Michael Barone tries to cover for Romney on his disgraceful response from last week:
When Mitt Romney condemned that statement, he was widely criticized by mainstream media. But his judgment was confirmed when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama ordered the statement taken down.
This ground has been covered before, but some people still want to engage in misleading revisionism. Romney’s decision to criticize the embassy statement was not the reason that Romney faced an immediate and overwhelming backlash. He faced a backlash because of his deliberate decision to claim that an unauthorized statement that predated the embassy attack was the administration’s first response to the attack, and in addition to that he misrepresented that statement as showing sympathy for embassy attackers. As Noah Millman explained, Romney’s response had the additional flaw of pretending that the American public is the only important audience for U.S. actions abroad:
It’s primarily relevant because it is of a piece with Romney’s bizarre foreign policy worldview, according to which the only important audience for our foreign policy statements is domestic.
In other words, the episode reflected Romney’s capacity for dishonesty, opportunism, and foreign policy incompetence all rolled into one. He was criticized by members of the media, and by many more people than that, because his response to the attacks conveyed his lack of judgment, his lack of experience, his lack of respect for diplomacy and for the people who are tasked with carrying it out, and above all his lack of scruples. When “elders” from his own party are griping that he made a serious mistake, it is hard to take seriously attempts to spin away what Romney did:
Yet there’s rare unanimity among top GOP officials, many of whom served in senior positions in Republican administrations, that Romney was unwise to pick this fight as an American ambassador lay dead in Libya.
“Where is the adult supervision?” one of these critics asked, claiming Romney was swayed by neocon hard-liners instead of more seasoned hands.
One would think that a major party presidential nominee would be the one providing “adult supervision,” not the one in need of it. The episode last week goes to the heart of what is worrisome about Romney on foreign policy. As much as everyone would like to believe that Romney is a “risk-averse” pragmatist who wouldn’t govern in the same way that he has campaigned, what we saw in the last week is the behavior of someone who is anything but risk-averse or pragmatic as these terms are generally understood. Perhaps because his campaign is desperate, Romney took an enormous gamble, and it failed spectacularly. That suggests that he doesn’t weigh costs and benefits as well as one would have thought he would. His willingness to make this gamble on the basis of a preposterous ideologically-driven lie concerning Obama’s “apology tour” tells us that he is far more beholden to or in agreement with the ideology he has been promoting over the last few years than many people thought possible. As Doyle McManus pointed out in a new column, it is Obama who is the real “risk-averse” candidate in the race, and Romney is the one pushing for a “costlier, but bolder” foreign policy*.
Romney’s judgment last week was not confirmed by any administration actions. Their disavowal of the unauthorized embassy statement demonstrates the bankruptcy and absurdity of Romney’s original statement. Their condemnation of the attacks rendered everything Romney was saying void. Romney disgraced himself last week, and the partisans that continue to defend what he did only embarrass themselves.
* To be absolutely clear: when I say that Obama is the “risk-averse” candidate, this is in comparison with Romney. Obama is far, far less risk-averse than I or any other non-interventionist should prefer.