The embassy aftermath
The escalating chaos in the Middle East sparked by an
anti-Islamic video spilled over into the presidential campaign this week. On
Tuesday night, shortly after protesters had stormed the U.S. embassy in Cairo
and reports had emerged that a U.S. diplomat had been killed in Libya, Mitt Romney issued
a statement saying, "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." Republican National Committee
Chairman Reince Priebus also tweeted,
"Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic."
The criticism was prompted by messages put out by the U.S.
embassy in Cairo before that compound had been stormed, denouncing the offending
film. The Obama administration disavowed
the messages from the embassy, which were reportedly published without
State Department approval, and Obama campaign spokesman Ben Labolt fired back late on Tuesday
night: "We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is
confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya,
Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack."
On Wednesday morning, after it had been reported that four
Americans had been killed in Libya, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Romney again
criticized the Obama administration's handling of the events, accusing the White
House of sending "mixed signals." "I think it's a terrible course for
America to apologize for our values," Romney said, referring to the
original Cairo embassy statements.
criticized Romney personally in an interview with CBS, saying,
"Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first, aim later. And as president, one of
the things I've learned is you can't do that."
The Romney campaign has continued to step up its attacks,
with advisor Richard Williamson telling
the Washington Post, "There's a
pretty compelling story that if you had a President Romney, you'd be in a
different situation.... For the first time since Jimmy Carter, we've had an American ambassador assassinated."
Obama has also has his own trouble with messaging this week.
In an interview
with the Spanish-language Telemundo network on Saturday, he said of the
Egyptian government, "I don't think that we would consider them an ally, but we
don't consider them an enemy. They're a new government that is trying to find
The White House walked back the statement later with
spokesman Tommy Vietor
telling Foreign Policy, "Egypt is longstanding and close partner of the
United States, and we have built on that foundation by supporting Egypt's
transition to democracy and working with the new government."
The thin red line
The Obama administration this week rejected
calls by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu to spell out a specific "red line" that were Iran to cross on its
nuclear program would trigger an action in response. "We need some ability for
the president to have decision-making room.... We have a red line, which is a
nuclear weapon. We're committed to that red line," a senior official told the New York Times.
Facing criticism at home, Netanyahu denied
that his frequent criticism of the Obama administration on Iran was intended to
sway the election. "That's nonsense, because what's guiding me is not the
election in the United States but the centrifuges in Iran," he told the
interview on Friday morning, Romney told ABC's George Stephanopoulos, "My red line is Iran may not have a nuclear
weapon." When asked if that meant he had the same "red line" as Obama, Romney --
who has frequently criticized the Obama administration's handling of Iran,
According to a recent CNN poll --
conducted before this week's events -- Obama holds a 12 point advantage over
Romney when voters are asked which candidate they trust to handle foreign
policy. "For the first time in a very long time, a Democrat has a clear
advantage on national security issues," campaign advisor Michele Flournoy told
Buzzfeed, responding to the poll.
Romney foreign policy advisor Robert
the Obama campaign of trying to distract voters from a sagging economy."It
doesn't surprise me that they're raising foreign policy because it's another
distraction from the Administration's terrible economic record... They're going from
one shiny object to the next." Another advisor made a similar comment to Politico, defending the lack of
discussion of national security at the Republican convention. "This is an
economy election and if he gets off on foreign policy or war policy, he's
playing on the president's turf," he said.
Weekly Standard editor and leading
neoconservative commentator William
Kristol criticized the statement, writing,
"What does it say when a Romney
adviser concedes "foreign policy or war policy" as "the
president's turf"? Can one imagine a Reagan adviser saying such a thing in
Romney v. Beijing
The Romney campaign launched
an ad this week accusing the Obama administration of failing to prevent
U.S. jobs from being lost to China by not standing up to its deflationary currency
a speech on Thursday, Romney said that Obama "had the chance year
after year to label China a currency manipulator, but he hasn't done so"
and promised again to "label China the currency manipulator they are on the
An editorial in a state-run Chinese news agency on Friday fired
back, calling Romney's remarks "as false as they are foolish" and saying it
is "ironic that a considerable portion of this China-battering politician's
wealth was actually obtained by doing business with Chinese companies before he
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is
to China this weekend amid escalating tensions between Beijing and Tokyo
over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
On Sept. 10, Washington
Post columnist and former George W.
Bush advisor Marc Thiessen wrote
a column criticizing Obama for not receiving regular Presidential Daily
Briefs (PDBs) from his intelligence advisors. Citing numbers from the
Government Accountability Institute, Thiessen wrote, "During his first 1,225
days in office, Obama attended his PDB just 536 times -- or 43.8 percent of the
time. During 2011 and the first half of 2012, his attendance became even less
frequent -- falling to just over 38 percent. By contrast, Obama's predecessor,
George W. Bush almost never missed his daily intelligence meeting."
In a follow-up column, Thiessen accused
Obama of skipping his briefing the day after the attack in Benghazi to
attend a fundraiser in Las Vegas. Vietor responded to Thiessen: "As I've told
you every time you ask, the President gets his PDB every day.... Unlike your
former boss, he has it delivered to his residence in the morning and not
briefed to him."
Former Vice President Dick Cheney even entered
the debate, telling the Daily Caller through
a spokesperson, "If President Obama were
participating in his intelligence briefings on a regular basis then perhaps he
would understand why people are so offended at his efforts to take sole credit
for the killing of Osama bin Laden."
The foreign vote
Two polls this week made clear that Romney should be glad
he's not running for president in Europe. According to a YouGov
poll of more than 12,000 people across Europe, the Middle East, North
Africa, Pakistan, and China, only around one in 20 had a positive view of the
Republican candidate. In Britain, 47 percent said a Romney victory would make
them feel less favorable toward the United States, and only 3 percent said that
they would feel more favorable. Respondents from the Middle East were more
ambivalent about the election. Another poll by
the German Marshall Fund found that 39 percent of Europeans had a negative view
of Romney, compared to 23 percent positive.
Advisors on the move:
reports that senior Romney foreign-policy advisor Dan Senor, who had been traveling with vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, has been pulled off the
campaign trail to handle "foreign policy developments" from campaign
headquarters in Boston. Senor's role in the campaign had drawn
attention during Romney's trip to Israel in August.
The latest from FP:
Aaron David Miller looks
at the troubled
relationship between Barack and Bibi.
David Rothkopf wonders
when Democrats started sounding
like Rudy Giuliani when talking
argues that foreign-policy bipartisanship is a thing
of the past.
Kori Schake says
national security right in his convention speech.
Stay tuned to The Cable and Passport for the latest from the campaign trail.