President Obama accused Mitt Romney of shooting first and asking questions later when responding to violence unfolding in the Middle East. But a quick review of the timeline, and the White House’s “evolving” explanation for the attacks on the Benghazi consulate are beginning to make it clear that Obama’s the one who’s guilty of speaking too soon.
“Let’s be clear, these protests were in reaction to a video that had spread to the region,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Sept. 14.
Secretary Clinton, during the transfer of remains ceremony the same day: “We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with. It is hard for the American people to make sense of that because it is senseless, and it is totally unacceptable.”
The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations continued this spurious and completely uninformed messaging: “Based on the best information we have to date … it began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo, where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy sparked by this hateful video.”
Now, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says that the 9/11 attack was not only carried out by terrorists, but it was also pre-meditated. So much for that “spontaneous reaction to a YouTube video.”
What Obama attacked Romney for — speaking before the facts were known — is precisely what the administration wound up doing for the subsequent two weeks.
Meanwhile, Romney’s initial statement stands on its own. At the time, Romney said that the Obama administration has responded to these attacks by sympathizing with the aggressors. “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.” The press even asked the same question five times about whether he regretted speaking too soon — a leading question revealing that the media had already decided what the story was.
Two weeks later, and perhaps most significantly, the president spoke before the U.N., condemning the attacks, while also struggling to find common ground. The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. But to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see in the images of Jesus Christ that are desecrated, or churches that are destroyed, or the Holocaust that is denied.”
Even this validates Romney’s criticism. Slandering the prophet of Islam is not on the same scale as destroying churches. The arrest of a man for his involvement with the film, and the fact that he hails from Egypt, makes it worse: In Egypt, this criticism would get him killed, making him a religious and political refugee.
And the president of the United States has made it absolutely clear before the General Assembly of the United Nations that these statements, no matter their substance, are akin to burning down a church.
Sounds like a guy who shoots first and never bothers asking questions.