Mitt Romney‘s comments on the attacks yesterday in Cairo, Egypt, and Benghazi, Libya, are being labeled by Republicans as an “utter disaster,” “not ready for prime time,” and “not presidential,” according to Ben Smith, Editor In Chief of Buzzfeed:
“They were just trying to score a cheap news cycle hit based on the embassy statement and now it’s just completely blown up,” said a very senior Republican foreign policy hand, who called the statement an “utter disaster” and a “Lehman moment” — a parallel to the moment when John McCain, amid the 2008 financial crisis, failed to come across as a steady leader.
“I guess we see now that it is because they’re incompetent at talking effectively about foreign policy,” said the Republican. “This is just unbelievable — when they decide to play on it they completely bungle it.”
Romney has not backed off the response — ”It’s never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values,” he said Wednesday — but his campaign faces a near consensus in Republican foreign policy circles that, whatever the sentiment, Romney faltered badly.
“It’s bad,” said a former aide to Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “Just on a factual level that the statement was not a response but preceding, or one could make the case precipitating. And just calling it a ‘disgrace’ doesn’t really cut it. Not ready for prime time.”
A third Republican, a former Bush State Department official, told BuzzFeed, “It wasn’t presidential of Romney to go political immediately — a tragedy of this magnitude should be something the nation collectively grieves before politics enters the conversation.”
The Republicans declined to speak for attribution, for fear of being publicly disloyal to their party’s nominee. Veteran Democratic foreign policy hands, operating under no such restriction, called Romney’s quick move all but disqualifying.
To be clear, most of these comments seem to have been made prior to Romney’s speech delivered this morning — which Smith points to, and seems to have received a similar response.
And to be fair, Ben Smith also points to Republicans who supported Romney’s statements, but ends with this:
“Romney blew it and revealed how seriously maladroit he is when it comes to foreign affairs and national security,” said Steve Clemons, the founder of the American Strategy Program at the [non-partisan] New America Foundation. “An attack on an Embassy, the murder of U.S. officials including an Ambassador, is an attack on all Americans and the idea of America — and Romney gave terrorists what they want — a divided country still torn emotionally and politically by the events of 9-11. Romney talks of leadership but with his reckless commentary when events were fragile and still unfolding, he belly-flopped.”
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