Did the Cairo embassy not read the newspapers? The Egypt Independent, after all, reported Tuesday that Egypt’s General Intelligence Service warned of a jihadi group planning to launch terrorist attacks against the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Cairo.
Romney shied away from asking. He did say Obama’s administration sent “mixed messages to the world” because it initially decided to “stand by” the embassy statement — only to pull it down along with the embassy tweets.
But days later, Romney gave an ABC interview in which he, too, condemned the anti-Muslim video as “simply inappropriate and wrong” — just like the statement from the embassy that he criticized.
Romney also noted the video Innocence of Muslims is protected Constitutional speech — which the embassy did as well on Sept. 11.
Obama was well out of Florida by the time the uprising took place. His trip went off as planned, with the bonus of the feel-good bear hug that the news media lapped up.
The president’s top surrogate, former President Bill Clinton, was in Miami on Tuesday and in Orlando on Wednesday, and pointedly steered clear of the issue, which threatens to dog the administration if the protests continue.
Outside of the economy, if there’s anything that could damage the president in the polls, it could be the ongoing images of smoldering or besieged consulates and embassies, outside of which protesters chant “Obama, Obama! We are all Osama!”
Suddenly, a foreign policy wrapped around with the killing of Osama bin Laden could be a tougher sell. So might the statements of Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who tried Sunday to downplay the role al-Qaeda might have played in the Benghazi attacks, even though Democrats like Florida Sen. Bill Nelson believe there’s probably a link.
Still, it’s difficult for Romney to make Obama look weak on foreign policy when the president gave the go-ahead to kill bin Laden and assassinate suspected terrorists via remote-control drone strikes, despite the opposition from nominal allies like Pakistan.
As the Middle East protests continued, Romney’s running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, came to Oldsmar in Tampa Bay at week’s end and spent just a few minutes on foreign policy.
Most of his speech was about the economy, which was supposed to be the centerpiece of a campaign that, before Tuesday, had called foreign policy “a distraction from the administration’s terrible economic record.”
“If we project weakness, they come,” Ryan said Saturday. “If we are strong, our adversaries will not test us and our allies will respect us.”
Whether that’s true or not (militants have violently attacked the U.S. under almost every Republican and Democratic president for the past three decades) is a subject for the campaign and, ultimately, voters to flesh out.
But Ryan’s speech was the type many Republican campaign hands wanted Romney to give. And that’s what makes Republicans just a little more nervous — and Democrats a little happier — these days in Florida.