Romney lacks effective diplomacy

Andrew Isola

On the morning of Sept. 12, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney appeared on national television to issue a statement regarding the recent attacks on U.S. embassies in Egypt and Libya. He criticized President Obama’s handling of the situation as “disgraceful,” slamming the Obama administration for “sympathiz[ing] with those who waged the attacks,” and issuing what Romney called an “apology for America’s values.” These accusations refer to a statement made by the U.S. embassy in Cairo responding to outrage over rumors of an anti-Islamic film scheduled for release in the United States and circulated on the Internet.

“When our grounds are being attacked and being breached, the first response of the United States must be outrage at the breach of the sovereignty of our nation,” Romney said. “It’s never too early for the US government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values.”

Romney added that the White House later “distanced itself” from the statement, saying it hadn’t been cleared by senior officials in Washington. “That reflects the mixed signals they’re sending to the world,” he said.

Unfortunately for Romney, his timeline differs from reality. The statement from Cairo, which he referred to as akin to an apology, was issued Sept. 11 at midday, at a time when embassy staff were aware of peaceful demonstrations occurring nearby. The mob attack on the compound occurred about five hours after the statement was issued. In an interview for “60 Minutes,” Obama supported embassy staff, saying the embassy was simply trying to “cool the situation down” and it was released “from folks on the ground who are potentially in danger.”

“My tendency is to cut folks a little bit of slack when they’re in that circumstance rather than try to question their judgment from the comfort of a campaign office,” Obama said. Several Republicans commented on the issue as well, but no other major figures were willing to criticize the president’s actions so strongly.

It is hard not to see Romney’s move as calculated; after all, accusing Obama of apologizing for America’s actions abroad has been a major theme of Romney’s campaign ever since he published “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness in 2010.” His attempt to capitalize on a possible Obama failure at any cost revealed several things about how Romney intends to conduct himself if elected president. First, he is willing to make public, accusatory statements without having full information on the subject at hand. Second, he has no problem making an opportunistic jab at the expense of those who lost their lives in the service of the country.

To be an effective president, one must also be an effective diplomat–something Romney has not proven himself adept at. Though the Iranian hostage crisis occurred during the breadth of the 1980 presidential election, GOP nominee Ronald Reagan avoided criticizing President Carter for his handling of the situation, citing that he was afraid he “might say something that was presently underway or in negotiations, and thus expose it and endanger the hostages” during a 1980 debate. Romney would do well to echo Reagan’s subtlety.

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