international affairs

Ambassador’s Family Says His Death Shouldn’t Be Politicized

Bristish and US envoys to Libyan rebels Christopher Prentice (L) and Chris Stevens attend a press conference of Libyan rebel leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil (not pictured) after his meeting with African head of states, in the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi, on April 11, 2011. Libya's rebels reject any mediation which does not include the ouster of strongman Moamer Kadhafi, opposition chief Mustafa Abdul Jalil said after talks with African mediators. AFP PHOTO/MARWAN NAAMANI (Photo credit should read MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
Ambassador Stevens. Photo: MARWAN NAAMANI

With the next presidential debate tackling both domestic and foreign policy and Republicans stepping up their criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, it’s almost certain that Romney will raise the issue on Tuesday. The Obama campaign has already tried to fend off the attacks by accusing the Romney team of exploiting the tragedy for political gain, and their argument has been bolstered by family members of the four Americans killed in Libya, who say they don’t want their deaths to be part of the campaign. First Romney was forced to retire an anecdote about meeting former Navy SEAL Glen Doherty following a complaint from his mother, and now Ambassador Christopher Stevens’s family members have joined in. Over the weekend Stevens’s father, 77-year-old lawyer Jan Stevens, told Bloomberg News that he’s happy with the State Department’s investigation, adding, “It would really be abhorrent to make this into a campaign issue.”

When asked about the claim that the administration ignored requests for more security prior to the attack, Stevens said he and his son didn’t discuss the details of his work, but the ambassador never said anything critical of the State Department and felt Hillary Clinton was “an extremely able person.” Stevens said the State Department is giving him updates on the progress of the investigation. “The security matters are being adequately investigated,” Stevens said. “We don’t pretend to be experts in security. It has to be objectively examined. That’s where it belongs. It does not belong in the campaign arena.”

In an interview with Bloomberg News later on Sunday, Ambassador Stevens’s stepfather, Robert Commanday, agreed. “We don’t think it should be politicized,” he said. “We are not qualified any more than anyone else to form an opinion and we are going to leave it in the hands of the government.”

Unfortunately for the victims’ families, the attack in Libya has already become a political issue, but their pleas to leave their loved ones out of the campaign put Romney in an awkward position. Romney surrogates took a tough tone on the Sunday talk shows, with Senator Lindsey Graham declaring on Face the Nation that the Obama administration is either “misleading” Americans about attack, or being “incredibly incompetent.” If Romney launches a harsh attack during the debates, he runs the risk of hearing complaints from grieving family members as well as Obama campaign staffers the next day.

Ambassador’s Family: Death Isn’t Political Issue