Embassy attacks drag foreign policy into campaignSeptember 12, 2012 12:33 PM
With the economy at the forefront of this year's presidential election campaign, foreign policy has been given somewhat of a short shrift.
But reality has now intruded, and with the violent attacks by protesters on the U.S. embassies in Egypt and Libya, the issue has been thrust into the political spotlight.
Republicans, who usually own foreign policy and defence, have been having difficulty re-capturing the issue, with U.S. President Barack Obama able to tout his national security credentials with successful missions that included the killing of Osama bin Laden and a number of other top al-Qaeda leaders.
During the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., a confident Obama dismissively said that Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan were "new to foreign policy" who "want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly."
But with the embassy attacks in Egypt and Libya, in which four U.S. diplomats, including a U.S. abassador, were killed, the Republicans may now see an opportunity to regain some ground.
Although a so-called campaign truce had been called to honour Sept. 11, Republicans immediately pounced on a statement from the Egyptian embassy about the attacks. Instead of criticizing the protesters, the statement condemned the "continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims -- as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions."
In a statement Tuesday night, Romney said it was "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."
RNC Chairman Reince Preibus added his voice, tweeting that "Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic."
But House Speaker John Boehner was more measured, laying no blame, saying "we mourn for the families of our countrymen in Benghazi, and condemn this horrific attack."
The White House distanced itself from the Egyptian embassy statement, saying it was not approved by the Obama administration. (To distance itself further, both Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came out Wednesday morning condemning the attacks and the perpetrators)
On Wednesday morning, Romney remained defiant, saying the Obama administration was sending out "mixed signals" and that it was responsible for all comments.
Some have questioned whether Romney went too far with his statement, which was put out before the details were known about the diplomats and ambassador, and was using the crisis as a political football.
Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt blasted Romney for choosing to "launch a political attack" at this time.
Democrats have also been accused of he same of kind of thing. For example, many Democrats blamed heated conservative rhetoric for the shooting of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
With under 60 days to go until the election, it remains to be seen if the embassy attacks will have any political sway, or get lost in further headlines to come.