Mitt Romney did not “gaffe” about the protest at the U.S. Embassy in Egypt or the killing of diplomats at the Benghazi Consulate. The whole concept of the “gaffe” has been Silly-Putty-ed into meaninglessness by campaign 2012, yes, but that’s not what I mean. What Mitt Romney said about the attacks, fact-challenged as it was, synced up neatly with what he’s been saying about foreign policy for years.Weigel is right to say that the "Apology Tour" theme is consistent with what Romney has said since, well, he released his book No Apology (I never understood why someone would be so proud to have never apologized). But I submit that the episode was, nonetheless, a gaffe. Not the typical type of gaffe we are accustomed to, where a public figure accidentally tells us what they really think. Instead this was a character and judgment gaffe, where Mitt Romney accidentally demonstrated to us that his judgment and character disqualify him for the presidency.
To be sure, the substance of Romney's statements is nonsensical gibberish. But that is the modus operandi of an entire political party, the modern Republican Party. The impulses Romney succumbed to on that morning rendered naked any pretense that he is a man of judgment and character. Romney inadvertently revealed his true self and it was not pretty. And it was not someone who should be president.
Republicans are eager to hearken to the 1980 election as a model for how this election may turn out. Kos effectively demolished this silly meme. But it is worth remembering how Ronald Reagan performed on the tragic day that the attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran ended in failure. Reagan issued a somber statement expressing condolences and calling for national unity. He did not criticize the Carter Administration at all on that day. In fact, it was not until 6 days later that Reagan resumed his criticisms of President Carter's foreign policy. To be sure, it is possible that Reagan and his campaign were privately gleeful about the tragedy, but they possessed the political judgment to understand that engaging in crass politicking on that day would be unwise, indeed, dishonorable. This is not to argue that Reagan possessed the judgment and character to be a good president, but rather, that at a bare minimum, a person aspiring to be president of the United States needs to exhibit the judgment and character to refrain from the behavior Mitt Romney engaged in the morning the nation was informed of Ambassador Stevens' death.
Instead, Mitt Romney demonstrated an utter lack of character and judgment. It is not often that events provide us with authentically revealing moments of the people who run for the highest offices. Politics is a scripted affair for the most part, with actions, statements, political ads and attack lines carefully prepared. One would not have expected this event to provide such a true glimpse; after all Mitt Romney had a whole night to consider how he would behave that morning.
But after a night of thought, Mitt Romney chose to demand the attention of the cameras after the secretary of state had delivered her moving remarks at Foggy Bottom. Romney also chose to insist on being heard immediately preceding the president's remarks to the nation.
And what did he choose to say with this moment? After a night's reflection, Mitt Romney chose to relaunch his baseless, tasteless political attacks. It was astonishing.
Mitt Romney gaffed. He inadvertently demonstrated that he does not possess the judgment and character to be president of the United States.