Even before the debate was over Tuesday night, it was obvious from the look on Mitt Romney's face and his posture that he had made a big mistake in challenging President Obama over his handling of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. Indeed, it may have been the biggest mistake in his debates so far. Afterward, however, Romney aides and surrogates made clear that the campaign would vigorously blast Obama over his response to the attack.
But since then, from Team Romney, no blast.
American Crossroads, on the other hand, the right-wing Super PAC co-founded by Karl Rove, the long-time Republican operative dubbed "Bush's brain" by authors James Moore and Wayne Slater, has produced a highly selective minute-and-three-quarters video that seeks to prove Romney was right and Obama wrong in the debate. It concludes with "Mr. President, it's time to come clean. What did you know? And when did you know it?"
The focus is on various people in the administration saying that the attack was related to a protest at the Benghazi consulate over a vulgar, anti-Muslim video that had stirred protests in numerous cities in the Middle East, including Cairo, and elsewhere. Although it has been reported in various venues that some witnesses in Benghazi say there were protesters in front of the consulate raising the issue of the video, it wasn't, they say, something on the lips of the armed mob that broke into the consulate and ultimately killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador.
But while the attack and murders were an act of terrorism, who exactly the actors were is still unclear. Why getting to the bottom of that isn't the target of the Crossroads video is obvious. This would put them in unity with the administration, which actually is trying to get to the bottom of what happened.
Instead, Team Romney plus Rove & Co. seek to achieve the impossible: Erase the image seen by 65 million Americans of Mitt Romney stumbling into a verbal confrontation with the president that he loses, then loses even worse when he attempts a counterpunch questioning whether Obama immediately called the Benghazi attack an "act of terror."
The fact that it's on tape that the president did so in the Rose Garden on Sept. 12, the day after attack, stamped Romney as a fool. But that wasn't the only time Obama said this. At campaign events in Nevada and Colorado on Sept. 13, he said it again. Here he is in Las Vegas:
"As for the ones we lost last night: I want to assure you, we will bring their killers to justice. And we want to send a message all around the world — anybody who would do us harm: No act of terror will dim the light of the values that we proudly shine on the rest of the world, and no act of violence will shake the resolve of the United States of America."Foreign policy will be the entire subject when Romney debates Obama for the final time next Monday, Oct. 22. It's a field in which the GOP candidate has already proved himself inept, uneducated, personally obnoxious and lacking in basic common sense. Whether the topic is trade, aid, diplomacy, military intervention or economic globalization, it's a debate that could be productive, one in which the president could be effectively challenged. But Mitt Romney is not the man to do it.
It's a good thing for Romney the debate will be a sit-down affair. Otherwise, the key concern of his campaign team would be figuring out how to keep him upright for the entire 90 minutes.
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