Romney Response To Middle East Crisis Shows He Is Not Ready To Lead

One of the nagging questions among many of us following politics is why everyone doesn’t realize that Mitt Romney is a pathological liar who says anything which he thinks will help his campaign, with total disregard for the truth. This was the day that many in the mainstream media who either failed to realize this, or considered it inappropriate to discuss, are now writing about this. Mitt Romney has finally gone too far for even some people who support his campaign and as a result his chances to win might have evaporated as John McCain’s chances to win ended when it became apparent that he was clueless as to how to respond to the financial melt down in 2008.

This was not supposed to be an election about foreign policy, but only if voters assume that the candidate of each party is competent to handle national security. Barack Obama himself demonstrated that an extraordinary individual might do an outstanding job without prior experience. Mitt Romney, however, is not an extraordinary individual, and his strengths lie in areas far removed from national security, or for that matter, any positions of leadership in government. Need someone to tear down a company, make money off its assets, and put people out of jobs–Mitt Romney will do an excellent job of this and make a good profit. Want someone who has any idea as to how to handle national security issues? Mitt Romney is like a Sarah Palin who couldn’t even see Russia from her house.

While there was a plan for both campaigns to avoid political attacks on the anniversary of the 9/11 attack, Mitt Romney could not manage to hold off on another dishonest attack past around 10 pm. The situation was set up by this statement from the U.S. embassy in Cairo:

U.S. Embassy Condemns Religious Incitement

September 11, 2012

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.

This statement, from the Embassy without support from the White House, was issued before the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic missions in Egypt and Libya began, most likely in the hopes of calming matters down before any serious violence began. After the attacks began, the right wing noise machine began to mischaracterize this with claims such as that Obama was apologizing to those doing the attacking. My bet is that Mitt Romney saw this as supporting his totally fabricated but ongoing attack line that Obama has been apologizing since taking office, and Romney issued this statement:

“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. 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.”

This was an outright lie, and Romney’s subsequent comments buried him further. The media reaction was strongly opposed to Romney, both for the dishonesty of his statement and for commenting while attacks on diplomatic missions were in progress, before all the information was in. There had already been serious doubts about Romney’s ability to handle foreign policy after the repeated fiascoes on his recent international trip. This confirmed that Mitt Romney is not prepared to be Commander-in-Chief.

First Read  was very critical of Romney (emphasis mine):

***  Over the top :Yesterday we noted that Mitt Romney, down in the polls after the convention, was   throwing the kitchen sink   at President Obama. Little did we know the kitchen sink would include — on the anniversary  of 9/11 — one of the most over-the-top and (it turns out)  incorrect attacks of the general-election campaign . Last night after 10:00 pm ET, Romney released a statement on the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Egypt and Libya. After saying he was “outraged” by these attacks and the death of an American consulate worker, Romney 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.” Yet after learning every piece of new information about those attacks, the Romney statement looks worse and worse — and simply off-key. First, Romney was referring to a statement that the U.S. embassy in Egypt issued condemning the “efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” But that embassy statement, which the White House has distanced itself from, was in reference to an anti-Islam movie and anti-Islam pastor Terry Jones, and it came out BEFORE the embassy attacks began. Then this morning, we learned that the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and others died in one of the attacks.

*** When news-cycle campaigning goes awry: 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 controversial embassy statement, the Romney camp argues, had occurred AFTER the unrest in Egypt and Libya had already begun (citing this CBS report) and that the statement had served as the administration’s sole response until about 10:00 pm ET.

It’s not good for a presidential candidate when he is not only exposed for lying, but compared to Sarah Palin. Mark Halperin, who frequently echoes conservative talking points, was similarly harsh on Romney:

Unless the Romney campaign has gamed this crisis out in some manner completely invisible to the Gang of 500, his doubling down on criticism of the President for the statement coming out of Cairo is likely to be seen as one of the most craven and ill-advised tactical moves in this entire campaign.

If Halperin is calling this “one of the most craven and ill-advised” moves, Romney better prepare for a couple of months in which the media might be more willing than in the past to expose Romney’s lies.

Conservatives tend to generally stay on message, but in this case responses from Republican leaders and foreign policy hands varied. The statement was too off the wall for many Republican Congressional leaders who have to face reelection and for those who wish to have any credibility beyond the right wing echo chamber. Others, such as Rush Limbaugh, for whom credibility is not an issue, joined Romney in spreading these bogus attacks. Just for fun, try to count all the lies in just the first paragraph of GOPUSA’s coverage:

GOP presidential candidate MItt Romney isn’t backing down. Not only is he sticking to his early statement which blasted the Obama administration’s “apology” to muslims in the aftermath of the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Romney also stood before the media and held a very presidential press conference. The media were in a frenzy trying to explain Obama’s actions, but Romney held firm.

Obama initially spoke publicly about the situation without reference to Romney. Late on Wednesday, after he already had near universal support outside of Wingnut Land, Obama finally responded to questions on Romney’s statements:

In response to Mitt Romney’s criticism of the Obama administration for its handling of recent violence in Egypt and Libya, President Obama told CBS News on Wednesday that Romney “seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later.”

“There’s a broader lesson to be learned here,” Mr. Obama told “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft at the White House. “And I — you know, Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later. And as president, one of the things I’ve learned is you can’t do that. That, you know, it’s important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts. And that you’ve thought through the ramifications before you make ’em.”

Asked if Romney’s attacks were irresponsible, the president replied, “I’ll let the American people judge that.”

Quote of the Day

“All across the Middle East in the streets, people are demanding democracy. It’s amazing. The only way in America you get people to get worked up like that is to threaten to give them health care.” –Bill Maher

Quote of the Day

“Hosni Mubarak reportedly didn’t understand the Internet and social networking. That may be true, but somehow he figured out how to wire $80 billion to Switzerland.” –David Letterman

Quote of the Day

“This whole revolution was started by a Facebook page. So Mubarak wasn’t so much as deposed as de-friended.” –Bill Maher

Quote of the Day

“Democracy is coming to more Arab counties than George W, Bush ever dreamed of, or heard of.” –Andy Borowitz

Egypt, The Koch Brothers, And Democracy

The challenge in Egypt is now to establish a democracy rather than slip back into another form of dictatorship. Since the Bush years, many Americans have feared that we are in danger of democracy slipping away here. Bob Herbert wrote about this challenge today:

In an Op-Ed article in The Times at the end of January, Senator John Kerry said that the Egyptian people “have made clear they will settle for nothing less than greater democracy and more economic opportunities.” Americans are being asked to swallow exactly the opposite. In the mad rush to privatization over the past few decades, democracy itself was put up for sale, and the rich were the only ones who could afford it.

The corporate and financial elites threw astounding sums of money into campaign contributions and high-priced lobbyists and think tanks and media buys and anything else they could think of. They wined and dined powerful leaders of both parties. They flew them on private jets and wooed them with golf outings and lavish vacations and gave them high-paying jobs as lobbyists the moment they left the government. All that money was well spent. The investments paid off big time.

As Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson wrote in their book, “Winner-Take-All Politics”: “Step by step and debate by debate, America’s public officials have rewritten the rules of American politics and the American economy in ways that have benefited the few at the expense of the many.”

As if the corporate stranglehold on American democracy were not tight enough, the Supreme Court strengthened it immeasurably with its Citizens United decision, which greatly enhanced the already overwhelming power of corporate money in politics. Ordinary Americans have no real access to the corridors of power, but you can bet your last Lotto ticket that your elected officials are listening when the corporate money speaks.

When the game is rigged in your favor, you win. So despite the worst economic downturn since the Depression, the big corporations are sitting on mountains of cash, the stock markets are up and all is well among the plutocrats. The endlessly egregious Koch brothers, David and Charles, are worth an estimated $35 billion. Yet they seem to feel as though society has treated them unfairly.

As Jane Mayer pointed out in her celebrated New Yorker article, “The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry — especially environmental regulation.” (A good hard look at their air-pollution record would make you sick.)

It’s a perversion of democracy, indeed, when individuals like the Kochs have so much clout while the many millions of ordinary Americans have so little. What the Kochs want is coming to pass. Extend the tax cuts for the rich? No problem. Cut services to the poor, the sick, the young and the disabled? Check. Can we get you anything else, gentlemen?

The Koch brothers have been the target of many liberal bloggers lately. I agree with criticism of them for matters such as their pollution record, criticism of the increased concentration of wealth among the ultra-wealthy, and criticism of a system which allows small numbers of wealthy people to have so much power. I do not object to the fact that they are spending money to promote their views (if you can look beyond the other areas of criticism). Personally I wouldn’t mind if we had more wealthy individuals spending money promoting democracy and true freedom. What is really amazing is the number of libertarians who see the Kochs as promoting liberty as opposed to oligarchy.

This leads to one of the reasons our democracy is in trouble–many on the right confuse limitation of government with liberty. In an era where there are many powerful forces, a liberal government is often essential to preserving liberty for the individual.  On the other hand, we must also be vigilant in preventing government from infringing upon our liberties. Here, far too many people on the right look the other way and advocate increased government action where it does not belong while complaining about legitimate actions of government.

In any discussion of the dangers to our democracy, we must include the importance of an informed electorate. The conservative dominance of the news media helps create the problem of people who see people like the Kochs as supporting rather than threatening freedom and democracy, along with the many falsehoods common on the right which I have discussed in multiple other posts. How can voters intelligently access health care reform when right wing media outlets are making false claims about death panels, job killing, and a government take-over of health care? How do voters evaluate proposals to deal with climate change when the right wing noise machine spreads the propaganda of the petroleum industry? How do individuals assess the candidates in a democracy when, hearing the false claims of the Swift Boat Liars and Birthers, along with distortions of the actual beliefs of liberal candidates?

Conspiracy Theory of the Day

Robert Gibbs and Hosni Mubarak both left their jobs the same day. Very suspicious. I mean, has anyone actually seen both Gibbs and Mubarak at the same time?

(This post is meant for Glenn Beck who could probably do a whole show based upon such speculation. I bet he would find it irresponsible to ignore the possibility that the President of Egypt was the Press Secretary to a Muslim President of the United States.).

Quote of the Day

“Dick Cheney says that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is a ‘good friend.’ Why am I not surprised by this?” –David Letterman

Quote Of The Day

“According to Fox News, The Muslim Brotherhood is the same organization that took over the White House in 2008.” –Andy Borowitz

NY Times Reporters Detained By Egyptian Secret Police

While CNN had a banner running quoting the Egyptian Prime Minister claiming they had no restrictions on the press, two detained New York Times reporters demonstrated why Mubarak should be overthrown:

We had been detained by Egyptian authorities, handed over to the country’s dreaded Mukhabarat, the secret police, and interrogated. They left us all night in a cold room, on hard orange plastic stools, under fluorescent lights.

But our discomfort paled in comparison to the dull whacks and the screams of pain by Egyptian people that broke the stillness of the night. In one instance, between the cries of suffering, an officer said in Arabic, “You are talking to journalists? You are talking badly about your country?”

A voice, also in Arabic, answered: “You are committing a sin. You are committing a sin.”

We — Souad Mekhennet, Nicholas Kulish and a driver, who is not a journalist and was not involved in the demonstrations — were detained Thursday afternoon while driving into Cairo. We were stopped at a checkpoint and thus began a 24-hour journey through Egyptian detention, ending with — we were told by the soldiers who delivered us there — the secret police. When asked, they declined to identify themselves.

Captivity was terrible. We felt powerless — uncertain about where and how long we would be held. But the worst part had nothing to do with our treatment. It was seeing — and in particular hearing through the walls of this dreadful facility — the abuse of Egyptians at the hands of their own government.

For one day, we were trapped in the brutal maze where Egyptians are lost for months or even years. Our detainment threw into haunting relief the abuses of security services, the police, the secret police and the intelligence service, and explained why they were at the forefront of complaints made by the protesters.

Many journalists shared this experience, and many were kept in worse conditions — some suffering from injuries as well.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, over the period we were held there were 30 detentions of journalists, 26 assaults and 8 instances of equipment being seized. We saw a journalist with his head bandaged and others brought in with jackets thrown over their heads as they were led by armed men.