign headquarters in Jacksonville, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012.
The Associated Press
"This is a difficult day for all of us Americans. It is time for us to stand united. It is a day for quiet reflection when words should be few and confined essentially to our prayer."
That was what presidential candidate Ronald Reagan said in 1980, when a U.S. effort to rescue the Iran hostages failed, resulting the deaths of eight Americans.
Instead, Romney broke his self-imposed 9/11 political blackout and delivered a sharply worded condemnation of a statement issued by diplomats in Egypt before the attacks, claiming it had been an after-the-fact "apology" to the people who killed Libyan Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others.
That Romney would take such a different approach than Reagan tells us a lot about how our politics have changed in the last three decades. That Romney would see the deaths of four Americans as an opportunity to make news tells us a lot about his judgment.
We still don't really know what happened in Benghazi, so it is too early to place blame for it. What was initially reported as a spontaneous riot may turn out to have been a planned terrorist strike on the ambassador by groups that want to disrupt the relationship between the United States and Libya.
A presidential candidate making bellicose statements that could easily be read as support for the makers of a video that has offended many Muslims could be just the kind of help the killers were hoping for. Candidates for office would be wise to let the situation calm down and wait for the facts to develop before they weigh in.
Romney will have an opportunity. The first debate on Oct. 3 is devoted to foreign policy and the Obama administration's record on Mideast policy, including its support of the Libyan rebels, will be fair game for discussion.
But before the bodies have been counted and the families have been notified is not the time to turn a mysterious and volatile situation into another wedge issue. Romney likes to accuse Obama of apologizing too much, but maybe he should be drafting one himself.