We already know Romney's statement following the murders of U.S. diplomatic officials in Libya was craven, insulting and politically destructive, but did it also stoke the violent protests?
As the turmoil over the anti-Muslim video spreads through Yemen, Egypt, Iran and beyond, put yourself in the shoes of someone who might be participating in the violent protests right now. You’re a young Muslim who doesn't understand much English, doesn't follow world events, and you’re prospects, at best, are uncertain.
Here’s what you know:
1. The U.S. made a movie insulting Mohammad.
You don’t know that it was some whack job or fringe element. You don’t know that most Americans condemn this kind of thing. All you know is it’s on YouTube and it was Made in the U.S.A.
2. An American presidential candidate said the U.S. shouldn’t apologize.
You heard or read a U.S. presidential candidate say that we should not “Apologize for American values.” So the U.S. puts out a video insulting Mohamed, and an American presidential candidate says these are American values, and says we should not apologize?
I would imagine that in that part of the world, those are the two messages that got through. A mob doesn't understand nuance, and most people that are getting whipped up are not familiar with such niceties as freedom of speech and constitutional rights. They may know a guy named Obama is our President and we have an election, but for all they know, Romney speaks for the U.S. too. Heck, if more than 60% of Republicans still believe Iraq had WMDs and the President was born in Kenya, isn't it possible that thousands of people in Islamic countries with limited access to good information may misinterpret the situation and act accordingly?
The fact that Romney criticized the video later has no bearing. The fire has spread, the die had been cast and no more messages would be getting through.
It doesn’t excuse the violence and it shouldn't take the focus of those who are perpetrating it.
But did Romney fan the flames?