Peter Feaver does his best to ignore the substance of Romney’s statement on Tuesday:
But to argue that Romney’s critique crossed a line and justified the aggressive political response of Obama partisans — as, to pick just one from dozens of ardent Obama partisans in the media, Dana Milbank, does — requires that you ignore completely the substance of Romney’s critique and focus entirely on the timing and tone, which, of course, is what Milbank and the rest of the campaign does.
It’s telling that Feaver accuses others of doing exactly what he is doing. The substance of Romney’s Tuesday night statement can’t be defended on the merits at all, so the next best defense is to claim that critics have ignored the substance. As I said earlier today, the timing and tone may have been bad, but they don’t account for the fierce backlash against what Romney said. The relevant part of Romney’s statement was this:
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.
The substance of Romney’s critique, such as it is, consists of a false accusation (the first response was to “sympathize” with embassy attackers), which is based on an equally baseless framing of Obama’s foreign policy record (the so-called “apology tour”). Even if Romney were right to hold the Obama administration responsible for an unauthorized statement, the embassy statement doesn’t support Romney’s accusation, either. The embassy statement wasn’t evidence of sympathy for the attackers.
The truth is that Romney was trying to link his opponent in the minds of the public with the people attacking U.S. diplomatic missions. He made this attempt on the basis of the flimsiest evidence available. His accusation was then repeatedly shown to be false before he appeared at his Wednesday morning press conference. Undeterred by having been proven wrong, Romney pressed his dishonest attack once again. Since then, Romney’s defenders have worked very hard to avoid addressing the substance of Romney’s statement, perhaps because they know they can’t defend it and don’t even want to try.