Is there panic yet in neoconland, as its favorite presidential candidate and prime minister strive for simultaneous implosion? Some signs of it, certainly. Bill Kristol hopes that that Romney will refine and extend his arguments, which he can prepare by attending more neocon foreign policy seminars:
Will Romney follow up this moment with sober foreign policy statements and substantive speeches? Will he put behind him once and for all two misconceptions that have bedeviled his campaign—that foreign policy is a distraction, and that, when Romney does dip into foreign policy, it’s enough simply to take swipes at Obama? Will Romney seize the moment to spend time with some of his serious foreign policy advisers—even if to do so he has to cancel a trip to a swing state or (gasp!) a fundraiser—in order really to think through the meaning of these events, and prepare serious, presidential-level responses?
Translation: “Romney is screwing up by spending too much time politicking, not enough being prepped by Bob Kagan and Elliott.” One does not have to sympathize with Kristol to recognize the campaign is turning into an embarrassment. For a supposedly intelligent candidate to present vulgar religious bigotry as a core American value — and make no mistake, that is what the Romney and his supporters are doing by doubling down on attacking the Cairo embassy’s criticism of the “Sam Bacile” movie — seems insane.
Romney campaign talking point for surrogates (via Gail Collins):
The Romney campaign, according to CNN, helpfully passed out suggestions for supporters who might want to defend Mitt. (When asked whether he was too quick on the attack, loyalists were supposed to say: “No. It is never too soon to stand up for American values and interests.”)
But what are the values and interests here? It’s free speech only in the sense that Nazis marching through Skokie is free speech — something to be tolerated for constitutional reasons, but hardly exalted as our face to the Muslim world.
The question of Islam is far from an easy one, and part of my gut responds to the Cairo embassy assault as Pat Lang did on his sic semper tyranis blog:
Cut off their money. Withdraw the embassy. Having done this once and gotten away with it, they will be back for more as in Teheran long ago. It is not a coincidence that this happened on the anniversary of 9/11.
But there are good, not gut-related, arguments against that, which I will get to later.