I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy. They are a new government that is trying to find its way. They were democratically elected. I think that we are going to have to see how they respond to this incident. [...] So far, at least what we've seen is in some cases, they have said the right things and taken the right steps. In others, how they have responded to various events may not be aligned with our interests. So I think it is still a work in progress. Certainly in this situation, what we’re going to expect is that they are responsive to our insistence that our embassy is protected, our personnel is protected and if they take actions that indicate that they are not taking actions [...], that's going to be a real big problem.
Earlier this week, the President was asked by Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes what he thought of Mitt Romney's remarks regarding the attacks on US consulates:
It's important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts and that you've thought through the ramifications before you make them."In an attempt to blunt the damage caused by Mitt Romney's character and judgment gaffe, some on the Right have attempted to seize upon the president's statement that "Egypt is not an ally" by calling it a gaffe. Fox went so far as to rely upon Jimmy Carter to buttress this argument.
The argument fails both on the substance and as a political tactic. Let me take the less important point first: the politics. Simply put, the dog won't hunt. And we know this because the Romney campaign did not pick it up. In fact, pressed on the very point by George Stephanopolos, Romney demurred ("if I were president, I would do virtually everything in my power to make sure they understand what the requirements are to remain an ally of the United States.")
One of the most important powers a president has in foreign policy is in what he or she says and how and when they say it. President Obama's statement was made with a full understanding of its ramifications and with an expectation that the Egyptian government would fully understand his message. The message was delivered and absorbed. Juan Cole wrote a post describing the Egyptian government's reaction to the president's clearly delivered message: Obama Plays Hardball and Egypt’s Morsi Folds:
Under Obama’s pressure, Morsi, in Brussels seeking European aid, finally explicitly condemned Tuesday’s attack on the US embassy in Egypt:Indeed it was. Understanding the power of a president's words, and using that power skillfully and with good judgment, is an essential characteristic for a president of the United States.
[W]e don’t accept, condone, or approve at all for there to be attacks on embassies, consulates or people, or killing in any way. We want to cooperate with the entire world and we are cooperating now with the E.U. and the European people and with the American people and others and the U.S. administration to prevent such practices in the future. Also, we insist on the protection of persons, properties and embassies. The Egyptian people are very civilized and could not ever express their rejection of such practices with an attack on an embassy or person or consulate.Some of Morsi’s sudden willingness to say all this was fueled by Obama’s pressure. [Emphasis added.]
The events of the last week have demonstrated that President Obama possesses this understanding and the good judgment and character to exercise that power skillfully to the benefit of the nation. This week Mitt Romney demonstrated that he lacks this understanding and the good judgment and character to exercise this power properly.
Mitt Romney is not qualified to be president of the United States.