Yesterday, on the 11th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in US history, conflict broke out in Libya and Egypt which left four American diplomatic personnel including the American ambassador to Libya dead. As this was happening -- as American blood was being spilled and President Obama was scrambling to protect those half a world away who were serving their country -- Mitt Romney released the following statement:
“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. 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.”
Never mind that the statement to which Romney referred -- a press release which condemned a film which apparently sparked riots in Egypt -- was plucked "wholesale from the right-wing blogosphere." Never mind that it was issued by the American Embassy in Egypt, not the White House or that the White House later disavowed it. Never mind that it preceded the murder of American diplomats and therefore couldn't possibly have been in response to them.
Never mind all of that.
Instead, consider what such a statement says about the man who released it.
John Marshall over at Talking Points Memo writes "some moments show you when a candidate is ready or not to become President of the United States. I suspect last night will become one of those moments for Mitt Romney." He could not be more correct.
There is a time and a place to criticize the President's handling of an international incident and it would have cost Romney nothing to wait for that time and place. The election is still almost two months away and the wisdom or folly of President Obama's response to yesterday's events will be known well before then. Had Romney waited he might have saved himself the embarassment of being caught in a lie and avoided the appearance of politisizing deaths in the American diplomatic corps.
But Romney did not wait; he reacted and in his haste he showed himself to be by far the lesser of the options before the American electorate this fall. Whatever his domestic duties, the President of the United States must oversee our interaction with other countries. Foreign policy is a high stakes game played with agonizingly slow and careful deliberation. It does not benefit from rash or impulsive statements nor reactionary shortsightedness, all of which Romney displayed to his great detriment yesterday.
What should have been a referendum on Obama, healthcare and the economy is rapidly transforming into an ongoing struggle to justify Mr Romney's disastrously amateurish and ill considered statements. If this keeps up, Republicans have a long two months ahead of them.