What was Romney talking about!


The Post and the Times disagree: Late Tuesday evening, as Libya burned, the Romney campaign issued a statement:

''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.”

Question: To what “first response” from the Obama administration did this statement refer? On Thursday morning, it all depended on which major newspaper you happened to find yourself reading!

In the New York Times, Baker and Parker reported that Romney’s statement referred to the very first tweet from the Cairo embassy. That tweet was issued several hours before violence or protests began:
BAKER AND PARKER (9/13/12): Mr. Romney came under withering criticism for distorting the chain of events overseas and appearing to seek political advantage from an attack that claimed American lives. A statement he personally approved characterized an appeal for religious tolerance issued by the American Embassy in Cairo as sympathy for the attackers even though the violence did not occur until hours after the embassy statement. Mr. Romney on Wednesday said the embassy statement, which was disavowed by the administration, was ''akin to apology, and I think was a severe miscalculation.''

Mr. Obama fired back later in the day, accusing his opponent of politicizing a national tragedy. ''Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later,'' he told CBS News for its ''60 Minutes'' program. ''And as president, one of the things I've learned is you can't do that—that, you know, it's important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts, and that you've thought through the ramifications.''

The harsh exchanges had their origins on Tuesday night as Mr. Romney's team was following the increasingly volatile developments in the Middle East. The embassy statement, issued hours before protests in Cairo and the attack in Libya began, had tried to mollify Muslims upset at an American-made anti-Islam video. ''We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others,'' the statement said.

For Mr. Romney, whose 2010 book, ''No Apology,'' assailed Mr. Obama for what he saw as trying to placate America's enemies, the embassy statement rankled. When aides showed it to him, they said he reacted strongly to the notion of ''hurt'' religious feelings. In his mind, they said, the Obama administration was aligning itself with those who would do harm to the United States. Already on the defensive for not mentioning Afghanistan in his convention speech and losing some ground in recent polls, Mr. Romney saw an opportunity to draw a stark contrast.
In the Times, there was little doubt. The Romney statement on Tuesday night referred to the embassy’s initial tweet, which was issued “hours before protests in Cairo and the attack in Libya began.” This meant that Romney’s statement contained a bungled chronology when it complained that this “first response” failed to “condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions.”

The attacks had not occurred when that first tweet was issued.

In the Times, Romney had made a mistake. But in the Washington Post, the basic facts seemed to be different. In his front-page news report, Philip Rucker lightly suggested, but never said, that there was a problem with the chronology in Romney’s Tuesday night statement. But uh-oh!

In an accompanying graphic attributed to three other writers, the Washington Post plainly said that Romney’s statement on Tuesday night referred to the second tweet from the Cairo embassy. That tweet reaffirmed the embassy’s original statement—and it occurred after the violence had begun.

We can’t find this graphic on-line. (A different graphic is now being offered.) But we’re looking at Thursday morning’s hard-copy Post, and the graphic’s attribution is explicit. The graphic unmistakably says that Romney’s Tuesday night statement referred to the embassy’s second tweet. This meant that he had not made a chronological error. (Presumably, the logic was that the embassy’s second tweet was its “first response” to the violence.)

In the Times, the Romney statement had made a mistake; it had bungled the basic chronology. But in the Post, the chronology differed—and no mistake had occurred.

A similar dichotomy appeared Wednesday night on cable “news” channels. On MSNBC, liberals were constantly told about Romney’s chronological error. On Fox, the alleged error was barely mentioned.

No one seemed to make any effort to say how they knew their account was correct. But citizens heard very different facts, depending on where they were looking.

Increasingly, this is the way our press system works. We’re not calling this bad or wrong. Once again, we’re just saying!


  1. The NYT editorial was one of the worst. According to that,Romney criticized Obama "in a way that suggested either a dangerous ignorance of the facts or an equally dangerous willingness to twist them to his narrow partisan aims."

    When you see "twisted the facts" in the NYT you know it means Romney presented the facts the NYT doesn't like, and the NYT will dismiss those facts because it doesn't align with their agenda.

    1. Calling a condemnation of religious bigotry "an apology" is definitely a willingness to twist facts to narrow partisan aims.

    2. As Romney said, Obama knew it was an apology and that's why they scrambled to scrub it and distance from it.

    3. "The situation in Cairo was one in which an embassy that is being threatened by major protests releases a press release saying that the film that had disturbed so many Muslims around the world wasn’t representative of what Americans believe about Islam, in an effort to cool the situation down. It didn’t come from me, it didn’t come from Secretary Clinton; it came from folks on the ground who are potentially in danger. And my tendency is to cut folks a little bit of slack when they're in that circumstance, rather than try to question their judgment from the comfort of a campaign office."

      We can decide for ourselves if that sounds like scrambling and distancing.

      To my ear, coming in a "60 Minutes" interview, that sounds like telling it like it is, on the permanent record -- and laying in a very accurate jab at shiftless bullsh!tter Romney, taboot.

    4. To the normal ear, another reworded apology and more feckless blame shifting.

    5. But where's the apology part?

      Naw, you're just butthurt that the professional provocateurs ("private citizen film-makers," yeah) got rightly slammed by the embassy staff.

      I'm sure the embassy staff families would like to do more than just scold "Sam Bacile" -- and I couldn't blame them.

      You don't care about them though.

      For you and Romney, it's all about using their deaths to score politically. Just another sh!t stain.

    6. Funny you mention using deaths to score politically.

      The odious TPM has published an unsourced comment allegedly sent by an unnamed foreign service employee saying how much all foreign service employees hate Mitt Romney. "I don’t think I can quite state the rage we’re all feeling towards him."

      Likely sent from a bloodsucking public sector union member on strike but you get the point.

    7. You forgot to say "feckless". I know it's your "Build-A-Vocabulary" word of the day.

      And I'm sure it makes sense to you that a foreign service employee expressing his outrage over Romney using the deaths of foreign service employees to score political points is the same as using the deaths of foreign service employees to score political points.

      Fortunately, however, the rest of the human race has functioning brains.

    8. "The odious TPM..."

      Stop, please! You're killing us!

      And we feel very guilty laughing at someone so clearly deficient in wit as you. It's just not right.

      Don't go on!

  2. Here's a little help for you, Bob. The second tweet can't be the first response.

    But I knew you'd find a way to rush to Romney's defense on this one.

    1. Presented without claiming I know the truth:

      "The second tweet can't be the first response."

      Yes, it can "be the first response" -- in Romney's mind, if he's got the facts muddled.

    2. The second tweet can be the first response TO THE ATTACKS, since the first tweet occurred before the attacks and was therefore not the first response to them.

    3. The Mr. Romney should have produced the particular tweet he found so offensive and ended all doubt about which one he was talking about being the "first response" to the attacks.

      Oh, wait a minute. This is Somerby we're talking about. The obligation to be clear falls only on the PRESS, never on the candidate.

  3. The second tweet can in fact be, and was, the first response. The feckless administration first issued a statement on 9/11 apologizing to Muslim extremists, hoping to avoid violence they somehow knew was imminent. The violence happened anyway, and the first response was to double down on the apology. The third response by the feckless administration was to delete its tweets. The fourth was to defend the apology while trying to distance from it.

    1. Nope, the first tweet, second tweet and any tweet from the embassy was NOT the Administration's official response, which can only come from the Administration.

      But I guess if you are willing to believe everything coming out of Mitt's mouth, I got a bridge to sell you.

    2. The first statement was not a tweet, it was a press release.

      Text here:
      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.

      Romney's reaction to the film:

      "I think it’s dispiriting sometimes to see some of the awful things people say. And the idea of using something that some people consider sacred and then parading that out a negative way is simply inappropriate and wrong. And I wish people wouldn’t do it. Of course, we have a First Amendment, and under the First Amendment, people are allowed to do what they feel they want to do. They have the right to do that, but it’s not right to do things that are of the nature of what was done by, apparently this film."
      "I think the whole film is a terrible idea. I think him making it, promoting it showing it is disrespectful to people of other faiths. I don’t think that should happen. I think people should have the common courtesy and judgment -- the good judgment -- not to be -- not to offend other peoples’ faiths. It’s a very bad thing, I think, this guy’s doing."

      Is there any difference in substance?

    3. There Romney goes, apologizing for America.

    4. No difference in substance but completely different context. Romney isn't an American president reacting to a crisis of mobs using the film as a pretext to murder Americans, he is a citizen expressing an opinion on deliberately creating material disrespectful of people's faiths.

      As an aside, if Romney had criticized Religulous all Obama's defenders would be sickened.

    5. Anon 12:06

      Are you trying to push the limits of sophism to the maximum imaginable? If so, my congrats on your success.

      AC / sharon

    6. Well, first off, 12:06, Mitt Romney is hardly just "a citizen expressing an opinion." As the Republican presidential nominee, his every word and movement is carefully recorded and reported by the world's press.

      Secondly, you may be missing the mark completely if you think that the film was the "pretext to murder Americans." According to reports, the attack on the consulate in Libya was a well-planned and well-executed and would have happened regardless of whether this film was ever made.

  4. Your WP hard copy goes along with a Politifact piece, Mr. Somerby.

    Won 't matter. The MSM has designated a meme. That's all she wrote.

  5. Obamaphobes are not going to research any timelines.

    I might, if this doesn't blow over soon.

    Here are a few. The Atlantic's is quite detailed, and has the movie trailer.




    1. Thanks for that, gravymeister. Puts paid to the droppings from Romney's butt that have been posted.

      Closet thing to an apology:

      from Embassy in Egypt -- "Sorry, but neither breaches of our compound or angry messages will dissuade us from defending freedom of speech AND criticizing bigotry."

      Closest thing to scum of the earth:

      from Reince Priebus -- "Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt."

      Where does he find "sympathy" with the attackers? He doesn't. Because there is no sympathy for the attackers anywhere to be found.

  6. Why is the Obama administration contacting YouTube, one can only guess on behalf of Muslim extremists, to scrutinize a perfectly legal anti-Muslim video?

    1. Sometimes when lives are at stake, a president has the right to apply pressure to influence individuals who make offensive films and the web sites that stream them.

    2. "one can only guess on behalf of Muslim extremists"

      Well, I guess that's the way one guesses when one is an idiot.

      The rest of us, notsomuch.

    3. On whose behalf is the Obama administration intimidating YouTube and American citizens who like to make bad films?

    4. I sit here wondering how little defense of "freedom of speech" there would be in certain places if this was a movie trailer from an unidentified Iranian film maker who portrayed Jesus as a gay child molester or claimed that the holocaust was just a great big hoax.

    5. :Sometimes when lives are at stake, a president has the right to apply pressure to influence individuals who make offensive films and the web sites that stream them."

      Really? How much "pressure"? What kind of "influence"? How much "influence? Who gets to define "offensive"? Please define "streams them"? What if that is something, from a technological perspective, that is activated by the end user? Does the end user get "pressured" to? I'm not saying there could be any satisfactory explanations to these questions. But I sure would like to see/here them. Especially coming from a guy who seems to conclude, as far as I can tell, that he can claim the power, in some limited cases to kill American citizens extra-judicially.

    6. If the film were anti-Christian, there's not a chance in Hell that the government would denounce it. HBO might show it.

    7. ABL, that's just bullshit, and you know it. Get the chip off your shoulder.

  7. There is a difference between condemning the EXERCISE of free speech, and condemning the CONTENT of free speech.

  8. Here is something else we might bear in mind before we jump to too many more conclusions.

    Rachel Maddow -- yes, the vile, hated Rachel Maddow -- reported this week that there is growing evidence that the attack on the consulate in Libya had absolutely nothing to do with the film trailer on YouTube, and everything to do with the drone attack earlier this year that killed Abu Yahya al-Libi, Al Qaeda's "Lion of Libya."

    Maddow reported that there was uncertainty over whether a huge violent demonstration over the film was even occurring at the consulate. What is clear is that several heavily armed men arrived at the scene together in several cars and opened fire with machine guns and rocket launchers, setting fire to the consulate.

    And this came hours after Al-Qaeda -- or what's left of it -- finally acknowledged the death of al-Libi and called for retaliation.

    Something we should all consider before we -- including presidential candidates -- fly off the handle and accuse the president of "sympathizing" with terrorists.