Can Romney regain credibility after his Cairo/Libya Embassy blunder?

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  • #1
Evo
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Main Question or Discussion Point

Will Romney be able to overcome his huge embassy debacle? What he said wasn't true, he had the facts wrong, he had the timelines wrong. The longer he waits before retracting and apologizing the worse it looks for him, IMO.

The fact that this came from the Republican candidate for President is just mind boggling, IMO.

How badly did Romney botch response to Libya attack?

The conventional wisdom emerged in Washington almost immediately on Wednesday: Mitt Romney's handling of the violence in Egypt and Libya was a disaster.

"The comments were a big mistake, and the decision to double down on them was an even bigger mistake," Steve Schmidt, senior campaign strategist to Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, told CBS News. "There are legitimate criticisms to be made but you foreclose on your ability to make them when you try to score easy political points. And the American people, when the country is attacked, whether they're a Republican or Democrat or independent, want to see leaders who have measured responses, not leaders whose first instinct is to try to score political points."
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57511707/how-badly-did-romney-botch-response-to-libya-attack/

Romney foreign policy attack was disgraceful

But in the hours after the death of the first U.S. ambassador killed in decades, Mitt Romney -- panicked as his poll numbers have slipped -- punched hard against the president, unleashing an unwise, inaccurate and unpresidential attack on the Obama administration.

<snip>

This is not just politics as usual but something far lower. By point of comparison, when Ronald Reagan was confronted with the downed-helicopter rescue mission ordered by President Jimmy Carter to save the American hostages in the U.S. Embassy in Iran, he did not see it as opportunity to score political points. Instead, Reagan said, "This is the time for us as a nation and a people to stand united." Likewise, George H.W. Bush, then also running for president, said "I unequivocally support the president of the United States -- no ifs, ands or buts -- and it certainly is not a time to try to go one-up politically. He made a difficult, courageous decision." (Hat-tip to The Atlantic for unearthing these statements.)

No wonder a wide array of Republican foreign policy experts rose to condemn Romney's comments, including the longtime speechwriter and senior aide to Sen. John McCain, Mark Salter, who wrote: "to condemn (Obama) for policies they claim helped precipitate the attacks is as tortured in its reasoning as it is unseemly in its timing."
http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/13/opinion/avlon-romney-libya-attack/index.html

Who knows how much Romney asked his aides about the source or timing of the original statement that prompted his remarks. It’s unclear whose idea the hastily arranged news conference was. And if it was Romney who pushed to make the statement and approved its content, it’s hard to tell whether anyone advised him otherwise.

In either case, political opportunity, rather than presidential protocol, appears to have driven the decision. As Chris Cillizza quoted Republican strategist John Weaver saying: “they allow tactics to dictate strategy, instead of vice versa.” When it comes to leadership, however, neither tactics nor strategy should ever come before judgment—of a candidate or his advisers.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-leadership/post/behind-mitt-romneys-libya-statement/2012/09/13/b642160a-fdd8-11e1-b153-218509a954e1_blog.html

While President Obama dealt with the killings of an ambassador and three other Americans and deflected questions about his handling of the Arab world, Mitt Romney, the Republican seeking his job, wasted little time going on the attack, accusing the president of apologizing for American values and appeasing Islamic extremists.

But Mr. Romney came under withering criticism for distorting the chain of events overseas and appearing to seek political advantage from an attack that claimed American lives. A statement he personally approved
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/13/us/politics/behind-romneys-decision-to-criticize-obama-on-libya.html?_r=3&hp

Romney’s Libya Response Fuels Foreign Policy Doubts

It was supposed to be a clear-eyed rebuke of the sitting president’s approach to a foreign-policy crisis.

Instead, Mitt Romney’s criticism of President Barack Obama’s handling of the attacks in Egypt and Libya that led to the death of a U.S. ambassador yesterday fueled questions -- even among his allies -- about the Republican presidential nominee’s inexperience on national security as his campaign is pushing to gain traction by refocusing on jobs and the economy.
http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-09-12/romney-criticized-for-handling-of-libya-protests-death [Broken]
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
BobG
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Foreign policy isn't Romney's strong suit.

All in all, Romney is fairly one dimensional. He has had a very good grasp on business and economics, but has never been very strong on anything else.

That can work for a governor, but it doesn't work so well for a President.
 
  • #3
SixNein
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Will Romney be able to overcome his huge embassy debacle?
I don't think it matters because our political environment is very polarized.
 
  • #4
Evo
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I don't think it matters because our political environment is very polarized.
I think it matters very much to people that understand the grave importance of the President having the ability to fathom foreign policy and that can handle an international crisis. Not to mention telling lies so blatant that there's no defending them, IMO.

I haven't seen such an outpouring of negative feedback on a candidate since Palin, IMO.
 
  • #5
lisab
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I think it matters very much to people that understand the grave importance of the President having the ability to fathom foreign policy and that can handle an international crisis. Not to mention telling lies so blatant that there's no defending them, IMO.

I haven't seen such an outpouring of negative feedback on a candidate since Palin, IMO.
I agree, it's been devastating...but then I'm in a blue state, and I don't have a TV, so I don't know what media most people see. But for a guy who already has credibility issues (the flip-floppy thing), this can't help.
 
  • #6
SixNein
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I think it matters very much to people that understand the grave importance of the President having the ability to fathom foreign policy and that can handle an international crisis. Not to mention telling lies so blatant that there's no defending them, IMO.

I haven't seen such an outpouring of negative feedback on a candidate since Palin, IMO.
Conservatives will just blame the liberal media for all of this criticism and make Romney out to be a victim. In addition, I think his comments will be very appealing to the tea party and to those wanting him to talk tough.

And all of this will be forgotten in a few weeks time because the real race is over the economy.
 
  • #7
Evo
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Conservatives will just blame the liberal media for all of this criticism and make Romney out to be a victim.
LOL, well, there will always be people that refuse to admit the truth, but it seems this time that the lie Romney told is so blatant and been discussed so widely, that not many will be able to ignore it, IMO. I don't think this will go away before the election, it's too important, but time will tell.
 
  • #8
phinds
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What he said wasn't true, he had the facts wrong, he had the timelines wrong.
Why would you expect this to be different from any other Romney statement?
 
  • #9
SixNein
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  • #10
skippy1729
Will Romney be able to overcome his huge embassy debacle? What he said wasn't true, he had the facts wrong, he had the timelines wrong.
I assume that you are referring to the fact that the embassy apology statement occurred
before the actual break-in. Did he have any other facts wrong?

I find that the embassy apology statement was inappropriate regardless of when it was issued. Of course, your opinion on this may differ from mine.

The administration has seen fit to disavow:

"The statement by Embassy Cairo was not cleared by Washington and does not reflect the views of the United States government," an administration official told POLITICO.

http://www.politico.com/politico44/2012/09/white-house-disavows-cairo-apology-135247.html
 
  • #11
Evo
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I assume that you are referring to the fact that the embassy apology statement occurred
before the actual break-in. Did he have any other facts wrong?
Yes, he flat out lied when he said this
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.
skippy said:
I find that the embassy apology statement was inappropriate regardless of when it was issued.
They made no apology. Have you actually read the statement? As you can see, there is no apology, that was invented by Romney.

embassy said:
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.
 
  • #12
russ_watters
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It looks like sympathy to me, Evo (Romney didn't say "apology"). The attacks (starting with violent protests) were done because of disrespect of Islam and the Embassy was saying it disagrees with disrespect of Islam. Translation: ' you've been wronged and we sympathize with you, so don't attack us!'

Was the timeline in Romney's statement an error? A lie? Prescience?

Later, Clinton at least criticized the violence too, but still puts most of her effort into criticizing the video: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/theoval/post/2012/09/13/clinton-libya-egypt-film/70000272/1#.UFMVl42PWBA

Not as bad as the embassy statement, but still along a similar track.

Additionally, the removal of the statement from the embassy website appears to me to be a tacit acknowledgement that it was wrongly toned. Conclusion:? (opinion)

Romney was right about the content of the embassy statement. Focusing on the timing in order to get him in an otherwise meaningless "gotcha" lie is a pathetic attempt to distract from this. But the media sold it well and people are buying it; hook, line and sinker.

As far as the disrespect angle is concerned? It is a matter of opinion, but IMO respect has to go both ways and Obama has been plenty ugly in this campaign. Democrats would of course love it if Romney supported Obama -- nothing is better than an endorsement from your opponent! But the idea that he should is just silly. If one were never allowed to criticize the President, not only would it never be possible for one to lose a re-election, this also wouldn't be America. There is of course a risk of hitting an incumbent too hard and that's the benefit of being an incumbent -- but it shouldn't be a total license to hide behind your job title.

Can Romney recover? Depends. We're in the middle of a firestorm that the media has done a great job of creating for Obama. But it will fade. And as it does, Romney needs to keep hammering his message. Perhaps eventually, the people the media enraged will calm down and start actually analyzing the content of the message. If that happens, this issue may just swing to favor Romney. The title is, of course, presumptuous. Clearly, if we can move past direct discussion of the incident and just discuss the after-effects on Romney, it becomes a universally agreed-upon conclusion that Romney was wrong. But as the reporters said to (asked) Romney over and over and over and over in a press conference: that's "jumping the gun". Sure, it's a good trick, but Romney will need to keep the focus on/move it back to the actual statement.

Perhaps the bigger question is whether the media can regain credibility after this?
 
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  • #13
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Romney didn't say "apology"
According to Politifact, he did use the word apology.

"The embassy in Cairo put out a statement after their grounds had been breached," Romney told reporters. "Protesters were inside the grounds. They reiterated that statement after the breach. I think it’s a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values. That instead, when our grounds are being attacked and being breached, that the first response of the United States must be outrage at the breach of the sovereignty of our nation. An apology for America’s values is never the right course."
 
  • #14
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Additionally, the removal of the statement from the embassy website appears to me to be a tacit acknowledgement that it was wrongly toned. (opinion)
I believe it was because some people in the US were deliberately mistranslating the statement as
Translation: ' you've been wronged and we sympathize with you, so don't attack us!'
to get bit ahead.
 
  • #15
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If one were never allowed to criticize the President, not only would it never be possible for one to lose a re-election, this also wouldn't be America.
This is a false dichotomy. The issue isn't whether 'one were never allowed to criticize the president' but rather whether there are occasions when it would be better not to. Moreover, it draws a false conclusion. Evo's post shows two examples where the opposing candidate supported the president under comparable situations. Reagan defeated an incumbent.
 
  • #16
russ_watters
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According to Politifact, he did use the word apology.
My mistake. I was responding only to the quotes in the posts I quoted.

I don't agree with "apology", but it is a pretty thin difference in tone vs what was actually said by the embassy. Maybe this part is more for the other thread though.
 
  • #17
russ_watters
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I believe it was because some people in the US were deliberately mistranslating the statement as

to get bit ahead.
I guess I'll address it in the other thread, but people are quick to disagree with that translation without providing their own or a reason.
 
  • #18
AlephZero
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To answer the OP's question, you have to have something before you can regain it.

The problem with the statement
I think it’s a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values.
Is that it can easily be parsed as "Our values are self evidently right, and if the values of the 95% of the human race who are not US citizens are different, they are self evidently wrong."

Which would be funny, except that there seem to be people who really believe it.
 
  • #19
russ_watters
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This is a false dichotomy. The issue isn't whether 'one were never allowed to criticize the president' but rather whether there are occasions when it would be better not to. Moreover, it draws a false conclusion. Evo's post shows two examples where the opposing candidate supported the president under comparable situations. Reagan defeated an incumbent.
I think it was one example, but in any case, in a free society, I am loath to err on the side of undue deference. Also, there is much hypocrisy here: Bush did not receive the same deference and in one case it was even more blatant: it is an unwritten rule that former presidents should not criticize current Presidents. Carter broke that.
 
  • #20
russ_watters
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To answer the OP's question, you have to have something before you can regain it.

The problem with the statement

Is that it can easily be parsed as "Our values are self evidently right, and if the values of the 95% of the human race who are not US citizens are different, they are self evidently wrong."

Which would be funny, except that there seem to be people who really believe it.
That is nowhere close to accurate, but even if it were, it wouldn't fit your conclusion! Yikes!

edit, explanation:

1. The value in question here is freedom of speech and most people agree with us about it. Freedom of speech is included in the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

2. Even if others disagreed about the importance of freedom of speech, people should not be expected to make statements against their own beliefs and should be expected to say their beliefs are right. It is self-evidently true that if you believe something and someone else believes the opposite, you think you are right and they are wrong.
 
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  • #21
Evo
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Romney was right about the content of the embassy statement. Focusing on the timing in order to get him in an otherwise meaningless "gotcha" lie is a pathetic attempt to distract from this. But the media sold it well and people are buying it; hook, line and sinker.
It's Romney's own words, not "what the media said" Romney was wrong.

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.
Please show us where in the original embassy message below that they "sympathize with those who waged the attacks". Not to mention no attacks had even been made yet.

embassy said:
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.
 
  • #22
mheslep
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How is the US embassy in Cairo statement *not* in sympathy with the expressed religious sentiments of those that eventually broke into the Cairo embassy?

efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. ... to hurt the religious beliefs of others.
 
  • #23
russ_watters
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It's Romney's own words, not "what the media said" Romney was wrong.

Romney said

Please show us where in the original embassy message below that they "sympathize with those who waged the attacks". Not to mention no attacks had even been made yet.
Addressed in the other thread, with the caveat that you're trying to set an unreasonable bar. Neither an apology nor sympathy require use of the words "apology" or "sympathy", only statements that fit the definition. Full treatment here: https://www.physicsforums.com/showpost.php?p=4072921&postcount=19
 
  • #24
Evo
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Addressed in the other thread, with the caveat that you're trying to set an unreasonable bar. Neither an apology nor sympathy require use of the words "apology" or "sympathy", only statements that fit the definition.
This is addressed by the experts here, seems they all agree that the US Embassy statement was not in any form an apology.

Did the U.S. embassy in Cairo make an apology?

What three apology experts say

To explore whether the statement represented an apology, we sent it to the four experts we interviewed for our previous fact-check on Romney's claim about Obama's apology tour. Here are the comments of the three who responded:

•John Murphy, a communications professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who studies presidential rhetoric and political language, said Romney was wrong to label it an apology.

"First, the statement does not use the word ‘apology’ or ‘apologize’ and does not use any synonym for that word. There is no statement here that says, ‘We are sorry.’

"Second, the grammar of the statement condemns the actions of a third party. An apology, to be pedantic, is when the first party says to the second party, ‘I have offended you and I am sorry.’ This statement condemns a third party -- misguided individuals -- that does not officially represent the United States. The term ‘individuals’ dissociates them from the U.S. Therefore, it's impossible to say that this is an apology from the U.S. to anyone.

"Third, the statement does not apologize for the right of free speech; it affirms it. It condemns those who abuse the right of free speech, but it claims that this is a universal right, as is religious toleration. So, the statement does not like what the misguided individuals said and did, but recognizes they have a right to do it."

"It's a condemnation," Murphy said, "not an apology."

• Lauren Bloom, an attorney and business consultant who wrote The Art of the Apology, said that Romney is "once again allowing his emotional allergy to apology to interfere with his judgment."

Bloom said that "if there's anything more central to American values than respecting each individual's right to worship as he or she pleases, I'd be hard-pressed to say what it might be. The statement that ‘respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy’ not only is true, but is as clear an expression of one of our most cherished values as I can imagine."

She said the embassy statement is "not an apology -- quite the contrary, it's a confirmation that the American people recognize the right to worship freely and will not accept religious bullying in the name of free speech. To say that someone who deliberately insults others in the name of religion has acted wrongly isn't an apology -- it's simply a recognition that those insults go too far."

• Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann, a professor who studies international human rights and maintains the website Political Apologies and Reparations, a database of documents on apologies, said the statement is "not an apology."

Rather, she said, "it is a condemnation of ‘abuse’ of the universal value of free speech. A condemnation is not an apology. … The Embassy statement also reaffirms two American values: the American value of respect for religious beliefs and the American value of democracy."
http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2012/sep/12/romney-says-us-embassy-statement-was-apology-was-i/
 
  • #25
mheslep
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Apology experts? Our grasp of english and common sense is so lacking in credibility that we're to be overruled by apology experts? When PolitiFact, i.e the Tampa Bay Times, wants to get back to things like citing the date of the moon landing or the size of the debt they can get back to me.
 

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