Democrats should go on the offensive and tell Americans just how dangerous conservatives are, in terms of the foreign policy of the United States.
As Ezra Klein pointed out last night, Mitt Romney’s intemperate attack on President Obama occurred about 16 hours after that now famous statement by an embassy staffer in Cairo was released. That was plenty of time to mull over the ramifications of his actions. The bottom line is that after all that time to think, he did not think wisely.
And that says something vitally important about him.
The New York Times reported that Romney’s “senior staff” all helped to craft Romney’s damning attack on the Commander-in-Chief. Assembling such a bumbling set of staffers also says something important about Romney.
But I want to focus on what unfortunately is the general conservative posture in moments like what happened on Tuesday—and what continues to happen today—as fanatical Muslims express ridiculously excessive outrage over insults to their religion.
This conservative posture—which infects Romney as much as any other conservative in the country—is dangerous because it is so, well, so unrestrained, so absent of sober judgment. Romney and his brain trust, conservatives all, displayed such a lack of sober judgement on Tuesday night and on Wednesday morning—and it continues.
But I have another example of such unrestrained posturing, this one important because it comes from someone who is supposed to be a thoughtful conservative, an intellectual of high regard, Charles Krauthammer.
However, before I get to that, I want to review the Cairo statement that started all of this nonsense, a statement we all need to remember that was released hours before Egyptians climbed the walls of our embassy:
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. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. 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
Now, make sure you read that statement carefully. You will notice very clearly that it is not an apology for American values, as Romney and conservatives insist to this day. Indeed, it could have been released during, say, the George W. Bush presidency.* No, wait. It could have been uttered by Mr. Bush himself, who said similar things throughout his two terms, like the following from November of 2002:
Some of the comments that have been uttered about Islam do not reflect the sentiments of my government or the sentiments of most Americans. Islam, as practiced by the vast majority of people, is a peaceful religion, a religion that respects others. Ours is a country based upon tolerance and we welcome people of all faiths in America.
Bush made that statement in response to statements made by evangelicals Jerry Falwell (“I think Muhammad was a terrorist“) and Pat Robertson—now a valued Romney supporter—who said of Muhammad,
This man was an absolute wild-eyed fanatic. He was a robber and a brigand. And to say that these terrorists distort Islam? They’re carrying out Islam!
Personally, I don’t care what Jerry Falwell, who has now met or not met Allah in the hereafter, or Pat Robertson said about Muhammad. Or what either said about Jesus, for that matter. But George W. Bush did care what those two and others said about Islam’s most important prophet because he knew that such things coming from high-profile evangelicals could be used against Americans both here and abroad. He acted responsibly by saying that such views,
do not reflect the sentiments of my government or the sentiments of most Americans.
That part at least George Bush got right as he fought his so-called War on Terror.
But I want to quote what Charles Krauthammer, the brains of conservatism on Fox “News,” said on Tuesday evening in response to the Cairo embassy statement:
That statement is an embarrassment. That’s a hostage statement. That’s a mob of al-Qaeda sympathizers in Egypt forcing the United States into making a statement that essentially is an apology, on 9/11 of all days! For something for which we are not responsible.
I would issue a statement saying to the mob, “Go to hell. The way America works, the way democracy works, is that everybody has a right to express themselves, we don’t police our speech, and you are to apologize to the United States for storming an embassy and the violation of the ultimate sacred principle of democracy which is protecting embassies and missions abroad.”
For the U.S. to essentially issue a veiled apology I think is disgraceful.
Now we know where Romney got the idea of attacking Mr. Obama, saying 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.
Like Krauthammer, sitting comfortably in a Fox “News” studio, what American didn’t get outraged over the attacks on our embassy? Who wasn’t profoundly pissed that in Libya four Americans, including our ambassador, were murdered? And who didn’t want to tell the mobs to go to hell?
But don’t we expect more than misinformed bluster from the commentariat? From our political leaders?
The problem is not just that when Krauthammer uttered that feel-good stupidity, he didn’t have all the facts. And the problem isn’t just that he and his colleagues put the facts they did have in the wrong order and mistakenly believed the statement came after the embassy in Cairo was breached.
The larger problem is that since he made that half-baked, testosterone-laden statement, and by now knows the proper chronology of events, he hasn’t changed his cowboy posture. You can Google “Krauthammer apologizes for ‘Go to Hell’ remark” and you won’t find any evidence that he regrets shooting from the hip, jumping to conclusions.
In fact, you will find hits like this:
AWESOME! Krauthammer says he’d tell the Egyptian mob “GO TO HELL”
I doubt if Krauthammer ever retracts his remarks, which were based on a falsehood. The record now will be forever muddled in muddled minds because the right-wing propaganda machine will keep it that way for exploitation. These folks make a living off the muddle.
The important thing to know about Krauthammering conservatives, who like to talk all big and tall and tough with outrage, is that few of them actually went overseas and acted on their outrage, acted out their foreign policy fantasies, when they had the chance. They were, and remain, perfectly content to express their ballsy patriotism within the safety of our shores.
But American voters have to know that if they put these people back in power, if voters opt for knee-jerk diplomacy of the kind Krauthammer and other conservatives—including other conservative intellectuals— have advocated, then they should not only expect that the world will be an even more dangerous place for Americans, they should expect to send their sons and daughters to die in the wars that will follow such stupidity.
*Speaking of apologies, how about this from May of 2008:
BAGHDAD — President Bush has apologized to Iraq’s prime minister for an American sniper’s shooting of a Quran, and the Iraqi government called on U.S. military commanders to educate their soldiers to respect local religious beliefs.
Bush’s spokeswoman said Tuesday that the president apologized during a videoconference Monday with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who told the president that the shooting of Islam’s holy book had disappointed and angered both the Iraqi people and their leaders.
“He apologized for that in the sense that he said that we take it very seriously,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said. “We are concerned about the reaction. We wanted them to know that the president knew that this was wrong.”