Free Advice: Libya Response Edition (Updated)

by Sonny Bunch on October 17, 2012

When Libya comes up next week in the foreign policy debate, this is how I would suggest Mitt Romney answers:

Moderator: [Some question about Libya, no matter how marginal.]

Romney: That’s a great question, thanks for asking. The assault on our consulate in Benghazi and the murder of our ambassador by an al Qaeda-affiliated organization—the first time we’ve had an ambassador murdered since the Carter administration—has been a source of much confusion. Much of that confusion has emanated from President Obama’s administration.

Now, it’s not surprising that he would be confused; after all, Mr. Obama was too busy traveling around the country to make appearances at a record-breaking number of celebrity-studded fundraisers to attend his intelligence briefings. Indeed, the morning before the Benghazi attacks, a Washington Post columnist noted that during 2011 and the first half of 2012, President Obama had attended less than two out of every five intelligence briefings.

So it’s no wonder that, in his address in the Rose Garden after the attacks on the Benghazi consulate—and before he jetted off to yet another fundraiser—that he seemed confused about who had perpetrated this vicious massacre. Before making a vague gesture saying that “no acts of terror” will deter America, he emphasized that we “reject all efforts to denigrate the religious faith of others.” As if the attackers were inspired by a denigration of their faith and not their murderous jihadi ideology! Now, what the President doesn’t want to acknowledge—

Obama: Excuse me, excuse me, that’s just—

Romney: Mr. President, you’ve been given more than your fair share of time and I’ve yet to interrupt you. I hope you’ll do me the same courtesy and I hope our moderator will let me finish my point instead of letting himself be bullied by you. Now, as I was saying, the president has done his darnedest to ignore that our consulate in Libya had been assaulted a number of times previously. What he is ignoring is that Ambassador Stevens had begged—begged!—for beefed up security. What he seems to have forgotten is that he sent members of his administration on the Sunday talk show circuit to claim that this was a spontaneous act of protest and not a planned terrorist attack. What he wants us to block from our minds is his speech to the United Nations in which he framed this attack as a response to a YouTube video and not a continuation of the war on the United States that al Qaeda has been waging for decades against the United States.

While it’s nice that the president has finally taken responsibility—has finally accepted that the buck stops at his desk—it’s time to ask what taking responsibility for the death of our ambassador and the sacking of our consulate looks like.

It shouldn’t look like four more years.

[Update/Addition]

Moderator and/or Obama: [Question implicating Issa in revealing the identities of Libyans working with Americans]

Romney: Well, it’s obviously a shame that those brave Libyans have been exposed, and I wish that Chairman Issa hadn’t done that. But we have to ask ourselves a very important question here: Why is the administration declassifying unredacted documents that put our nation’s allies at risk? Isn’t this yet another example of someone in President Obama’s administration not paying attention, falling down on the job, and putting brave men and women in danger? It’s really a disgrace.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Will October 17, 2012 at 11:31 am

For the sake of brevity, I’d prefer: “Our ill-conceived intervention in Libya created an entirely predictable power vacuum that led to Ambassador Stevens’ death. What’s worse, the continuing fall-out has destabilized Libya’s neighbors, topped Mali’s democratically-elected government, failed to arrest the ongoing spread of violence within Libya proper, and empowered Al Qaeda’s North African affiliates. We can debate the semantics of the President’s Rose Garden address until the cows come home, or we can grapple with the manifest failure of his actual Libyan policy.”

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Sonny Bunch October 17, 2012 at 11:31 am

Doesn’t strike me as a winning answer.

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Will October 17, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Haha. Consider the two responses in the context of a fast-moving, soundbite-driven debate. Which has more to recommend it?

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Sonny Bunch October 17, 2012 at 2:41 pm

But would Romney pursue a different policy? Unclear. Plus, it sounds defeatist. Voters hate defeatism.

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Will October 17, 2012 at 4:16 pm

It’s probably too late for Romney to dramatically shift his position on Libya, but I think Douthat’s take is absolutely right on this:

“The only good news for Obama in this mess is the fact that Romney, always intent on projecting toughness, hasn’t attacked the original decision to go to war in Libya, or tied the intervention itself to Al Qaeda’s North African advances.

If the Republican nominee were less reflexively hawkish, the White House might be facing the more comprehensive critique that it deserves — and the story wouldn’t be about just the specifics of Benghazi, but also the possibility that Obama’s entire policy in the region has put American interests and lives at risk.”

Gabriel October 17, 2012 at 11:53 am

Just occurred to me that you’re willing to sacrifice a pothead to appease the wrath of Cthulhu but not free speech to appease the wrath of Salafist demagogues. Do you hate Salafists more than Cthulhu, fear them less, or just like free speech more than potheads?

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Sonny Bunch October 17, 2012 at 11:53 am

I fear the Salafists far less. A couple hellfire missiles will take care of them. There is no stopping the Old Ones, however.

Also: Free speech>potheads.

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Gabriel October 17, 2012 at 12:01 pm

ps, how has this not yet come up in the great right-wing debate over Cthulhu appeasement?

http://memegenerator.net/instance/9198477

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Sonny Bunch October 17, 2012 at 12:02 pm

On a more serious note, though, Ross’s point about not appeasing tyrants is a fair one, but maybe not in the way he thinks. After all, what are the Old Ones but tyrants with nukes? Isn’t the lesson here “Stop tyrants from getting nukes at all costs so you don’t have to appease them”?

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