By many accounts, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney did himself no favors when he made the killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Libya a political issue. Instead of waiting to see how the events unfolded and offering a sober assessment about how he might handle the tragedy and relations with the Middle East going forward, he made a blistering attack on his rival before he knew the facts and may have irreparably damaged his candidacy in the process.
“If you look at how most Republicans have reacted, most elected officials, they’ve reacted responsibly, waiting to find out the facts before they talk, making sure that our number one priority is the safety and security of American personnel,” said President Obama in an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes. “It appears that Gov. Romney didn’t have his facts right.”
George Mason University political scientist Michael Fauntroy told BET.com that Republicans will likely stick with Romney and ignore yet another example that he’s “not ready for prime time as it relates to foreign policy.”
The voters Romney should be worried about, Fauntroy warned, are the independents who’ve not yet made up their minds about who they’re going to support in November but may consider Romney’s remarks a very serious misfire.
“The president’s response was very effective in the language he used. He also talked about how as one thing you can’t do as president is speak without knowing the facts," Fauntroy said. "Romney clearly spoke without knowing the facts. If he’s willing to do that kind of stuff now, would he ever do it as president? That’s a legitimate question for independents to ask and I think there may be something to it.”
Obama isn’t the only person to fault Romney for jumping the gun. In an interview with Richard Armitage, a former deputy secretary of state under President George W. Bush, he said Romney “will find out that first reports from the battlefield are always incorrect. This should be his mantra so he can speak in a deliberate manner and not have to repent at his leisure later.”
Prominent Republican commentator Peggy Noonan said on Fox News, “When you step forward in the midst of a political environment and start giving statements on something dramatic and violent that has happened, you’re always leaving yourself open to accusations that you are trying to exploit things politically.”
Fauntroy shares that view and said Romney’s actions showed a lack of leadership.
“It’s one thing to say the president is weak. After all, in a campaign, if the president says it’s sunny, you have to say it’s cloudy,” he said. “But it’s another thing to say 'I think the president is weak and these are my principles, these are the kinds of things that would guide my decision making.' He’s chosen to say the president is apologizing for America and I won’t do that. That’s not a foreign policy."
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(Photo: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
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