There are moments in a political campaign when what one doesn’t say tells you as much about their core values than what they do say. Romney had one of those moments last week.
Seizing on a press release issued by a lower level diplomat in Cairo who was trying to calm an increasingly dangerous situation, Romney fired off an e-mail to reporters 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”. He embellished his reckless statement the next morning at a news conference charging, “The statement that came from the Administration was a statement akin to an apology”.
Romney knowingly was wrong on everything. The embassy statement was not approved by the Administration, it was issued hours before attacks on the Cairo embassy and deaths of the American diplomats in Libya occurred and the Administration’s first response was a very strong condemnation of the attacks. There never was any apology.
Romney’s insensitivity to the human tragedy that was occurring was as disturbing as his crass attempt to politicize an international tragedy even as events were still unfolding. His statement barely mentioned the death of a consulate worker and only as a predicate to criticize the Obama Administration. The human costs of the unfolding events never seem to have penetrated his conscience. And at no time did he seem to show any appreciation for the personal danger the diplomats in Cairo were in or any concern that his comments might endanger them more. If he did grasp the severity of their predicament he never allowed it to influence his decision to use the Cairo press release to bash the Obama Administration. Between his statement and his body language during his press conference next morning he did not come across as a president who would take into consideration the human consequences of decisions he might make. He came across as an insensitive technocrat, cold and analytical, like a CEO of a company, callously calculating how many employees to fire, or like a politician who only sees the benefits of tax cuts in a Paul Ryan budget and never the pain the budget will cause those worse off.
Even Republicans were critical of Romney’s words and his demeanor. Talking about Romney’s press conference, Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal columnist and former speech writer for Ronald Regan and George H. W. Bush, indicted Romney’s character by saying, “At one point, he (Romney) had a certain slight grimace on his face when he was taking tough questions from the reporters. And I thought, ‘He looks like Richard Nixon.’ ”
We know what he looked like, what he didn’t look like was a statesman ready to take his place on the world stage.