Iran redux? Could killing of US ambassador sway presidential race?
The killing of Chris Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya, is a stark reminder of the difficulties of US policy in a troubled region – and how events can intrude on a presidential campaign.
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As President Carter abandoned the Shah of Iran, so did Obama abandon Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, wrote Mr. Morrissey. “And once again, we have ‘students’ assaulting our embassy in the capital, this time Cairo, without so much as an apology from the radical Islamist government now running the nation,” he wrote.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures What happened at the US Consulate in Libya?
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But criticizing a sitting US president at a time when American diplomats are dying is a dangerous political game, noted other commentators. Romney’s insistence that the US had “apologized” for the anti-Muslim movie appeared to be based on an embassy Twitter message that, among other things, condemned attacks on all faiths, and was issued prior to the attack on the embassy itself, not after. Jumping into this situation, a candidate may appear to be a more forceful leader than the incumbent – or they may look opportunistic and small.
NBC’s First Read political site judged Romney’s original statement “one of the most over-the-top and (it turns out) incorrect attacks of the general-election campaign.”
First Read, co-authored by veteran political reporter Chuck Todd among others, judged the Romney attacks to be news-cycle campaigning that had gone awry. Romney should have waited until all the facts were in, according to this analysis.
“After the facts have come out, last night’s Romney statement only feeds the narrative that his campaign is desperate,” the analysis concludes.
Even some fellow Republicans are voicing regret over Romney’s decision to criticize the administration at this delicate moment.
The politics of foreign policy in the 2012 campaign are complicated. On the one hand, it is an issue that Republicans traditionally have an edge on, as Democrats do with the protection of social programs. But in polls, Obama in particular is rated a stronger foreign policy leader than his opponent.
In a recent Washington Post/ABC News survey of registered voters, 51 percent of respondents said they trusted Obama more to handle international affairs, while 38 percent said they trusted Romney more.
It’s possible that Romney’s statements are meant, not to win wavering independents, but to rally the Republican faithful. That’s Washington Post political blogger Chris Cillizza’s take in today’s The Fix.
The GOP base has long seen Obama as a weak apologist, and Romney’s words appeal to that world view, writes Mr. Cillizza.
But that base is already energized about the election. Romney’s approach here could backfire, according to this analysis.
“Romney’s approach hands the Obama team an opening to cast the challenger as not ready for the job, someone who jumps to conclusions before all the facts are known,” writes Cillizza.