6 Right-Wing Zealots (or Groups of Zealots) That Would Blow Up the World for Political Gain
Step back from the news cycle a moment and what you see is a week in which toxic, wildly irresponsible right-wingers have been trying to set a series of fires around the world, stoking their mythical "clash of civilizations" out of religious bigotry or for political gain, or a little bit of both.
That's the context in which Mitt Romney has had a couple of very rocky days, although as we’ll soon see, he is far from alone.
The Romney-Ryan campaign achieved a new low on September 11. In the morning, Romney promised reporters that he has detailed foreign policy plans, but refused to offer any details. But before the day was out, his campaign was spreading a blatant falsehood about a series of riots in Egypt and Libya that had left four Americans dead, including ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Romney shamelessly claimed that Obama's “first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” He was referring to a statement issued by the embassy in Cairo before the deadly attacks, condemning a ridiculous anti-Islam film that was believed to have sparked the riots.
Then, on Wednesday morning, Romney scheduled a press conference a half-hour before Obama was scheduled to address the nation from the White House. Romney doubled-down on his claim, saying, “It's a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values.” As if Terry Jones' overheated religious bigotry isn't in fact antithetical to our values. (Romney, ever the opportunist, had condemned Jones' Islamophobic provocation in 2010, and in typical form, he did in fact condemn the movie later on Wednesday, just as the Egyptian embassy had the previous night.)
Hours later, it got worse when the New York Times reported that there may not have been a direct connection between the film and the deadly attacks in Benghazi. While “initial accounts of the assault in Benghazi were attributed to popular anger over what was described as an American-made video that lampooned the Prophet Muhammad,” reported Peter Baker, David Kirkpatrick and Alan Cowell, “administration officials in Washington said the attack in Libya may have been plotted in advance.”
While the protesters in Cairo appeared to be genuinely outraged over the anti-Islam video, the attackers in Benghazi were armed with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. Officials said it was possible that an organized group had either been waiting for an opportunity to exploit like the protests over the video or perhaps even generated the protests as a cover for their attack.
CNN reported that “the attack immediately followed a call from al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri for revenge for the death in June of a senior Libyan member of the terror group Abu Yahya al-Libi,” and was likely perpetrated by a pro-Al Qaeda group known as the “Imprisoned Omar Abdul Rahman Brigades.”
Romney had, as Obama later said, shot first and aimed later. This was the moment that Mitt Romney lost the mainstream media entirely, and quite possibly the campaign. The problem wasn't just Romney's utter lack of class in politicizing a deadly attack on Americans abroad while that attack was ongoing, it was his facial expression – he wore a smug, self-satisfied smirk as he left the podium, and that image is likely to dog him in the coming days.
But it's worth pausing and considering the larger narrative on which the Romney camp is basing its claim that Obama is ultimately at fault for the riots in Egypt and Libya. According to a set of talking-points the Romney campaign issued to its supporters and surrogates, the underlying issue is this: “We have seen a foreign policy of weakness, indecision, and a decline in American influence and respect – and yesterday we saw the consequences.”