"I believe the Administration was wrong", said Mitt Romney today, making it clear he wasn't backing down from the less-than-factual statement he made last night when he blamed the Obama administration for a conciliatory tweet sent out by the U.S. embassy in Egypt last night. This morning he doubled down, albeit in a confusing way, by saying:
We join together in the condemnation of attacks on the American embassies and the loss of American life and join in sympathy for these people. It’s also important for me, just as it was for the White House, last night by the way to say that the statements were inappropriate, and in my view a disgraceful statement on the part of our administration to apologize for American values...
That's a bit confusing: that Romney's siding with the White House in distancing itself from a tweet it didn't send, but still is holding the Obama administration for said tweet (again, that it did not send). "The president takes responsibility for his ambassadors ... his embassies ... the embassy is his administration," said Romney trying to explain the logic. " I think it’s a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values," he told reporters.
Here's the video of Romney's speech:
And here's a full transcript of Romney's statement today:
Good morning. Americans woke up this morning with tragic news and felt heavy hearts. As they consider that individuals that served in our diplomatic core were brutally murdered across the world.
This attack on American individuals and embassies is outrageous. It’s disgusting. It breaks the heart of all of us who think of these people who have served during their lives the cause of freedom and justice and honor. We mourn their loss. And join together in prayer that the spirit of the Almighty might comfort the families of those who have been so brutally slain.
Four diplomats lost their life. Including the US Ambassador, Jay Christopher Stevens, in the attack on our embassy at Benghazi, Libya. And of course, with these words, I extend my condolences to the grieving loved ones who have left behind as a result of these who have lost their lives in the service of our nation. And I know that people across America are grateful for their service. And we mourn their sacrifice.
America will not tolerate attacks against our citizens and against our embassies. We’ll defend, also, our constitutional rights of speech and assembly and religion. We have confidence in our cause in America. We respect our constitution. We stand for the principles our constitution protects. We encourage other nations to understand and respect the principles of our constitution. Because we recognize that these principles are the ultimate source of freedom for individuals around the world.
I also believe the administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt instead of condemning their actions. It’s never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values.
The White House distanced itself last night from the statement saying it wasn’t cleared by Washington. That reflects the mixed signals they’re sending to the world.
The attacks in Libya and Egypt underscore that the world remains a dangerous place. And American leadership is still sorely needed. In the face of this violence, America cannot shrink from the responsibility to lead. American leadership is necessary to ensure that events in the region don’t spin out of control. We cannot hesitate to use our influence in the region to support those who share our values and our interests.
Over the last several years, we stood witness to an Arab Spring that presents an opportunity for a more peaceful and prosperous region. But it also poses the potential for peril if the forces of extremism and violence are allowed to control the course of events. We must strive to ensure that the Arab Spring does not become an Arab Winter. With that, I’m happy to take any question you may have ...
Reporter: … statement you referred was very toughly worded statement last night. Do you regret the tone at all given what we know now?
Romney: The embassy in Cairo put out a statement after their grounds had been breached. Protesters were inside the grounds. They reiterated that statement after the breach. I think it’s a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values. That instead when our grounds are being attacked and being breached that the first response by the United States must be outrage at the breach of the sovereignty of our nation. An apology for America’s values is never the right course.
Reporter: Governor Romney, do you think though coming so soon after the events really had unfolded overnight was appropriate to be weighing on in this crisis as its unfolding in real time.
Romney: The White House also issued a statement saying it tried to distance itself from those comments and said they were not reflecting of their views. I had the exact same reaction. These views were inappropriate. They were the wrong course to take. When the embassy has been breached by protesters, the first response should not be to say, yes we stand by our comments that suggest that there’s something wrong with the right of free speech.
Reporter: What did the White House do wrong then, Governor Romney, if they put out a statement saying they disagreed with it?
Romney: It’s their administration. Their administration has spoke. The President takes responsibility not just for the words that come from his mouth, but also the words that come from his ambassadors, from his administration, from his embassies, from his State Department. They clearly sent mixed messages to the world. And the statement that came from the administration, and the embassy is the administration, the statement that came from the administration was a statement which was akin to apology. And I think was a severe miscalculation.
Reporter: Governor, you talk about mixed signals, the world is watching, isn’t this itself a mixed signal when you criticize the administration at a time when Americans are being killed. Shouldn’t politics stop for this?
Romney: We have a campaign for Presidency of the United States that are speaking about the different courses we would each take with regard to the challenges that the world faces. The President and I have differences of opinion with regards to Israel and our policies there. With regards to Iran, with regards to Afghanistan, with regards to Syria. We have many places of distinction and differences. We join together in the condemnation of attacks on American embassies and the loss of American life. And join in the sympathy of these people.
But it’s also important for me, just as it was for the White House last night by the way, to say that the statements were inappropriate. And in my view a disgraceful statement in the part our administration to apologize for American values.
Reporter: Governor, some people have said that you jumped the gun a little in putting that statement out last night and you should have waited until more details were available. Do you regret having that statement coming out so early before we learned about all the things that were happening?
Romney: I don’t think we ever hesitate when we see something that is a violation of our principles. We express immediately when we feel that the President and his administration have done something which is inconsistent with the principles of America.
Simply put, having an embassy which has been breached and has protesters on its grounds, having violating the sovereignty of the United States. Having that embassy reiterate a statement effectively apologizing for the right of free speech is not the right course for an administration.
Reporter: If you had known last night that the ambassador has died and obviously I’m gathering that you did not know.
Romney: Well, that came later.
Reporter: That’s right. If you had known, if the Ambassador had died, would you have issued such a strongly said statement.
Romney: I’m not going to take hypotheticals about what would’ve been known, what and so forth. We responded last night to the events that happened in Egypt.
Reporter: Governor Romney, one of your professed reasons for running is your economic know-how and your private sector experience. But now that foreign policy and the situation in the Middle East has been thrust into the Presidential campaign. Can you talk about why specifically you think you’re better qualified than President Obama handling these issues?
Romney: I think President Obama has demonstrated a lack of clarity as to a foreign policy. My foreign policy has three fundamental branches. First, confidence in our cause. A recognition that the principles America was based upon is not something we shrink from or apologize for. That we stand for those principles.
The second is clarity in our purpose. Which is when we have a foreign policy objective, we describe it honestly and clearly to the American people to Congress and to the people of the world.
And number three is resolve in our might. That in those rare circumstances, those rare circumstances where we decide its essential for us to apply military might. That we do so with overwhelming force. That we do so in the clarity of our mission. Understanding the nature of the US interest involved. Understanding when the mission is complete. What will be left behind us when that mission has been terminated.
These elements, I believe, are essential to our foreign policy and I haven’t seen them from the President. As I’ve watched over the past three and a half years, the President has had some successes, he’s had some failures. It’s a hit or miss approach. But it has not been based upon sound foreign policy.
Reporter: How specifically Governor Romney, would President Romney have handled this situation differently than President Obama did? You spoke out before midnight when all the facts weren’t known. How would you have handled this differently than the President did?
Romney: I spoke out when the key fact that I referred to was known. Which was that the embassy of the United States issued what appeared to be an apology for American principles. That was a mistake. And I believe that when a mistake is made of that significance, you speak out.
Romney's speech and defense of last night's statements haven't gone over well, not just that people were upset with the words he chose or the logic he employed, but they also believe it was a political misstep for the Republican nominee.
Reuters' Anthony De Rosa
This statement makes Romney seem small, not presidential— Anthony De Rosa (@AntDeRosa) September 12, 2012
Time's Mark Halperin
Unless Mitt has gamed crisis out in some manner completely invisible to Gang of 500,doubling down=most craven+ill-advised move of '12— Mark Halperin (@MarkHalperin) September 12, 2012
Foreign Policy's Blake Hounshell
The Romney campaign's politicization of the embassy attacks is even worse than I expected.— Blake Hounshell (@blakehounshell) September 12, 2012
Outside the Beltway's Doug Mataconis
Mistake for Romney to take questions. Mistake for him to try to politicize the death of four foreign service officers.— Doug Mataconis (@dmataconis) September 12, 2012