UPDATE #5: Politico once more:
The original Romney statement about the attacks was embargoed until after midnight on Wednesday morning – a seal that was apparently lifted when the Obama administration distanced itself from the Cairo embassy statement. But the timing, and tenor, of the statement had Bush administration Republicans versed in foreign policy shaking their heads – especially since Romney chose to get involved in the issue, but with a brief, almost strictly political statement about a crisis that was unfolding.
“It was a move I would have expected Michele Bachmann to do,” said one Republican operative. [Pols emphasis] “Jumped the gun, went aggressive politically at a time when the rally around the flag mentality sets in for most.”
UPDATE #4: New York Times–this is getting really bad.
[B]y Wednesday morning, as the sequence of events and the scope of the tragedy in Benghazi became more clear, Mr. Romney’s initial statement and ensuing comments were coming under attack as clumsy at best. By later in the day, even some Republican allies were declining to follow his lead, and some acknowledged that he looked as if he was trying to score points in the middle of a crisis.
For a country looking to understand how Mr. Romney, a Republican candidate with no foreign policy experience, would respond to a major crisis, this was a first glimpse. And as an adviser to the campaign who worked in the George W. Bush administration said on Wednesday, Mr. Romney’s accusation that Mr. Obama had invited the attacks because he had weakened America looked like “he had forgotten the first rule in a crisis: don’t start talking before you understand what’s happening.”
The statement that seemed to backfire on Mr. Romney was a team effort, his aides said, written by a group of aides who focus on policy, another that focuses on political strategy and another on communications. Mr. Romney himself signed off on it, they said. In fact, the Cairo statement he was linking to the violence – issued by the embassy, where the ambassador, Anne Patterson, is a career Foreign Service officer who was a favorite of President Bush when she was ambassador to Pakistan – was issued around 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday in Cairo, before any attacks had happened.
UPDATE #3: FOX 31’s Eli Stokols has very interesting reaction to all of this from Republican Rep. Mike Coffman–who does not appear to be completely standing behind Mitt Romney’s shrill and ill-timed attacks on President Barack Obama.
Colorado GOP Congressman Mike Coffman, a former Marine who served in Iraq, told FOX31 Denver that Romney was walking a tightrope with his strident comments.
“I think Mitt Romney’s right in one respect, that the first reaction from our president and our government should be that of outrage over these attacks,” Coffman said.
“At the same time, I do have to admit that when we have troops on the ground in Afghanistan and in other Islamic countries, while I believe in the First Amendment, I do wish that more Americans would be concerned about our troops on the ground who will suffer retribution from some of the speech and statements that people in those host countries view as as inflammatory.
“I do think Americans ought to think twice about their actions.”
UPDATE #2: Some amount of backpedal underway now, Politico:
Romney explained that his criticism of the Obama administration also was released before his campaign had information that the U.S. ambassador to Libya had been killed. “We responded last night to the events that happened in Egypt,” he said.
“These views were inappropriate,” Romney said. “They were the wrong course to take when our embassy has been breached by protestors. The first response should not be, ‘Yes, we stand by our comments that suggest there’s something wrong with the right of free speech.”
There is another statement from the American embassy in Egypt, issued before the Ambassador Chris Stevens’s death, that Romney claims to have been referring to, not the actual White House statement below. And he says his criticism of the Obama administration was released before his campaign knew the Ambassador had been killed. Unfortunately for Romney, all of these events got merged into the same overnight news cycle, and Americans woke up to Romney crassly politicizing the death of a high-ranking American diplomat.
UPDATE: Um, like we said, it’s an election year:
In a statement Tuesday night, Mitt Romney accused the Obama administration of sympathizing with the Libyan protesters who attacked a consulate in Benghazi, killing the U.S. ambassador and three other American diplomats.
“I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi,” Romney said. “It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”
A head-scratcher in addition to highly controversial, since it refers to this White House statement:
I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.
I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe. While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.
On a personal note, Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States…
We are reading it in the correct order, right? This will not go down as Mitt Romney’s finest hour.
Tragedy in foreign policy once again intrudes on our news cycle, CNN:
U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday strongly condemned the killing of the United States ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, in a rocket attack on the U.S. Consulate in the city of Benghazi on Tuesday.
He called the attack “outrageous,” and confirmed that four Americans, including Stevens, were killed.
“Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States,” Obama said.
The latest round of anti-U.S. violence in Libya and Egypt appears to stem from an online film called Innocence of Muslims, which contains a number of scenes highly offensive to Muslims. The film was apparently produced by an Israeli-American living in California (who has gone into hiding Salman Rushdie-style) and promoted by anti-Islamic Florida pastor Terry Jones.
It’s a situation even more complicated in Libya, where Americans now under attack were so recently engaged in assisting in the liberation of the country from its despotic former ruler.
Anyway, somebody is going to bring this up today, probably in a political context since that’s the context for everything the next six weeks. So you’d better be prepared to talk about it.
Our condolences to the family of Ambassador Stevens.