Transcript: Mitt Romney Condemns Obama Administration's Response to U.S. Embassy Attacks

Romney calls the attacks on U.S. consulates in Libya and Egypt "outrageous" and "disgusting."

Posted: 09/12/2012 11:46 AM EDT

ROMNEY: “Americans woke up this morning with tragic news and felt heavy hearts as they considered that individuals who have served in our diplomatic corps were brutally murdered across the world. This attack on American individuals and embassies is outrageous, it's disgusting. It breaks the hearts of all of us who think of these people who have served, during their lives, the cause of freedom, and justice and honor. We mourn their loss and join together in prayer that the spirit of the Almighty might comfort the families of those who have been so brutally slain.

“Four diplomats lost their life, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, in the attack on our embassy at Benghazi, Libya. And, of course, with these words, I extend my condolences to the grieving loved ones, who have left behind, as a result of these who have lost their lives in service of our nation, and I know that the people across America are grateful for their service and we mourn their sacrifice.

“America will not tolerate attacks against our citizens and against our embassies. We will defend also our constitutional rights of speech and assembly and religion. We have confidence in our cause in America. We respect our Constitution. We stand for the principles our Constitution protects. We encourage other nations to understand and respect the principles of our Constitution because we recognize that these principles are the ultimate source of freedom for individuals around the world.

“I also believe the Administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt instead of condemning their actions.  It's never too early for the United States Government to condemn attacks on Americans, and to defend our values.  The White House distanced itself last night from the statement, saying it wasn't ‘cleared by Washington.’ That reflects the mixed signals they’re sending to the world.

“The attacks in Libya and Egypt underscore that the world remains a dangerous place and that American leadership is still sorely needed. In the face of this violence, America cannot shrink from the responsibility to lead. American leadership is necessary to ensure that events in the region don’t spin out of control.  We cannot hesitate to use our influence in the region to support those who share our values and our interests.  Over the last several years, we have stood witness to an Arab Spring that presents an opportunity for a more peaceful and prosperous region, but also poses the potential for peril, if the forces of extremism and violence are allowed to control the course of events.

“We must strive to ensure that the Arab Spring does not become an Arab Winter.”

REPORTER: “The statement you referred to was a toughly worded statement last night. Do you regret the tone at all given what we know now?”

ROMNEY: “The embassy in Cairo put out a statement after their grounds had been breached, protestors were inside the grounds, they reiterated that statement after the breach. I think it’s a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values, that instead when our grounds are being attacked and being breached that the first response of the united states must be outrage at the breach of the sovereignty of our nation. And apology for America’s values is never the right course.”

REPORTER: “Governor Romney do you think, though, coming so soon after the events really had unfolded overnight was appropriate, to be weighing on this as this crisis is unfolding in real time?”

ROMNEY: “The White House also issued a statement saying it tried to distance itself from those comments and said they were not reflecting of their views. I had the exact same reaction. These views were inappropriate. They were the wrong course to take when our embassy has been breached by protestors. The first response should not be to say, yes, we stand by our comments that suggest that there is something wrong with the right of free speech.”

REPORTER: “What did the White House do wrong, then, Governor Romney if they put out a statement saying they disagreed?”

ROMNEY: “It’s their administration. Their administration spoke. The President takes responsibility not just for the words that come from his mouth but also for the words that come from his ambassadors, from his administration, from his embassies, from his State Department. They clearly sent mixed messages to the world, and the statement that came from the administration, and the embassy is the administration. The statement that came from the administration was a statement which is akin to apology and I think was a severe miscalculation.”

REPORTER: “You talk about mixed signals. The world was watching, isn't this itself a mixed signals when you criticize the president at a time when Americans are being killed. Shouldn't politics stop….”

ROMNEY: “We have a campaign for presidency of the United States and are speaking about the different courses we could each take with regards to the challenges that the world faces. The President and I have differences of opinion with regards to Israel and our policies there, with regards to Iran, with regards to Afghanistan, with regards to Syria we have many places of distinction and differences. We join together in the condemnation of the attacks on the American embassies and the loss of American life and join in sympathy for these people. But it’s also important for me, just as it was for the White House last night by the way, to say that the statements were inappropriate, and in my view a disgraceful statement on the part of our administration to apologize for American values.”

REPORTER: “Governor some people have said that you jumped the gun a little in putting that statement out last night and that you should have waited until more details were available. Do you regret having that statement come out so early before we learned about all of the things that were happening?”

ROMNEY: “I don't think we ever hesitate when we see something which is a violation of our principles. We express immediately when we feel that the President and his administration have done something which is inconsistent with the principles of America. Simply put, having an embassy which has been breached and has protestors on its grounds, having violated the sovereignty of the United States, having that embassy reiterate a statement effectively apologizing for the right of free speech is not the right course for an administration.”

REPORTER: “If you had known last night that the ambassador had died, I’m gathering you did not know.”

ROMNEY: “That came later.”

REPORTER: “If you had known that the ambassador had died.”

ROMNEY: “I’m not going to take hypotheticals about what would have been known when and so forth. We responded last night to the events that happened in Egypt.”

REPORTER: “One of your [inaudible] your economic know-how [inaudible]. Now that foreign policy and the situation in the Middle East has been thrust into the presidential campaign can you talk about why specifically you think you're better qualified than President Obama to handle these specific issues?”

ROMNEY: “I think President Obama has demonstrated a lack of clarity as to a foreign policy. My foreign policy has three fundamental branches. First, confidence in our cause, a recognition that the principles America was based upon is not something we shrink from or apologize for. That we stand for those principles. The second is clarity in our purpose which is that when we have a foreign policy objective we describe it honestly and clearly to the American people, to congress, and to the people of the world. And number three, is resolve in our might. That in those rare circumstances, those rare circumstances where we decide it's essential for us to apply military might, that we do so with overwhelming force, that we do so in the clarity of a mission, understanding the nature of the U.S. interest involved, understanding when the mission would be complete, what will be left behind us when that mission has been terminated. These elements I believe are essential to our foreign policy and I haven't seen them from the President. As I’ve watched over the past three and a half years the President has had some successes, he's had some failures, it's a hit-or-miss approach but it has not been based upon sound foreign policy.”

REPORTER: “How specifically Governor Romney would a President Romney have handled this situation differently than President Obama. You spoke out before midnight when all the facts weren't known, how would you have handled this differently than the President did.”

ROMNEY: “I spoke out when the key fact that I referred to was known, which was that the embassy of the United States issued what appeared to be an apology for American principles. That was a mistake. I believe when a mistake is made of that significance you speak out.”

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(Photo: REUTERS/Jim Young)

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