Mr. "Tough"

What Happened at the Embassy, and More on Mitty

The Cairo embassy went rogue, which still doesn't excuse Romney.

Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy has done some excellent reporting on just what happened at the Cairo embassy. One staffer, named Larry Schwartz, a senior pr officer, wrote the initial press release deploring the film (not by name) and oversaw the Twitter feed, and he apparently expressly disobeyed orders from Foggy Bottom not to put the press release out.


Before issuing the press release, Schwartz cleared it with just one person senior to himself, Deputy Chief of Mission Marc Sievers, who was the charge d'affaires at the embassy on Tuesday because Ambassador Anne Patterson was in Washington at the time, the official said.

Schwartz sent the statement to the State Department in Washington before publishing and the State Department directed him not to post it without changes, but Schwartz posted it anyway.

"The statement was not cleared with anyone in Washington. It was sent as ‘This is what we are putting out,'" the official said. "We replied and said this was not a good statement and that it needed major revisions. The next email we received from Embassy Cairo was ‘We just put this out.'"

The article goes on to say that State found the original statement "tone deaf" and in need of "major revisions." The article does confirm, though, that the statement came out six hours before the violence started, which means Romney is a liar (yet again). That the embassy re-tweeted the statement "after the breach" doesn't help Romney's case. He clearly was trying to imply to people, in the original Tuesday night statement and yesterday morning at his press conference, that the US responded to attacks by apologizing. Obviously not what happened. After the breach, statements and tweets began also deploring violence.

Now, Romney defenders will say here, well, if State was so upset by Schwartz's statement, doesn't Romney have a point? The answer is, he'd have a point if he had said merely that the embassy's first statement was inappropriate and imbalanced and all too indicative of whatever he wanted it to indicative of about Barack Obama.

If he'd done that--no uproar. But he did a lot more. He lied about the chronology, and he issued a statement criticizing the administration at the precise moment his country was under attack and people were dying. That last part might just be bad luck, but that's the way it goes. That's why the standard advice is wait a day or so before diving into these things. It's precisely what he risked by insisting on releasing the statement when he did.

Finally, here's an interesting note that's worth remembering. For a couple of days before this statement, a crescendo was building in conservative pundit circles that Romney needed to get tough. George Will, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Bill Kristol, John Podhoretz, others; all saying things like Romney was running a safe, cautious campaign and needed to put the metal down.

In other words, once again, Romney was responding directly to these great sages. A Times story today--which seems to have run only in the earlier editions, replaced by a softer version that's missing some juicy quotes--affirms that Romney himself thought that his attack was a grand idea (if you can, find a cached version of the article by David A. Sanger and Ashley Parker, not by Peter Baker and Ashley Parker). it fit into their "narrative" about Obama. A narrative that is a lie to start with and that is believed and supported only by the ideological right.

He thinks, he genuinely thinks, these people represent the views and feelings of most Americans. They do not. Or, he secretly doesn't think that, but he has no power, no moral fiber, no character to disagree with them. The second is more likely the truth, I'm guessing. And it says something far worse about the man, although the first would be plenty bad enough.