The (Truly Dangerous) Bull In a China Shop: The American Value of Supporting Gratuitous Insults of Other Countries’ Majority Religions

After expressing sorrow about the deaths, Mr. Romney told reporters on the campaign trail that the Obama administration had tried to appease Islamic extremists who should have been condemned instead. He said a statement issued by the American Embassy in Cairo before the deaths criticizing an anti-Islamic video was “akin to an apology” and a “severe miscalculation.”

“The first response of the United States must be outrage at the breach of the sovereignty of our nation, and apology for American values is never the right course,” Mr. Romney said, speaking at a campaign stop in Jacksonville, Fla. He added, “They clearly sent mixed messages to the world.”

Embassy Attack Fuels Escalation in U.S. Presidential Race, Peter Baker, New York Times, today

For the last few days I’d thought that all Obama had to do to wrap up this election was run ads showing clips of Romney’s bizarre interviewon last Sunday’s Meet the Press—e.g., “Well, the specifics [of the tax plan] are these which is those principles I described are the heart of my policy.”—maybe juxtaposed with clips of Romney’s speech to the Detroit Economic Club last February in which he identified some specifics, er, principles.  (Or is it principles, er, specifics?  Hard to tell, with such specific principles.)

And I still think that an ad of that sort would do the trick.

But I also now think that a precise, appropriate response by Obama to Romney’s weird statement would effectively end Romney’s election chances.  It is, after all, hard to imagine a more dangerous statement by a president, and therefore by a presidential candidate, than the pronouncement that America’s values—America’s values— include wanting Americans to deliberately offend the world’s Muslims. 

Romney apparently believes that it’s fine to risk American lives overseas (including, presumably, members of our military) by appearing to support such pointlessly offensive provocation.  Obama should point this out, even if the news media doesn’t.

But Obama also shouldn’t allow the detachment of those comments by Romney, which indicate pretty starkly that Romney doesn’t understand even the concept of diplomacy, from the implications of those comments in spheres beyond foreign policy and defense.  I’ve wondered for a while now why the Obama campaign hasn’t emphasized more Romney’s persistent habit of drawing conclusions based upon erroneous fact or upon no facts at all. 

The very essence of Romney’s candidacy, at least originally, was his claimed cool-headed judgment and problem-solving ability.  Yet time and again he appears unable to accurately or adequately assess basic facts and understand even the most obvious implications of those facts—and of his own statements and conduct.  What has been apparent to me for nearly a year now, and what this incident should now clarify for the general public, is that Romney is not prompted to action—whether in foreign policy, defense, the economy, or anything else—by anything other than immediate opportunism and his adopted ideology.  And that, even worse, he seems unable even to understand the implications of what he says, what he proposes and what he does.

I don’t see how his election hopes can survive his comments of yesterday and today.