In this overheated political season where partisans regularly indulge in hyperbolic reactions to the unfolding of world events, one politician has stepped over the line and lit a match to the tinderbox, which is the post-Arab Spring Middle East.
On Tuesday Sept. 11, after well-armed extremists stormed the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, resulting in the deaths of four Americans including our Ambassador, a test of leadership was proffered to both President Obama and GOP presidential nominee Romney.
A statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, prior to the attack, designed to soften an expected backlash against a now infamous anti-Islam Internet video, proved an unwise and hasty catalyst for candidate Romney’s aspirations.
As most everyone has heard by now -- the angsty Romney, slipping in the polls, big-footed his way into the spotlight that very evening by releasing a statement that read, "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."
Yet the release of the incendiary video and the Benghazi attack in all likelihood were not even related. Al Qaeda’s new commander, Ayman al-Zawahiri had demanded revenge attacks for the recent CIA killing of the group’s second in command, Abu Yahya al-Libi, who was Libyan.
Although Romney was confronted with his misstep at every turn, over the course of the week, he appears determined to misuse the crisis as a means to his end. Arguably, in this case, a flip-flop would be welcome.
Even as more temperate figures on the right have voiced alarm, Team Romney has poured gasoline on the tinderbox and is busy fanning the flames. The usual suspects at Fox News have tagged President Obama a terrorist sympathizer, and top Romney foreign policy adviser Richard Williamson alleged the attacks on American embassies would not have occurred under a President Romney.
In tandem came the spontaneous combustion of anti-American sentiment erupting in more than a dozen nations where protestors have directed their outrage against the anti-Islam video at the U.S. government.
The NeoCon conspiracy theory that the Obama Administration is arming Islamic terrorists and working to bring shari’a law to the U.S. has whipped conservative bloggers into a frenzy back home.
President Obama condemned the embassy attack calling it "outrageous and shocking" and vowed to bring those responsible to justice. Two warships have been ordered to the Libyan coast.
Secretary of State Clinton made a distinction between the attackers and the Libyan people and government and stated that the U.S. government had nothing to do with the “awful internet video” that has incited rage and violence against America. Both Obama and Clinton were present at Andrews Air Force Base to honor the four fallen Americans.
But, even as the flag-draped coffins are returned home and violence continues in the streets overseas, Romney has done nothing to quash the ongoing game of right wing telephone.
Could Team Romney possibly believe that spurring anti-American sentiment, violent protests and perhaps even new wars across the Middle East will win them the White House in November?
No, they couldn’t. That would make them monsters.