Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney left some of his fellow Republicans and media allies troubled by his eagerness to condemn the Obama administration's response to Tuesday's anti-American demonstration in Egypt and the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. diplomats. Romney described an earlier statement issued by the U.S. embassy in Cairo as the administration's "first response" to the attack, characterizing the statement as "akin to an apology" for an anti-Muslim film that allegedly sparked the riots and an attempt to "sympathize" with the attackers.
"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," Romney said Tuesday night. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus offered the same assessment in a Twitter message: "Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic." Other Republicans, however, appeared eager to distance themselves from the Romney line of attack.
"I don't think President Obama sympathizes with those who attacked us. I don't think any American does," said former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who served as the first Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security in the George W. Bush administration. Mark Salter, a former chief of staff and campaign aide to Arizona Senator and 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain, called the criticism of Obama "as tortured in its reasoning as it is unseemly in its timing." Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, a speechwriter for President Reagan and the first President Bush, voiced her concern in an interview on Fox News.
"I always think discretion is the better way to go," Noonan said. "When you step forward in the midst of a political environment and start giving statements on something dramatic and violent that has happened, you're always leaving yourself open to accusations that you are trying to exploit things politically."
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Photo: Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney makes comments on the killing of U.S. embassy officials in Benghazi, Libya, while speaking in Jacksonville, Fla., Sept. 12, 2012: AP Images