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October 9, 2012 / Joshua

Scenes From a Talk Radio-Style Presidential Campaign

On 9/11/12, Mitt Romney was not impressed with the President.

In his speech on foreign policy yesterday, Mitt Romney told at least one whopper of a lie by claiming that President Obama hasn’t signed any trade agreements (he’s signed 3). Romney also blasted the President’s Afghanistan withdrawal timeline just two sentences after he said he’d follow the same timeline. In honor of these silly, easily spotted lies / contradictions, I’d like to jump in the Way-back Machine and travel back a month to September 11, 2012.

On that day, a day in which the Romney campaign had ostensibly agreed to suspend campaigning in remembrance of 9/11:

  • Protestors breached an outer wall of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt
  • Hours later, armed attackers assaulted a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya
  • Later that night, Mitt Romney released a huffy statement about some tweets

Well, sort of. Throughout the Middle East, tensions were rising over a low quality, provocative anti-Islam film, mysteriously made in California and uploaded on YouTube for the world to see. Seeking to quell these tensions, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo released the following statement around midday (local time), and linked to it through twitter:

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

Hours later in the day, protesters surrounded the embassy grounds, breached the outer wall, and tore down and replaced the flag. Several hours after that, a riot broke out near the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, culminating in an armed attack on the facility, leaving 4 Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

Meanwhile, around 10:30 pm EST, while the events in Benghazi were still unfolding and the full details were not yet known, Mitt Romney suddenly lifted the campaign embargo to release this 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.

On 9/12/12, Mitt Romney was impressed with himself.

Emphasis mine. Romney here was referring to the embassy statement, which was not approved by the white house or state department and was released well before any violence had occurred. The next day, even when these points and the full timeline were clear, Romney held a press conference and doubled down, saying the embassy statement amounted to “an apology for American principles”… (see this timeline of the two day’s events and statements for more).

Many have already criticized Romney for his poor timing, his false framing, and his shameless opportunism in the middle of an unfolding crisis. And rightly so. But I want to highlight just how petty, small, and distracting it was.

It was a classic talk radio-style fallacious line of argument; in this case, begging the question. Romney clearly started with the conclusions he was trying to argue for, both that the embassy statement was an “apology”, and that such supposed “apology” is wrong. And this of course he tied into the false narrative that the Obama administration, by nature, apologizes for this country and its values (see the debunked “apology tour” myth). Romney then squeezed reality to fit his conclusions, without ever proving said conclusions, and fully ignoring the facts that contradicted him.

At the time, I thought to myself, we might as well have Rush Limbaugh running this campaign. And indeed, while most everyone else agreed Romney had acted unpresidential, Limbaugh, in his usual down is up way, claimed that Romney was the only one acting presidential.

Moving on to Romney’s criticism of the embassy statement itself, I find his freak out over diplomacy and nuance, calling such an “apology for American values”, just a little bizarre. As Noah Millman writes,

[Romney’s] criticism was that in Obama’s Administration, every event is not used as an opportunity to assert its awesome Americanness, and throw that awesomeness in the teeth of the world. There is no theory of public relations or diplomacy according to which the wise thing to do when an angry mob approaches is to recite the text of the First Amendment.

The remarkably ridiculous thing about this is a couple days later, in an interview with George Stephanopoulus, Romney himself “apologized for American values”, according to his own standards. After Romney again stood by his no apology position, Stephanopoulus asked him about the controversial film in question. Here’s Romney’s response:

…The idea of using something that some people consider sacred and then parading that out a negative way is simply inappropriate and wrong.  And I wish people wouldn’t do it.  Of course, we have a First Amendment.  And under the First Amendment, people are allowed to do what they feel they want to do.  They have the right to do that, but it’s not right to do things that are of the nature of what was done by, apparently this film.

I think the whole film is a terrible idea.  I think him making it, promoting it showing it is disrespectful to people of other faiths.  I don’t think that should happen.  I think people should have the common courtesy and judgment– the good judgment– not to be– not to offend other peoples’ faiths.  It’s a very bad thing, I think, this guy’s doing.

Well, holy fucking shit, Mitt. That’s pretty much exactly what the embassy was trying to say! Thank you for wasting the entire nation’s time in the name of your shallow political ambition.

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One Comment

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  1. Sara Cannon / Oct 12 2012 12:43 am

    Thanks for posting Josh! Would love it if you kept this trend during elections. I love the clarity in which you approach politics. xo

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