"The Embassy is the Administration"

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 12 2012 12:25 PM

"The Embassy is the Administration"

Mitt Romney's morning press conference on the embassy attacks is recorded for posterity below. He gave it as all manner of reporters were getting their sources to dump on the Romney campaign. Very cool-headed.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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It's also a bit slippery. Last night Romney said this: "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." All day, reporters have been pointing out that the administration's full response contradicted the Egyptian embassy -- which put out its statement before the fatal and unrelated attacks in Libya. Romney's clean-up: "The embassy is the administration." According to his read, "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 embassies, from his State department." When the White House contradicted the embassy, "I had the exact same reaction. These views were inappropriate. They were the wrong course to take."

And so this is our new-new criticism of the Obama response.

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.

I think Romney's trying to finesse the confusion over an event that happened half the world away, at night, when very few Americans were reading news. The original embassy statement went out before anyone had been hurt. But most people heard about the embassy violence. Today, they'll see images of the violence. And so, as this news trickles in, they're supposed to know that Romney condemned the "apology" of the Obama administration, but not to know precisely what part of the administration apologized, or what for.

Is that the plan? I'm doing my level best here.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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