Romney made a bad tactical mistake

2012-09-13 10:19
Mitt Romney (AFP, File)

Mitt Romney (AFP, File)

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New York - As News24 reported on Wednesday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney lashed President Barack Obama for "[sympathising] with those who waged the attacks", which was clearly a lie.

Romney was trying to capitalise on a few circumstances that fell into place, and he was supported in this tactic by Republican National Committee Chairperson Reince Priebus, who repeated the falsehood on Twitter. "Obama sympathises with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic", he tweeted.
Earlier in the day the US Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, had defended Islam against an alleged film due to come out in the USA which is little more than an anti-Muslim bigot-sating rant.

News of the film kicked off a protest outside the US Embassy that turned violent, with some folks participating in the demonstration deciding to climb the walls of the embassy and destroying an US flag.

Before the protests kicked off, a communications official in the US Embassy in Cairo released the following statement, which he was under orders NOT to do, (emphasis is mine):
"The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.

Right to free speech

"Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honouring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy.

"Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others."
This is nonsense. The right to free speech, which is taken pretty seriously in the USA, means you can say whatever you like about Muslims, Islam, Christianity, George W Bush or your neighbour.

And people of those religions or persuasions can use their right to free speech to say whatever they like in response. Subsequent statements by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the White House clarified the government's position.
Later in the day, the US Ambassador to Libya (not to Egypt) was killed in an attack in Benghazi (which also happens to not be in Egypt), in which three other US staff were also killed.

Romney's statement was a response to the goings on both in Egypt and Libya, and used the aforementioned flawed statement to assert that Obama sympathised with the people who had killed American citizens who were working on behalf of their government overseas.

Romney lashed

And Romney didn't simply make a mistake here: This was a prepared statement, and he had two opportunities in press outings on Wednesday to correct himself, but doubled down on the accusation.

While the US Embassy in Cairo's Twitter account did indeed seem to be toying with a proud American value, this communication did not come from the president, the State Department or the government.

In fact as I said earlier, the communications chief in the Cairo embassy was under orders not to publish it.
The US media wasn't kind to Romney for this trick he tried pulling, bar a few conservative papers. It is worth pointing out, however, that even conservatives and senior Republicans lashed their presidential candidate.
A Washington Post journalist who was following the fallout wrote: "The backlash has been brutal".

The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg called Romney's statement a "slander".

Losing gamble

Time's Mark Halperin tweeted that it was the "most craven+ill-advised move of '12".

Josh Marshall wrote that it was "reminiscent of John McCain's rash call four years ago to cancel the presidential debates and the campaign itself to deal with the unfolding economic crisis".
I don't think there's any coincidence that this risky plan from Team Romney came just after Obama enjoyed a post-convention poll-bounce.

But this gamble did not work out. Romney accused the president of sympathising with the murderers of Americans, and that shouldn't be permissible no matter which side of the aisle you find yourself.

Read more on:    barack obama  |  simon williamson  |  mitt romney  |  libya  |  us  |  egypt  |  north africa  |  us elections  |  religion

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