Human Events Blog

Foreign policy and the spirit of the staircase

The attempt to construct a media narrative around Mitt Romney’s swift, unequivocal denunciation of the attacks on American embassy grounds and personnel on September 11, and his criticism of the Obama Administration’s immediate response, as some kind of “gaffe” is bizarre and foolish.

For starters, it’s long past time to stop allowing media liberals to indulge the most intense leftist criticisms of Republican presidents during times of crisis… then scream “politics stops at the water’s edge!” and bury their heads in the sands of the nearest beach, when the president is a Democrat.  I think we all remember the Bush years to know what a crock that is.

And nothing Mitt Romney said could be construed as any sort of effort to aid and comfort the enemy, comparable to the noxious emissions of creeps like Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois – whose comparison of American troops at Guantanamo Bay to Nazis during the Bush era didn’t prevent him from getting a plum assignment to introduce the subsequent proprietor of Gitmo at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.  Once again, hyperventilating reporters, pundits, and Obama campaign operatives are straying far away from what Romney actually said on Tuesday night.  His statement read as follows:

“I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi.  It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

There are some significant differences between Romney’s statement and anything offered by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or their staff.  For one thing, Romney condemned both the Libyan and Egyptian attacks.  Even as late as his statement on Wednesday morning, Obama had nothing to say about events in Cairo.

Romney also offered none of the qualifications or apologetics that have marred everything coming from the Administration.  It’s really not that hard to put a firm “PERIOD” after a statement like “I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi.”  But apparently it’s beyond the imagination of Obama and Clinton.

Timing is an essential component of leadership, too.  It matters that a leader speaks up quickly.  The first words spoken in a hour of crisis are revealing, and long remembered.  It is highly significant that Obama’s embassy staff in Cairo was reflexively willing to sacrifice free speech to illuminate its notion of respect for religion, doubled down on that position after the embassy grounds were violated, and then deleted its most offensive social media postings when the heat was turned up.

(This led to a remarkable amount of confusion for pliable media operatives.  Amazingly, Mitt Romney actually had to explain to them, during his press conference Wednesday morning, that the Cairo embassy did indeed stand by its denunciations of free speech after embassy soil was assaulted.  Is the mainstream press really that easy to bamboozle, just by deleting a few Tweets?  That’s some awesome “fact checking” you “real reporters” have going there!)

Even after having hours to prepare and coordinate statements, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were still prefacing their condemnation of attacks on American soil, and the first murder of a U.S. ambassador in three decades, with their “we reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others” language.  That is not the subject under discussion.  It is a concession to the barbarians to accept it as a topic of equivalent importance to the destruction of embassy property, much less the murder of an ambassador.

The French have a great phrase for all the things people decide they should have said, once the heat of the moment has passed, and it’s far too late: “the spirit of the staircase.”  The immediate responses of the Obama Administration matter as much as what they cook up after their speechwriting teams have been given eight or ten hours to think it over.  Obama and Clinton are speaking from the staircase, and they’re still not making as much sense as Romney did, when he stepped forward during the hour of crisis to offer the correct response to outrageous violence. Leadership is a matter of both content and timing.

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