Romney Continues His Absurd Attacks on Obama as Suspects in Libya Killings Are Arrested

President Obama’s firm and deliberative response to the Libyan crisis that caused four American deaths on 9/11 appeared to be vindicated on Thursday, when Libyan officials announced that four men had been arrested following the U.S. embassy attack.

On Wednesday morning in Washington, Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made multiple public statements where they not only praised the murdered diplomats, but pledged not to walk away from the new Libyan government and bring those responsible to justice. Those stances, as well as an initial comment from U.S. Embassy officials in Egypt in response to protests there on Tuesday over an independent film that slandered Muslim religious figures, were severely criticized by Mitt Romney.

Romney’s attack on the White House on Wednesday caused well-known Republicans to distance themselves from their presidential candidate, saying the U.S. political system always puts aside partisan politics when facing terrorist attacks. However on Thursday, Romney expanded his controversial criticism of Obama’s foreign policy in a speech in Virginia, where he sought to portray Obama as weak on foreign policy.

“As we watch the world today, sometimes it seems that we’re at the mercy of events, instead of shaping events, and a strong America is essential to shape events. And a strong America, by the way, depends on a strong military,” Romney said, according to a New York Times report. “We have to have a military second to none and that’s so strong no one would ever think of testing it.”       

Romney’s bombast—echoed by GOP websites—is an extraordinary development in a presidential campaign that until Tuesday’s attacks was said to be a referendum on the U.S. economy and domestic issues. In short, the arrest by the Libyan government of the suspected embassy attackers, shows the Obama Administration is very much shaping events, not merely reacting to them as Romney claims.

Moreover, as details come to light not only about the attack in Libya but about Romney’s intentionally shrill and politicized response—after the diplomats’ deaths were known—it appears that Romney’s efforts to double-down on attacking Obama’s foreign policy are showing all Americans, as well as the world, that he is unfit to be commander-in-chief. 

The political establishment in Washington has reacted to Romney’s umbrage with an unexpected bewilderment and are not judging his performance as anything close to presidential. Longtime Washington Post reporter Dan Balz could barely maintain a disinterested balance in his Thursday afternoon analysis, writing:

He appeared eager to gain a political advantage at a moment of national tragedy before all the facts were known. Once that was done, the candidate for whom “No Apology” is more than just a book title, decided to go all in, preempting a presidential appearance in the Rose Garden to issue a denunciation of the administration’s actions and policies. “An apology for America’s values is never the right course,” Romney told reporters.

Even Sen. John McCain, who lost the White House to Obama in 2008 and has criticized the administration on Iraq and on other foreign policy issues, would not fault Obama’s initial responses to the Libya crisis, Balz noted. And he was not the only Republican with national stature to distance himself from Romney.

One wonders how much further Romney’s campaign will sink as the media and American public focus on the Libyan crisis and still-growing protests across the Arab world in response to the inflammatory film—that may not even be made by an American but rather by an Egyptian Coptic Christian, and promoted by right-wing American evangelicals who gather notoriety by racist attacks on Islam.

On Thursday, Secretary of State Clinton repeated that the U.S. government had nothing to do with the offensive film and condemned a new attack against the U.S. embassy in Yemen. The continuing unrest also assures that foreign policy questions will not be easily shunted aside in the seven weeks remaining in the presidential campaign, from stump speeches to the presidential debates.

It’s worth remembering that the opposition research report prepared by John McCain’s campaign for the 2008 Republican primaries where he ran against Romney said that Romney had no substantive foreign policy experience.

Indeed, The New Yorker’s John Cassady analysis of the Libyan crisis is entitled, “Libya Surprise Could Be Death Knell for Romney Campaign.” And that was written on Wednesday, before Romney expanded his foreign policy attack on Obama—and the first arrests of suspected terrorists were made in Libya.

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