Huff Post: Ambassador to Libya Killed in Protest
TRIPOLI, Libya -- The American ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed when a mob of protesters and gunmen overwhelmed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, setting fire to it in outrage over a film that ridicules Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Libya's new president apologized Wednesday for the attack, which underlined the lawlessness plaguing a region trying to recover from months of upheaval.
Ambassador Chris Stevens, 52, died as he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff as a crowd of hundreds attacked the consulate Tuesday evening, many of them firing machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
Comment by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo BEFORE the deaths at the Libyan Embassy, September 11, 2012. The protests in Libya were in response to an anti-Islamic YouTube film made by an Israeli extremist.
"The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others."
Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.
~ Republican Chairman Reince Priebus via Raw Story
Apparently President Obama can’t see Egypt and Libya from his house. It’s about time our president stood up for America and condemned these Islamic extremists. … We already know that President Obama likes to ‘speak softly’ to our enemies. If he doesn’t have a ‘big stick’ to carry, maybe it’s time for him to grow one.
~ Sarah Palin on Facebook, via Raw Story
I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. 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.
~ Statement from Mitt Romney criticizing U.S. response to Libyan protest, via Washington Post
We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack.
~ Response to Romney's remarks from Ben LaBolt, White House Spokesman
. . . the fact is if you say something responsible and careful, it’s just going to be ignored. The only thing that will get attention is if you say something stupid, which is what they’ve managed to do.
~ MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell
“The only way to get attention is to say something a little outrageous. And I have to say, I am stunned they put out this release when they did, before we knew all the facts, before daybreak, before we know for sure whether there are going to be protests that spread around the world.
It seemed to be an irresponsible thing to do. And it’s one that I’m fascinated to see this morning that the Romney campaign, no mention. Suddenly they put out a debt statement. I have a feeling they wish they had that moment back, they wish they had that statement back. I understand where they feel like they are, they are chasing news cycles right now and they feel as if they have to be involved in every news cycle and every event if the president is involved in order to look on equal footing. But that was a bad mistake they made last night.
~ MSNBC's Chuck Todd
President Obama's Complete Statement via WSJ
I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.
I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe. While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.
On a personal note, Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States. Throughout the Libyan revolution, he selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi. As Ambassador in Tripoli, he has supported Libya’s transition to democracy. His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice. I am profoundly grateful for his service to my Administration, and deeply saddened by this loss.
The brave Americans we lost represent the extraordinary service and sacrifices that our civilians make every day around the globe. As we stand united with their families, let us now redouble our own efforts to carry their work forward.
In an attempt to attach himself further to this story, Mitt Romney gave a press conference BEFORE Obama, reading his own statement including criticism of the Obama Administration handling of both Libya and Egypt. Here's an excerpt:
America will not tolerate attacks against our citizens and against our embassies. We’ll defend also our constitutional rights of speech and assembly and religion.
I also believe the administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt, instead of condemning their actions. It’s never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values.
The White House distanced itself last night from the statement, saying it wasn’t cleared by Washington. That reflects the mixed signals they’re sending to the world.
The attacks in Libya and Egypt underscore that the world remains a dangerous place and that American leadership is still sorely needed. In the face of this violence, American cannot shrink from the responsibility to lead. American leadership is necessary to ensure that events in the region don’t spin out of control. We cannot hesitate to use our influence in the region to support those who share our values and our interests.
Here's more from the question/answer portion of Romney's press conference:
ROMNEY: I think it’s a -- a -- a terrible course to -- for America to -- to stand in apology for our values. That instead, when our grounds are being attacked and being breached, that the first response of the United States must be outrage at the breach of the sovereignty of our nation.
An apology for America’s values is never the right course.
QUESTION: Governor Romney, do you think, though, coming so soon after the event really has unfolded overnight was appropriate, to be weighing in on this as this crisis is unfolding in real time?
ROMNEY: The White House also issued a statement saying it tried to distance itself from those comments and said they were not reflective of their views. I had the exact same reaction. These views were inappropriate. They were the wrong course to take when our embassy has been breached by protesters. The first response should not be to say, “Yes, we stand by our comments that -- that suggest that there’s something wrong with the right of free speech.”
QUESTION: So what did the White House do wrong, then, Governor Romney, if (inaudible) put out a statement saying (inaudible).
ROMNEY: It’s their administration. Their administration spoke. The president takes responsibility not just for the words that come from his mouth, but also from the words that come from his ambassadors from his administration, from his embassies, from his State Department.
They clearly -- they clearly sent mixed messages to the world and the statement that came from the administration and the embassy is the administration. The statement that came from the administration was -- was a statement which is akin to apology and I think was a -- a severe miscalculation.
QUESTION: (inaudible) talk about mixed signals, (inaudible) mixed signal when you criticize the administration (inaudible).
ROMNEY: We are having -- we have a campaign for presidency of the United States that are speaking about the different courses we would each take with regards to the challenges that the world faces. The president and I, for instance, have differences of opinion with regards to Israel and our policies there; with regards to Iran; with regards to Afghanistan; with regards to Syria.
We have many places of distinction and differences. We join together in the condemnation of the attacks on American embassies and the loss of American life, and join in the sympathy for these people. But it’s also important for me, just as it was for the White House last night, by the way, to say that the statements were inappropriate, and in my -- in my view, a -- a disgraceful statement on the part of our administration to apologize for American values.
Buzzfeed: GOP Foreign Policy Hands Voice Disbelief
"They were just trying to score a cheap news cycle hit based on the embassy statement and now it’s just completely blown up," said a very senior Republican foreign policy hand, who called the statement an "utter disaster" and a "Lehman moment" — a parallel to the moment when John McCain, amid the 2008 financial crisis, failed to come across as a steady leader.
He and other members of both parties cited the Romney campaign's recent dismissals of foreign policy's relevance. One adviser dismissed the subject to BuzzFeed as a "shiny object," while another told Politico that the subject was the "president's turf," drawing a rebuke from Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol.
"I guess we see now that it is because they’re incompetent at talking effectively about foreign policy," said the Republican. "This is just unbelievable — when they decide to play on it they completely bungle it."
. . . "It's bad," said a former aide to Senator John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. "Just on a factual level that the statement was not a response but preceding, or one could make the case precipitating. And just calling it a 'disgrace' doesn't really cut it. Not ready for prime time."
A third Republican, a former Bush State Department official, told BuzzFeed, "It wasn't presidential of Romney to go political immediately — a tragedy of this magnitude should be something the nation collectively grieves before politics enters the conversation."
. . . "He did jump the gun. It revealed yet again that his foreign policy team is not ready for prime time," said David Rothkopf, a former Clinton State Department official. "It is ugly and amateurish. It also seems strangely out of character with Romney who elsewhere in the campaign seems inclined to be restrained to a fault."
.@mittromney caught smirking as he leaves podium after politicizing deaths of Americans in Libya. Chilling photo. twitter.com/Grrr_Romney/st…
— Dogs Against Romney (@Grrr_Romney) September 12, 2012
I mean, just LOOK at that Romney smirk, convinced he's scored political points off the Libya disaster. dailykos.com/story/2012/09/…
— Markos Moulitsas (@markos) September 12, 2012
Romney talking points trying to manage fallout from the Smirk That Sealed His Defeat: politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/09/12/rom…
— Markos Moulitsas (@markos) September 12, 2012
Romney appears to have launched a political attack even before facts of embassy violence were known. Then uses day to issue vague FP vision
— David Gregory (@davidgregory) September 12, 2012
john kerry just completely trashed mitt romney on libya/egpyt. called him irresponsible, callous, reckless and called on romney to apologize
— Dana Bash (@DanaBashCNN) September 12, 2012
Romney: "The Libya attack underscores the need for me to improve my poll numbers."
— Andy Borowitz (@BorowitzReport) September 12, 2012
Mitt Romney's Libya response proves just how stunningly unready he is for prime time: slate.me/ScMaTF
— Slate (@Slate) September 12, 2012
The attacks on our embassies & diplomats are a result of perceived American weakness. Mitt Romney is right to point that out.
— Donald Rumsfeld (@RumsfeldOffice) September 12, 2012
Mitt Romney is such a consummate politician that he found a way to make the death of an American diplomat all about him. Top that, Obama!
— Top Conservative Cat (@TeaPartyCat) September 12, 2012
I'll give Mitt Romney credit for this: He lost the election before I even got out of bed this morning. #Libya #GOP2012
— Chris Rock (@chrisrockoz) September 12, 2012
I think Mitt Romney's remarks this morning were appropriate and spot on and I think those attacking that statement are Obama partisans.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) September 12, 2012
The fact that Mitt Romney would give press conference before the President of the United States is disgusting. #GoTalkToAnEmptyChair
— Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) September 12, 2012
Mitt Romney Drops His 3 a.m. Phone Call - James Fallows - The Atlantic theatlantic.com/politics/archi…
— Josh Busby (@busbyj2) September 12, 2012
Report: Mitt Romney to hold another press conference explaining his asinine statements on Libya & Cairo with a whiteboard.
— WuLfDaWg (@RaoulHunt) September 12, 2012
Lol RT @cbsnews: Mitt Romney does not currently receive national security briefings, his campaign confirmed cbsn.ws/RSlWJY
— David O (@DavidOSays) September 12, 2012
Mitt Romney really needs to fire his campaign manager/ foreign advisor Rush Limbaugh.
— Michele (@haymakers) September 12, 2012
President Obama on CBS News this afternoon
(CBS News) In response to Mitt Romney's criticism of the Obama administration for its handling of recent violence in Egypt and Libya, President Obama told CBS News on Wednesday that Romney "seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later."
"There's a broader lesson to be learned here," Mr. Obama told "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft. "And I think -- you know, Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later. And as president, one of the things I've learned is you can't do that. That, you know, 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 'em."
Asked if Romney's attacks were irresponsible, the president replied, "I'll let the American people judge that."
[Romney's] comments were a big mistake, and the decision to double down on them was an even bigger mistake.
There are legitimate criticisms to be made but you foreclose on your ability to make them when you try to score easy political points. And the American people, when the country is attacked, whether they're a Republican or Democrat or independent, want to see leaders who have measured responses, not leaders whose first instinct is to try to score political points.
~ Steve Schmidt, ex-adviser to John McCain and author of Game Change about the ill-fated run of Sarah Palin for VP, quoted by CBS News
I was thinking as he spoke, I think I belong to the old school of thinking that in times of great drama and heightened crisis, and in times when something violent has happened to your people, I always think discretion is the better way to go. When you step forward in the midst of a political environment and start giving statements on something dramatic and violent that has happened, you're always leaving yourself open to accusations that you are trying to exploit things politically.
I don't feel that Mr. Romney has been doing himself any favors, say in the past few hours, perhaps since last night. Sometimes when really bad things happen, when hot things happen, cool words or no words is the way to go.
~ Speechwriter and Columnist Peggy Noonan on Fox News
Hillary Clinton's Statement on Libya and Egypt
"Yesterday, our U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya was attacked. Heavily armed militants assaulted the compound and set fire to our buildings. American and Libyan security personnel battled the attackers together. Four Americans were killed. They included Sean Smith, a Foreign Service information management officer, and our Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. We are still making next of kin notifications for the other two individuals.
This is an attack that should shock the conscience of people of all faiths around the world. We condemn in the strongest terms this senseless act of violence, and we send our prayers to the families, friends, and colleagues of those we’ve lost."
"All over the world, every day, America’s diplomats and development experts risk their lives in the service of our country and our values, because they believe that the United States must be a force for peace and progress in the world, that these aspirations are worth striving and sacrificing for. Alongside our men and women in uniform, they represent the best traditions of a bold and generous nation.
"In the lobby of this building, the State Department, the names of those who have fallen in the line of duty are inscribed in marble. Our hearts break over each one. And now, because of this tragedy, we have new heroes to honor and more friends to mourn.
"Chris Stevens fell in love with the Middle East as a young Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in Morocco. He joined the Foreign Service, learned languages, won friends for America in distant places, and made other people’s hopes his own.
"In the early days of the Libyan revolution, I asked Chris to be our envoy to the rebel opposition. He arrived on a cargo ship in the port of Benghazi and began building our relationships with Libya’s revolutionaries. He risked his life to stop a tyrant, than gave his life trying to help build a better Libya. The world needs more Chris Stevenses. I spoke with his sister, Ann, this morning, and told her that he will be remembered as a hero by many nations.
"Sean Smith was an Air Force veteran. He spent 10 years as an information management officer in the State Department, he was posted at The Hague, and was in Libya on a brief temporary assignment. He was a husband to his wife Heather, with whom I spoke this morning. He was a father to two young children, Samantha and Nathan. They will grow up being proud of the service their father gave to our country, service that took him from Pretoria to Baghdad, and finally to Benghazi.
Just watched an excellent and moving stmt by Sec. Clinton- just the right message and tone.
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) September 12, 2012
. . . What you had this morning was Mitt Romney's advisers literally tearing down a campaign rally to set up a more somber setting so that he could deliver this statement in a sort of drabby dark Jacksonville office. Whereas Obama, all he does is step out into the Rose Garden and by sheer fact that he's President, he looked Presidential. And you know sometimes we look too much at the optics and the setting, and I think in this case the optics and the settings are a huge part of the story.
. . . There was supposed to be a partisan detente yesterday for 9/11. They knew about the embassy being breached. They planned their statement and they actually lifted the embargo to get ahead of the news cycle. They were very much aware of what they were doing. The statement was signed off by Romney himself according to the New York Times report tonight. They knew what was happening and if it were a gaffe they would have backtracked today. Instead they went back and they said 'No, we stand by that statement in condemning what the Cairo Embassy put out.' So no, this planned from the beginning and they totally miscalculated what would happen once they decided to say that Obama was sympathizing with the protestors.
~ Sam Stein of Huffington Post on Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell