Posted by: mutantpoodle | September 12, 2012

Big events, small men

Might I suggest, to the Republican nominee for President and Obvious AnagramTM* Reince Priebus that, the next time people in the United States Foreign Service get killed in the line of duty, you figure out a way to not use that tragedy to attack Barack Obama.

Mitt Romney seized on the embassy attacks as an opportunity to condemn Obama’s “disgraceful” handling of the situation in a statement late Tuesday. Despite the embassy’s assertion that its statement was drafted before protests began, Romney slammed the White House for turning to apologies as the “first response” to violence.

“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,” he said. “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.”


Update: Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus accused the president of siding with the rioters:

It’s not just that both men look small. I think, in the cosmic scheme of this campaign, few people will remember this come November. But it made an impression inside the bubble. First Read:

Bottom line: This was news-cycle campaigning by the Romney campaign gone awry. Why didn’t the Romney campaign wait until it had all the facts? On his overseas trip in the summer, Romney was so careful not to criticize Obama while on foreign soil. But how much time do you give an administration to work through a diplomatic and international crisis before trying to score immediate political points? You’d expect the Sarah Palins of the world to quickly pounce on something like this, and she predictably did. But a presidential nominee running for the highest office in the land? After the facts have come out, last night’s Romney statement only feeds the narrative that his campaign is desperate. And given that the Romney camp has already moved on to other subjects this morning — issuing a press release on debt and not the embassy attacks — it appears the campaign realizes it, too. Right before our publication time, the Romney camp responds to us that it stands by its statement from last night.

The wisdom doesn’t get more conventional than Chuck Todd & company, and if the political press decides to run Romney’s attacks through the “desperate” filter, it’s going to hurt.

But aside from the politics, the first response of a human being is to condemn the violence and sympathize with the families of the victims. The response of someone who would be President should be damned sure he knows the facts, and then might want to consider whether what he is saying sounds crass.

I remember, back in early 2008, what people called the Commander in Chief test, which was correlated with what Hillary Clinton called her lifetime of experience. She suggested that she and John McCain had that experience and Barack Obama didn’t.

At the time, I was dismissive of the argument as too simplistic. Clearly there’s an “eye test” of some sort that tells someone whether the person they’re looking at is ready to be President. In reality, it’s an amalgam of small impressions, gathered over time, adding up to a holistic impression.

Mitt Romney looks like a President, with his chiseled jaw, tall, erect bearing, and deep baritone voice.

But he’s failing the real commander in chief test – the one where, during the unbearable pressure of a Presidential campaign, you act like someone who could be trusted with the incredible responsibilities of the presidency. This was the genius of Barack Obama in 2008: he was calm, collected, unflappable. In a time of incredible turmoil, he didn’t lose his cool, and that made people comfortable with voting for him, funny name and all.

And this is the failing of Mitt Romney.

Sure, 35% of the country may want Mitt Romney to rip into Barack Obama at every turn, but that’s a ticket to a landslide loss. Of course, Mitt Romney is losing right now, but reminding people of his foreign policy, um, inexperience isn’t going to change the game.

And repeatedly lying about and politicizing a tragic event isn’t going to help him, either.

* “Obvious Anagram Reince Priebus” is the great Charlie Pierce’s appellation.

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