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Well, as Josh Marshall says, "this is when you learn they're not ready." Or at least when your suspicions become manifest.
The roof has caved in on Mitt Romney, beyond even Chuck Todd and Peggy Noonan's criticism of his mishandling of his response to the murders of American diplomats in Libya and Cairo. Now it seems that everyone involved in the diplomacy business are pronouncing him unfit:
"They were just trying to score a cheap news cycle hit based on the embassy statement and now it’s just completely blown up," said a very senior Republican foreign policy hand, who called the statement an "utter disaster" and a "Lehman moment" — a parallel to the moment when John McCain, amid the 2008 financial crisis, failed to come across as a steady leader.
He and other members of both parties cited the Romney campaign's recent dismissals of foreign policy's relevance. One adviser dismissed the subject to BuzzFeed as a "shiny object," while another told Politico that the subject was the "president's turf," drawing a rebuke from Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol.
"I guess we see now that it is because they’re incompetent at talking effectively about foreign policy," said the Republican. "This is just unbelievable — when they decide to play on it they completely bungle it."
And that's just the Republicans.
So he went before the press this morning and basically doubled down -- smirking, as he had the night before, all the way through. If those performances didn't convince anyone that this is not the man you want handling a difficult national crisis, nothing will.
As Greg Sargent observed about Romney's "opportunistic, incoherent" response:
But this press conference looks to me like a serious mistake on Romney’s part. The whole thing reeked of political opportunism and didn’t convey any sense of leadership or reassurance amid a crisis. It was also somewhat incoherent. At one point, Romney defended his reaction by noting that the White House, too, had also condemned the U.S embassy’s statement, claiming: “I had the exact same reaction.” Okay, so Romney is criticizing the Obama administration while simultaneously agreeing with it?
Romney is arguing that the administration at first took an objectionable stance. But the statement in question was put out by the U.S. embassy in Cairo, at a moment when it was bracing for trouble. No one except for confirmed Obama haters will buy the notion that the Obama administration sympathized with the attacks. And yet here Romney is at a hastily convened press conference, at a time when four Americans were murdered, doubling down on that exact charge.
This kind of thing will thrill the base, but will it really resonate with undecided and persuadable voters? The new Washington Post poll finds Obama holds an overwhelming 51-38 advantage over Romney on who is more trusted to handle international affairs. Does the Romney camp really think that raising the “apology” canard yet again in this context is a good strategy? Tellingly, no other GOP leaders criticized the Obama administration today, leaving Romney isolated.
But Romney appears to be heeding the advice of people like Alex Castellanos, who sees the embassy attacks as a prime political opportunity:
But other Republican strategists felt emboldened by Romney's swift and severe condemnation of how the administration's handling of the crisis.
"This could be a game changer," GOP strategist and CNN contributor Alex Castellanos said. "Romney has to go at this and make it clear that he is doing it not for political gain but because weak, apologetic leadership is dangerous for the country."
If that's the advice he's following, he deserves the polls that will follow.