If Mitt Romney loses his bid for president, chalk up Tuesday September 11th as the day, along with the moment he named Rep. Paul Ryan his vice presidential running mate, that it all fell apart.
In the wake of violent protests and terror attacks at U.S. embassies in Libya and Egypt where an American Ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three other diplomats were killed, Romney deemed it politically expedient to criticize President Obama and the administration's "leadership" in protecting American citizens and interests abroad. In a statement issued late Tuesday night Romney said:
"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."
The "first response" Romney was referring to was an early Tuesday statement issued by the Obama administration in response to the outrage caused by the release of an amateur American film which offensively depicted the Muslim Prophet Muhammad:
"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."
The problem for Romney is that while the administration's statement was issued before it knew about the attacks on the embassies and the deaths, his statement was issued after he knew...making it the most ill-informed, ill-advised, ignorant, reprehensible and irresponsible decision so far in the campaign, and a clear sign of pathetic desperation. It certainly wasn't presidential, and it was a glaring example of how Romney's in over his head, especially when discussing matters of homeland security and foreign policy. He's about as much a statesman as Mike Tyson. I take that back. Tyson's smarter and more eloquent.
But rather than admit that he spoke prematurely, Romney doubled-down on Wednesday, maintaining the appropriateness of his harsh criticisms:
"It's a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values," Romney said in Florida. "I don't think that 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."
Restraint, discipline, sensitivity, integrity, dignity, decency, diplomacy, stability. Those are precisely some of the principles and characteristics Obama rightly exemplified as he gathered the facts in this rapidly developing crisis; traits so utterly foreign to the sabre-rattling, red-meat-rhetoric-tossing Romney.
"There's a broader lesson to be learned here.... Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later," Obama said in response to the attacks. "And as president, one of the things I've learned is you can't do that." He added that it was critical "to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts, and that you've thought through the ramifications before you make them."
Romney's attack was sharply criticized by prominent Republicans such as Peggy Noonan, Steve Schmidt, John Sununu, Matthew Dowd and Rep. Peter King, and was absent any support by GOP leaders including Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and Eric Cantor. You know you're in serious trouble when your only support's coming from Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh.
It's one thing to fire off the inflammatory rhetoric when it's part of the day-to-day grind of a close election. It's another to shamelessly exploit for political purposes the deaths of Americans who've sacrificed their lives to make the world a better place. As with so many other blunders Romney's made, this latest strategic debacle, perpetrated amid the solemnity of 9/11, underscores a supreme lack of empathy and a mind-boggling inability to read situations.
Romney's actions this week highlight an unprecedented bankruptcy of character. Democrats can criticize Republican presidents and candidates such as Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and John McCain, but they were largely clear in what they stood for. The only thing Mitt Romney stands for is getting elected president, a rapacious quest for which he'll do and say anything, no matter how dishonest, destructive and craven.