An update to this story is appended below. Original post continues:
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is facing widespread, bipartisan criticism for a statement accusing President Obama of “sympathizing” with radical Muslims who attacked the U.S. embassies in Egypt and Libya on Tuesday. Several American diplomats were murdered, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya — the first assassination of an American ambassador in over three decades.
Romney issued the controversial statement on the anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, breaking an unspoken agreement to set aside partisan political attacks on such a somber day. In addition to being factually incorrect, Romney’s attacks also broke the long-standing tradition of not injecting presidential politics into foreign policy affairs.
“They were just trying to score a cheap news cycle hit based on the embassy statement and now it’s just completely blown up,” a Republican foreign policy official told BuzzFeed, comparing Romney’s tone-deaf statement to Sen. John McCain’s ill-advised decision to briefly suspend his presidential campaign in 2008.
“Just calling it a ‘disgrace’ doesn’t really cut it,” commented a 2008 adviser to the McCain campaign, saying the statement shows Romney is “not ready for prime time.”
Unlike the Romney campaign, the vast majority of U.S. officials who have responded to the American diplomats’ deaths have done so with appropriate, apolitical respect for the victims. Even Rep. Joe “You Lie” Wilson (R-SC) was sensitive enough to stress the need for national unity in his condemnation of the attacks.
Notoriously vituperative Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), on the other hand, wasted no time in doubling down on Romney’s controversial comments. In addition to voicing his support for the racist anti-Islamic propaganda which triggered the riots in Egypt and Libya, “Senator Tea Party” repeated Romney’s false claim that President Obama somehow “apologized for American freedom” in his response to the embassy attacks:
The death of Ambassador Chris Stevens, American Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith and two other Americans is an outrage. Governor Romney is absolutely right, there is no justification for these deadly attacks and we should never apologize for American freedom. Islamic radicals will use any pretext to justify their hatred of America and our freedom.
It was disheartening to hear the administration condemn Americans engaging in free speech that hurt the feelings of Muslims, while real atrocities have been repeatedly committed by Islamic radicals against women, Christians, and Jews in the Middle East.
What’s really disheartening is that a United States senator is so obsessed with criticizing the president’s every action that he couldn’t even wait until the murdered diplomats’ bodies were cold before dragging them into his petty political jihad against the Obama Administration.
In sharp contrast to the tactless statements by Romney and Sen. DeMint, check out the moving tribute to Ambassador Chris Stevens from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC):
“There’s a broader lesson to be learned here: Gov. Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later,” President Obama told CBS on Wednesday. “As president, one of the things I’ve learned is you can’t do that. It’s important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts and that you’ve thought through the ramifications before you make them.”
In the meantime, here’s a video of Romney repeating his attacks Wednesday morning. Pay close attention — the white flash at :31 signifies the exact moment the wheels came off the Romney presidential campaign:
UPDATE: Sen. DeMint has introduced a bill calling for an investigation into the attacks on the Libyan and Egyptian embassies. “The administration owes the American people detailed answers on how this happened and how it can be prevented in the future,” DeMint said in a statement which implies the attacks were somehow at least partially President Obama’s fault. “Americans need to know if we were properly prepared and what steps must be taken to protect our diplomats in these dangerous environments.”