Few Republican lawmakers sided with GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney Wednesday as he blamed President Barack Obama for the embassy attack in Libya that left the U.S. ambassador to the country dead – except for Rep. Allen West of Florida.
Referring to the Arab Spring protests that toppled oppressive regimes in Libya, Egypt Tunisia and other Middle East countries, West said “the Obama administration touted the Arab Spring as an awakening of freedom, which we now see is a nightmare for Islamism.”
“Even more concerning, the initial response to these attacks from the embassy officials of the Obama administration was to apologize to a Facebook video that supposedly hurt Muslim feelings,” West continued. “President Obama’s policy of appeasement towards the Islamic world has manifested itself into a specter of unconscionable hatred.”
West, one of two black Republicans in the House of Representatives, said he couldn’t comprehend “How anyone can believe this president is strong on national security and foreign policy.”
“President Obama has clearly surpassed former President Jimmy Carter and his actions during the Iranian Embassy crisis as the weakest and most ineffective person to ever occupy the White House,” West concluded.
West’s outburst mirrored Romney’s take on Obama’s handling of the Libyan embassy attack that resulted in the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens. The GOP presidential candidate likened the White House’s reaction to an apology and said it was “disgraceful to apologize for American values.”
Romney, however, was melding the embassy attack in Benghazi, Libya, with an incident in Cairo, Egypt hours before regarding an anti-Muslim film produced by an American for which U.S. diplomatic officials released a statement.
On the Libya incident, Obama said: “I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.”
While Romney and West aggressively attacked Obama for the Libya incident, other Republicans on Capitol Hill offered diplomatically muted reactions that lawmakers traditionally give when a president is in the throes of a foreign crisis.
“Our thoughts and sympathy are with the families of these brave Americans,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who dislikes Obama so much that he vowed make it his mission to make sure that Obama is a one-term president. “These attacks remind us of the sacrifices made on a daily basis by Foreign Service officers, diplomatic personnel, and our Marine Security Guards.”
Even Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), constant critics of Obama on foreign policy and military affairs, avoided blasting the president on Libya.
“In the midst of last year’s uprising in Libya, Chris traveled at great personal risk to Benghazi to represent the country he loved as the U.S. envoy to the Libyan opposition,” the senators noted.
Still, some Republicans in addition to Romney and West couldn’t resist trying to score political points from the Middle East situation. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said via Twitter “Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.”
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, took a veiled dig at Romney, West, Priebus and others who sought to gain politically from the Libya attack.
“This is one of those moments when Americans must unite as Americans,” Kerry said. “It is exactly the wrong time to throw political punches. It is a time to restore calm and proceed wisely.”