Mitt Romney has largely avoided discussing foreign policy during the 2012 presidential campaign. In fact, the Democrats pounced on Romney’s RNC speech for failing to salute U.S. troops or mention Afghanistan. Romney hoped to make this election all about the economy, but that singular focus has not been enough to capture the lead in the presidential race. However, three events on Tuesday created an opening on foreign policy for Romney.
On the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, Islamic fundamentalists stormed the U.S. embassy in Egypt, tore down the American flag and replaced it with an Islamist one that resembled Al Qaeda’s. What was the U.S. embassy’s, and by extension, the Obama administration’s, response? They apologized.
That’s right. Barack Obama’s administration apologized. They apologized that radical Islamists had their feelings hurt by an amateur video allegedly made in the U.S. that denigrated Mohammed. They apologized while an Al Qaeda flag flew over sovereign U.S. territory. They apologized for “abuse” of “the universal right of free speech”. They apologized to Islamic radicals on the anniversary of 9/11.
Here is the statement posted on the embassy website:
“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. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring 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.”
The U.S. consulate in Libya was also attacked on Tuesday. One American official was killed and others were wounded. The Romney campaign condemned the attacks, and the Obama administration’s apology.
“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,” Romney said in a statement. “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.”
Democrats are quick to credit Obama for being the president when we finally tracked down and killed Osama Bin Laden. That solitary achievement still might overshadow any other foreign policy event in voters’ minds. However, there is still time for Romney to gain traction.
“As far as the Middle East is concerned, this president’s national security policy has been an abysmal failure,” 2008 GOP nominee John McCain said Tuesday.
McCain’s criticism provided a perfect backdrop for another development on the anniversary of 9/11. An Israeli official told reporters that President Obama rejected a request from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet when he visits the U.S. later this month. White House officials blamed a scheduling conflict.
The Israeli prime minister wants Obama to adopt a stronger stance toward Iran and its nuclear program. Despite tough economic sanctions, a new IAEA report shows Iran continues to advance its nuclear weapons program. Iran also continues to threaten to “wipe Israel off the map”.
Benjamin Netanyahu is clearly growing impatient with Barack Obama. Any sign that the Obama administration does not fully support Israel weakens the chances of holding Iran in check. It also could hurt Obama politically with Jewish and pro-Israel voters.
Suddenly, an election that was supposed about the economy has turned to foreign policy. The Democrats thought they had the advantage, but the U.S. embassy’s apology will remind people of Barack Obama’s own apology tour around the world shortly after he became president.
Romney’s statement criticizing the embassy’s apology was a smart move. The Romney campaign needs to realize that just criticizing Obama on his handling of the economy might not be enough to win in November. This president’s failures go far beyond high unemployment and mounting debt.
There are plenty of weaknesses in President Obama’s foreign policy. The Romney campaign needs to develop some Reaganesque leadership on these issues and do it quickly. He has 55 days.
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