Steffen Schmidt, IAFC Blogger
Steffen W. Schmidt, University Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Iowa State University, WNYC blogger, and chief Political correspondent of Insider Iowa.
Update: It was first incorrectly reported by the media that a Sam Bacile who claimed to be an Israeli/American California real estate developer who posted a 13-minute clip of “The Innocence of Muslims" It is now thought that Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a Coptic Christian, with a criminal record was behind the offensive film.
The clip served as the spark for violence in Libya, which resulted in the U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others being killed after protesters attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. There are many ramifications to this story but let me briefly comment on the 2012 election ripple effect.
The Republicans have been all along criticizing the Obama administration for “leading from behind” and not having a strong enough policy in the Middle East. They have been pounding Obama because they allege:
Now with the tragedy of Benghazi new opportunities have opened up for follow up attacks on the White House. While 9/11 was off-limits for campaign politics, the murder of Stevens and his staff was not.
After the video became a flashpoint, the US embassy in Cairo tried to calm growing protests, releasing a statement saying, “The United States condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions."
In response, Mitt Romney issued a statement that read, “I'm outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi." It's 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.”
I must say that I can understand the double standard with the U.S. Embassy in Cairo anxious to calm local religious and cultural fires over the desecration of the Prophet that were becoming dangerous and the need, and also for the United States to issue the strongest possible statement of condemnation. It’s probably too far to go as Rush Limbaugh did that Obama hates America and his policy is to make Americans feel the retribution for decades of abuse and oppression of people in these countries. That’s what he said. But, it is true that Obama seeks a softer conciliation with Islam and these countries of the Middle East when these things happen.
Playing off the story that Obama had rebuffed an offer to meet by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Romney also struck a political hit in Jewish-voter rich Florida saying, "I stand with our friends in Israel. I stand with our allies. I stand strong with our allies. I can't ever imagine if the prime minister of Israel asked to meet with me, I can't imagine ever saying no. There are friends, they're our closest allies in the Middle East."
Wow, how unlucky can the Democrats be on the Israeli issue? First they blow it by removing Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish State from their platform at the convention and Obama has to scramble and put that and God back in the document. And now these two fracases – angry and heavily armed Muslims in Libya and a snub (later denied by the White House) of Israel’s leader as he comes to New York for the UN meetings.
The entire GOP spin machine was deployed the morning when the Libyan killings were reported and their “analysis” of the situation was eerily uniform. It consisted of coherent attacks by Newt Gingrich, against the Hillary Clinton/Obama policies in that region of the world in effect blaming Obama for the attacks.
What I don’t understand is why our intelligence services are not taking out web sites that contain material that may be a threat to national security. After all, they know everything anyone in the U.S. is doing so maybe some preemptive work in the future would be desirable. They could even get a secret warrant for that. That would have saved the lives of many people in Libya just as doing due diligence with intelligence on potential terrorist plots hopefully saves lives every day.
Literally overnight, the entire discussion of election 2012 veered from “it’s the economy, stupid” to foreign policy and the Middle East.