“Sad And Pathetic”: The Lost Soul Of Mitt Romney
The nation has suffered a death in the family.
This morning we learn that our Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, was among four Americans killed yesterday in a violent attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. It was an attack carried out by a mob deeply upset by a film made by an American-Israeli, California-based real estate developer that ridicules Mohammed, the central figure in Islamic religious belief.
While the Romney campaign chose to turn yesterday’s events in Cairo and Benghazi into a political opportunity by criticizing the Obama Administration for a statement issued by our embassy in Cairo earlier in the day (more on that in a moment), a check of Twitter and other communications sources reveals that, as of the time of publication of this piece, Governor Romney has not yet seen fit to so much as express his condolences to the families of Ambassador Stevens and the other Americans who lost their lives in service to their country. Now, if I’ve somehow missed Romney’ issuance of condolences, I’m sure that there are many readers who will gladly point this out. I, in turn, will be more than willing to correct the record if this is the case—however a close search of all sources reveals that no such statement has been forthcoming from the Romney camp.
The Romney condemnation—issued prior to official confirmation of Ambassador Steven’s death—stated, “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.”
These words were uttered at the time when the families of our fellow countrymen were being notified of the terrible fate that had befallen their loved ones.
Is this really how leadership works?
A leader waits until all the facts are available and the impact of one’s words can be more fully assessed. In speaking out before he was fully aware of the situation on the ground, Governor Romney chose the path of the impulsive politician rather that the road taken by a measured leader—and all in the quest of political gain.
And then there is the Twitter posted by GOP Chairman, Reince Priebus, which simply says, “Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.”
Apparently, there is nothing sufficiently sad and pathetic about the violent loss of American lives to merit so much as a follow-up Tweet from Chairman Priebus mourning these terrible deaths.
What was the transgression that led the GOP candidate and party chairman to attack the President for ‘sympathizing’ with the protestors or— as many right-wing voices are today saying—“apologizing” (a favorite trigger word of the right these days) to the protestors?
It was a statement issued earlier yesterday by staffers at the American embassy in Cairo—a statement containing words that sought to defuse a situation quickly getting out of hand as Muslims protested the offending film outside the embassy gates. That statement, issued without the prior approval of either the State Department or the White House, was one that we can reasonably assume was the result of frightened embassy employees—employees under siege and attempting to keep a bad situation from getting dangerously out of control.
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.
Maybe I’m experiencing another one of those hemorrhages in that pesky left-side of my brain, but it’s a real struggle to find anything approaching an apology in those words.
What I do see is a reminder to the Muslim protestors that the United States of America, while defending the right of free speech even when that speech is deeply offensive to some, is not a nation that stands for anyone disrespecting the religious beliefs of another. Indeed, as the communiqué noted, this religious tolerance is a cornerstone of American democracy.
At least it used to be.
Governor Romney should understand this better than most as the founder of Romney’s own LDS religion, Joseph Smith, was murdered by a violent mob whose own religious beliefs had been offended by Smith. Ironically, that mob violently stormed the jail in which Smith was being detained and killed the man in cold blood.
I’m sure the irony of our Ambassador’s death at the hands of such a mob is completely lost on Governor Romney who has now cashed in the decency I have always ascribed to the man in exchange for his willingness to do anything—and say anything—if it helps him capture the prize he so intensely seeks. No doubt, the Romney campaign tells itself that trading their souls is the price they must pay for the greater good. No doubt, they convince themselves of some wisdom they find in speaking first and thinking later if that is what must be done to save the American people from themselves.
Yet, I think all Americans know how that storyline ends.
In point of actual fact—not that the facts have ever stood in the way of Romney campaign rhetoric—President Obama has condemned the actions of the mob in the harshest possible terms— as has Secretary Clinton.
Indeed, the only apologizing I can find is the apology issued today by Libya’s interim president, Mohammed el-Megarif, who said on behalf of his country, “We extend our apology to America, the American people and the whole world.”
I suppose this will now put the leader of the Libyan government at risk with the extremists in his own country as, apparently, apologies are offensive to extremists everywhere.
While there is certainly nothing that has been said or done that would suggest that any American official has apologized for the heinous behavior of the mob—at least, not here in the real world—there is an apology that I would like to offer.
On behalf of a few of my fellow Americans who have behaved in an insensitive and inappropriate manner, I would like to apologize to the families and friends of my countrymen who died so tragically in Benghazi. I’m sure that if a presidential campaign was not clouding their judgment, they would have shown a bit more consideration, compassion and class.
At least I’d like to believe that this would be the case.
By: Rick Ungar, Contributor, Forbes, September 12, 2012