I wonder if I'll see the most one-sided US Presidential election in the sixteen years of my life I've been cognizant of national politics.
The single event that prompts this thought is Mitt Romney's now-infamous response to the attack that killed four Americans in a US Embassy in Cairo. Brief background: A (rotten-looking, as it happens) anti-Muslim film was previewed in the Internet, and in response to it, Muslim protestors started gathering around US embassies in Libya and Egypt. One of the embassies dismissed most staff early as a precaution, and released what may be called anti-anti-Muslim statements intended to lower tensions. Sometime after this, both embassies were violently attacked and four people died at the Cairo one, including a US Ambassador. Secretary of State Clinton made a standard but well-done statement of shock and condolences. Then Romney did something no one predicted: he accused the Obama administration of “sympathizing” with the attackers.
So what’s the deal there? It seems that the non-apologetic statements, made by the embassy (not cleared by the White House), before the attacks, are being confused for apologetic and terrorist-supportive statements, made by Obama, after the attacks. Easy mistake, anyone could make it.. yeccch, it’s not even easy to be sarcastic about this now.
So, really, what’s the deal here? New York Magazine may have the best analysis: Romney’s central talking point about Obama’s foreign policy has been the “apologizing for America” thing (about which I had been planning to write another post, but everything’s changed now), and he made the mistake of thinking that point could be applied willy-nilly any time the White House used the usual diplomacy, even after an incident of violence. Of course, the “apology tour” thing lies on the road that everytually leads to Frothingville, Neoconia, a village whose inhabitants never visit the creepy old castle in which lives Count Obama, Kenyan Muslim atheist elitist vampire. At this point, Romney's best hope may be to don yet another role from his ever-changing wardrobe: Van Helsing.
All in all, I can’t help but wonder, what do these people expect Obama to do with regards to America's relationship with the Muslim world? It’s as if they want him to be a living Jack Chick tract, thumping his chest, shoving Jesus and American flags down the world’s throat. His predecessor gets a pass for never showing explicit anti-Muslim tendencies in response to 9/11 because his name was, well, “George Bush”. But a “Barack Obama” had better burn a couple Korans if he wants any respect from the frothers. I’m very morbidly curious how the Romney team would respond to Obama burning a Koran -- surely they couldn’t couldn’t criticize it without both looking hypocritical and losing the few wingnuts whose votes they still have?
Regardless of all that, there is one small point on which I find myself disagreeing with the response to Romney by both the White House and other folks, which is to criticize him for "politicizing the attack". This is a wrongheaded spin in a couple ways.
First of all, nearly everything everyone says is in fact political to someone, especially in contexts like this one. Condemning an attack is political, saying nothing about religion is political, saying Islam is Bad or Islam is Good or Islam is the Pause that Refreshes is political. And there's nothing wrong with reponding to someone's words, whatever those words are, with "political" talk. Hey, if in fact Obama had said anything at all like what Romney accuses him of, then Romney would have every right to "go political" on him. (Of course in that case it would be Obama and not Romney whose feet were on the fire; the political analysis would be that Obama had practically handed Romney the election.)
Secondly, labeling Romney's words as "politicizing the attack" sound like a resignation to a world in which this sort of bile is politics as usual -- as if what Romney had said were something like "This attack goes to show that Obama's foreign policies fail to keep us safe". That would be one bit of Romneyish inanity, justifiably forgotten in a week. It's an act of a different caliber, to accuse the President of actually saying that murdering Americans because some other Americans insulted your faith is reasonable behavior. Shame on Mitt.