Middle East

Sep 13, 2012

Rundle: Romney flies in the face of facts to score own goal

Mitt Romney has suffered a fresh setback in the US election campaign today, with a bungled statement concerning the lethal assault on the US Consulate in Benghazi.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


Mitt Romney has suffered a fresh setback in the US election campaign today, with a bungled statement concerning the lethal assault on the US Consulate in Benghazi. The Benghazi assault was briefly reported late on Tuesday night, US time. By Wednesday morning it was clear the assault had caused the death of US ambassador Chris Stevens, several other US staff and several Libyan security personnel. The initial, ostensible cause of the embassy storming was said to be the release of a trailer for a film Innocence of Muslims, allegedly produced by a shadowy California Israeli-American named "Sam Bacile". Promoted by notorious "burn the Koran" pastor Terry Jones, and with a trailer released on YouTube, the film alleges that Muhammed was a shyster, p-edophile and thug. Protests in Cairo and Benghazi followed. The latter were blamed initially on disgruntled pro-Gaddafi forces, hoping to create mayhem in the new Libya. Later it was alleged that al-Qaeda was behind the protests, timing them to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11. Whatever the case may be -- and there is some doubt that an actual film exists, beyond the 14-minute trailer already aired -- the event proved exactly the sort of curve ball moment that can throw the US election in a fresh direction. Sadly, for Romney, the direction seems to have been "away", with widespread condemnation on left and right for his knee-jerk and haphazard approach to the issue. Responding to the initial reports on Tuesday night, Romney latched onto a statement made by the Egyptian embassy, which had also come under attack, and in which it claimed:
"Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honouring 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 latched onto the last part of the embassy statement, and made a hasty statement accusing the Obama administration of apologising for America, on the Tuesday night. Too hasty, as it turned out. By early Wednesday morning word started to get out that the ambassador and others had been killed, and that the statement had been an interim one by the Egyptian embassy itself, not the White House. Yet, late in the morning, the Republican presidential candidate decided to "double-down" on the accusation, cancelled a rally in Jacksonville, Florida, and organised a hasty press conference to hammer home the message. Though he knew by now that the initial statement had come from the US Egyptian embassy, and not the White House itself, Romney continued to act as if the statement had come straight from Obama, and tie it firmly to him. Asked how he could do this, Romney replied that well "it's their administration". Romney's actions gained condemnation for two reasons -- first for bumping up a press release to come out in the late hours of 9/11 -- which have become a de facto political no-go zone -- and for insisting upon the culpability of the Obama administration in blind denial of the facts. Heavy-hitters of the centre-hard-right, such as National Journal and Peggy Noonan, both came out to condemn Romney, and by the end of the day it was becoming a black mark against his judgment. Later on, inevitably, remarks were found from the Mittster in 2010, when he condemned inflammatory anti-Islam statements. Though there has been some push-back from stalwart rightards at National Review, the consensus is that Romney has repeated the mistake of 2008 -- when John McCain declared that he was suspending his campaign to fly back to Washington and help with the financial crisis, while Barack Obama spent two days talking to experts before making a statement. It is far from the most important thing about the crisis -- at the moment at least, with 50 US Marines about to make landfall in Libya -- but it was an unforced own goal for Romney and the Republicans, leaving many of the latter to believe that they have a disaster on their hands.

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11 thoughts on “Rundle: Romney flies in the face of facts to score own goal

  1. Julie

    “Rightards”. Awesome.

  2. Holden Back

    Turning the fan on, taking a good look at what was in the bucket, and still throwing them together.

  3. SusieQ

    Another in a long line of Republican dummies……

  4. Stevo the Working Twistie

    This kind of thing only matters to people who think about politics for a living. The GOP heartland is great at picking out the savoury bits and ignoring the stuff they don’t like or want to believe. This time tomorrow, a straw poll of middle-America will show that 9/10 believe Obama apologises to terrorists (while the regular 3/10 will continue to believe that he is actually a mutant alien robot Muslim representing the Masonic new world order and head of the Jewish cabal, but you get that…)

  5. Michael Hughes

    Well what does anyone expect? Bush I once said of Bill Clinton the then challenger in ’92 that Bush’s dog Millie had more foreign policy knowledge than Bubba. Except Bubba was a fast learner and schooled himself during the election. Romney runs around inferring Obama is going to strike the word God from US coinage or is he’s repeating the Fox-driven canard that Obama keeps apologising for Am’rka. Indeed the Romney Ryan ticket has the least foreign policy experience according to some than the Dewey ticket of ’48. No wonder the world is 80 per cent in the tank for Obama. We shudder at the idea of another GOP dude in the chair.

    PS check out the Vanity Fair piece on Obama; interesting stuff.

  6. AR

    No matter how stupid, blatantly dishonest and unmoored from the real world the Mittbot proves himself to be, >40% of the US electorate will vote for him.
    Poor bugger, my planet.

  7. shepmyster

    I’ve heard a lot of comments in Australia about how the respective parties are doing in regards to the popularity contest still I have no informed idea of the reality. The one thing I’ve taken from it is just how little Americans know. The press there seems just as dysfunctional as ours. Not surprising really considering Murdoch has dragged the profession to exactly the place he has here, into the gutter.
    From the pieces I’ve read this would be my best guess.
    Long before Romney became front man the Republicans were well and truly on the nose. That the party has extremely serious problems that require immediate attention but with channels such as Fox News talking up their chances they have been deluded into believing they actually have a chance. That unless they drop the fundamentalist rhetoric they stand a very real chance of becoming irrelevant and even ceasing to exist all together.
    Well we can only hope.

  8. Savonrepus

    With the politicization of diplomacy the GOP are setting up America to become a very dangerous place. With non compulsory voting, weird voter eligibility rules in some states and the power of advertising with the weight of money behind it a Romney win is very real.

  9. Steve777

    Romney may have initially incorrectly attributed a statement by the American Embassy in Egypt to the President, but he must have been quickly apprised of his mistake. Yet he continues to use it as a rod with which to beat Obama. The reason – his base will believe him and his media allies will let him get away with it. Romney’s cynicism is truly staggering. Surely a man who would exploit an incident in which a US Ambassador and Embassy staff were killed is utterly unfit for high office.

  10. Michael Hughes

    Oh he knows it was an embassy message that went out before the attack. His argument? That it’s the president’s administration and ergo it’s Obama. The GOP has two prongs; get out the base and retard turnout of the other base. Likely swing voters go to Obama on sanity grounds. Given the evil sheeted home to the poor and minorities by effectively placing, as Guy I think said, a Poll tax in the form of mandatory photo ID and disuading up to about ten percent of likely Dems from turning out they might just do it.

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