Romney: ‘Apology for American values is never the right course’
Mitt Romney held a press conference to discuss the situation in Egypt and Libya on Wednesday morning. The press corps was remarkably hostile, basically treating Romney’s early, forceful statement on the matter – delivered during a night of confused Administration bungles and total Obama silence – as if it were some sort of mistake, which he needed to clarify or apologize for. Romney was not in any mood for apologies.
Romney called the attacks on both the Cairo embassy and Benghazi consulate “outrageous and disgusting,” and said “it breaks the hearts of all of us who think of these people, who have served during their lives in the cause of freedom, in 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.”
“America will not tolerate attacks against our citizens and our embassies,” Romney declared. “We will defend, also, our Constitutional rights of speech, assembly, and religion. We have confidence in our cause, and 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.”
It was the Obama Administration’s pained difficulty in expressing and defending these principles that led Romney to speak up last night. “I believe the Administration was wrong to stand by a statement expressing sympathy with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt, instead of condemning their actions,” he said.
Addressing the weird developing narrative among Obama’s media supporters that he was somehow in error for speaking up too quickly, Romney said, “It’s never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans, and to defend our values.”
He criticized the confused attempts by the White House to distance itself from the Cairo embassy’s statements, saying this “reflects the mixed signals they’re sending to the world.” Later, Romney actually had to remind a reporter that the Administration controls its embassies, and the President is responsible for their statements.
He spoke of how the embassy attacks highlight the dangers still facing Americans around the world, and said the “Arab Spring” presents “an opportunity for a more peaceful and prosperous region, but also poses the potential for peril, if the forces of extremism and violence are allowed to control the course of events.”
Unlike President Obama, who ran away from his later press conference without taking any questions, Romney let the press have at him. They were primarily interested in portraying his early statement of outrage about the Egypt attack, and criticism of the Administration’s response, as a gaffe he needed to walk back somehow. Romney reminded them of the precise sequence of events, including the Cairo embassy and State Department’s insistence on reaffirming their apologies to the Islamists for the “abuse” of free speech that ostensibly set them off. He reminded reporters that the White House did issue a statement during the “unfolding” crisis last night… but it was nothing more than a vague effort to “distance” themselves from the words of the Cairo embassy.
After spending a moment searching for the right word, Romney settled on “a terrible course of action” to describe “standing in apology for our values.” “The first response should not be to say ‘yes, we stand by our comments that suggest there’s something wrong with the right of free speech.” He grew visibly irritated with reporters’ aggressive efforts to make him consider hypothetical scenarios, such as whether his statement about Cairo would have been different if he had known the U.S. ambassador to Libya would soon be murdered.
“Apology for America’s values is never the right course,” Romney declared, in what might prove to be a more memorable statement than anything contained in his prepared remarks.