After taking flak from both Democrats and Republicans for saying that President Obama sympathizes with protesters following the fatal attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, Mitt Romney appeared to be backing down at a Virginia campaign stop on Thursday, merely saying that America seems at the “mercy of events, instead of shaping events.” Then in a Washington Post interview posted Thursday night, a top Romney foreign policy adviser suggested the deadly protests wouldn’t have happened on Romney’s watch. “There’s a pretty compelling story that if you had a President Romney, you’d be in a different situation,” said Richard Williamson. “For the first time since Jimmy Carter, we’ve had an American ambassador assassinated.” Yet a New York Times article released around the same time says that in an interview Williamson and another adviser “conceded it was not clear that could have stopped the attack that killed the American ambassador there and three other American officers.”
For the Times piece, the advisers were asked how Romney would have responded differently to this week’s events in the Middle East. The full passage reads:
And the United States would have been far more involved in the formation of a new Libya, the advisers insisted, though they conceded it was not clear that could have stopped the attack that killed the American ambassador there and three other American officers.
The Washington Post article starts:
Advisers to Mitt Romney on Thursday defended his sharp criticism of President Obama and said that the deadly protests sweeping the Middle East would not have happened if the Republican nominee were president.
“There’s a pretty compelling story that if you had a President Romney, you’d be in a different situation,” Richard Williamson, a top Romney foreign policy adviser, said in an interview. “For the first time since Jimmy Carter, we’ve had an American ambassador assassinated.”
Williamson added, “In Egypt and Libya and Yemen, again demonstrations — the respect for America has gone down, there’s not a sense of American resolve and we can’t even protect sovereign American property.”
Unfortunately the Times doesn’t quote Williamson directly (though that could change by tomorrow), but the contradiction would actually fit with Romney’s earlier strategy of saying he both agrees and disagrees with President Obama’s response to the Cairo embassy attack.
Williamson also criticizes Obama’s confusing stance on our relationship with Egypt, telling the Post, “The president can’t even keep track of who’s our ally or not. This is amateur hour — it’s amateur hour.” As Stuart Stevens, Romney’s chief political strategist, explains, the candidate has already proven his superiority to President Obama in foreign policy matters:
“It was an issue with Barack Obama four years ago, given the fact that he was younger and had little experience, and given his answers in the debates. He had stumble after stumble with foreign policy. Mitt Romney hasn’t. He’s run for president twice now and it’s not been his problem.”
If there’s any doubt, just take a look at this summer’s 100 percent gaffe-free world tour.