Contrast this strong response by President Obama to the killing of the American ambassador and others in Libya, with the false and malicious statement last night by candidate Romney claiming that the Obama administration’s first response to the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Libya, and the embassy in Cairo, was "to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”
There was no sympathy. There was no apology. What there was, was a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, before the violent protests began, condemning the misguided efforts of certain individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims. The embassy's statement referred to a crude anti-Muslim film made by a real estate developer in California, and promoted by Pastor Terry Jones, whose previous anti-Muslim activities have gotten Americans killed in Afghanistan. Anyone working in a foreign embassy who is concerned about their own safety and about respecting the feelings of their hosts, would understand the purpose of making such a statement.
Being a member of a persecuted religious minority himself, one would also think that Mitt Romney would be more sensitive to the nuances of the First Amendment, which not only protects free speech, but also promotes religious tolerance. Those prohibitions are not contradictory. Thus, while we must defend the rights of "filmmakers" and "pastors" to portray Muslims in a negative way, unless they are directly inciting violence, we must also respect the rights of the members of every religion to practice their beliefs. The values behind the First Amendment suggest that we both defend the rights of the people who made the video in question and condemn the message of the video at the same time.
It shouldn't be too much to ask the Romney campaign to understand and adhere to the American values of both free speech and religious tolerance. It also shouldn't be too much to ask them to adhere to the values of decency, fair play and truth. Instead they seem just a big over-eager to take cheap shots in the service of a false narrative.
UPDATE: According to Romney campaign talking points, the Romney campaign is now saying the following in response to questions about whether the U.S. Egyptian embassy was correct to condemn this movie:
Governor Romney rejects the reported message of the movie. There is no room for religious hatred or intolerance.Do I need to point out that this statement is virtually identical to the statement by the embassy that Governor Romney condemned last night? Just to be crystal clear on this, here is the text of the embassy statement:
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. 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.And here is part of Secretary of State Clinton's statement:
The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.Seems like we are all on the same page on this. Moreover, neither the Romney campaign's statement, nor the U.S. Embassy's statement, nor any other statement from anybody in the government, amounts to an expression of sympathy with those who waged the attacks on the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, which is what Romney recklessly charged. There is not a word from anybody in the government expressing the slightest degree of sympathy with anyone who attacked our ambassador. Instead, the statements in question amount to disapproval of the message of a movie, and pretty much everybody, except for supporters of Pastor Jones, agrees that the movie deserves to be condemned.
In other words, the latest Romney attack has no substance to it at all. It is sound and fury, signifying nothing. Well, nothing except for raising some troublesome questions about Romney's fitness for the office he is seeking.