Protesters storm U.S. Embassy in Cairo

A number of old political traumas are colliding in Cairo tonight. On the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Salafist protesters broke into the U.S. Embassy in Egypt and tore down the American flag outside, replacing it with the black flag similar to the one used by al Qaeda groups. Video of the protesters tearing the American flag to shreds swiftly spread across the Internet.

It's hard to watch that video, today of all days, without thinking of the deep-rooted anti-Americanism that proved fertile soil for the terror attacks 11 years ago. It also evokes memories of the 1979 storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran -- the last great popular revolt in the Middle East, which also crescendoed in a spasm of anti-U.S. demagoguery.

The Salafist protesters appear to be spurred on by a television program condemning an American film that reportedly insulted the Prophet Muhammad. A clip of the film played on the program opens with a man pointing to a goat and saying, "This is the first Muslim animal!"

According to an article in the Egyptian daily Youm7 (which is not always accurate, so caveat emptor), the film is called "Muhammad, Prophet of the Muslims" and was produced by infamous Quran-burning preacher Terry Jones, in collaboration with a group of Egyptian Copts.

Here in Egypt, the question is why security was so light as to allow the demonstrators to storm the embassy so easily -- and what the Muslim Brotherhood will do next. While Egypt's most powerful party did not instigate the protest, Cairo is waiting with bated breath to see whether it will disavow the efforts of its fellow Islamists. If not, America's old traumas may soon be coming back with a vengeance.


Romney team touts the governor's French-language skills

In defending Mitt Romney's national security credentials to BuzzFeed on Tuesday, foreign policy advisor Robert O'Brien cited a rather curious data point -- the French Romney picked up while serving as a Mormon missionary in France in the late 1960s:

"The Governor is an extraordinarily well-traveled businessman, he lived overseas as a young man, he speaks French, he understands the world and he's written extensively about foreign policy and national security," he continued. "The idea that he's this naive guy at 65 years old, given his experience heading the Olympic Winter Games and everything else, I just don't think that's going to play."

Take that Mr. President, with your "passable" Bahasa and middling Spanish! Barack Obama, after all, admitted that he lacked foreign language skills on the campaign trail in 2008, remarking that "it's embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe and all we can say is merci beaucoup, right?" Wrong. Not if you're Mitt Romney. 

What's particularly striking about O'Brien's comment is that Newt Gingrich, who speaks a little French himself, attacked this very trait in the Republican primary, pointing out that Romney spoke French while promoting the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002. In the campaign ad below, the narrator observes that "just like [former Democratic presidential nominee] John Kerry, he speaks French too." 

Now, it seems, the campaign is turning Romney's French skills into an asset-- a testament to the candidate's wordliness. Over the weekend, Romney's running mate Paul Ryan also defended his record on foreign policy -- in a line that sounded eerily similar to Dan Quayle's assertion during the 1988 vice-presidential debate that he had "as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency." Here's what Ryan had to say:

I have more foreign policy experience coming into this job than President Obama did coming into his....

I've been in Congress for 14 years. He was in the Senate for far, far less time that that. I voted -- you know, Norah, I voted to send men and women to war. I've been to Iraq and Afghanistan. I've met with our troops to get their perspectives. I've been to the funerals. I've talked to the widows. I've talked to the wives, the moms and dads. That's something. That matters.

I take this very seriously. I've done doing this for 14 years.

So far, the Obama campaign hasn't borrowed a page from Lloyd Bentsen, Quayle's challenger in 1988, who famously told the Republican senator, "I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy."