Never Too Soon: Pundits Turn Murders in Libya into a Partisan Cudgel

There is always a group of people for whom it is never too soon to analyze four Americans' murder for possible partisan gain.

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There is always a group of people for whom it is never too soon to analyze four Americans' murder for possible partisan gain. For those talking heads, there were two main lines of attack after news broke that U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and three other State Department staffers were killed in a Benghazi rocket attack. The reactions were 1) that President Obama is a weak ineffectual leader just like Jimmy Carter and 2) that Obama is a Muslim terrorist sympathizer.

The conservative responses are predicated on the idea that the U.S. embassy in Egypt tweeted a condemnation of Terry Jones' anti-Islam movie after the attacks, which isn't true, as Salon's Steve Kornacki points out.

Carter II

The photos of protesters climbing embassy walls in Cairo "looks like 1979," Columbia University's Jeffrey Sachs said on MSNBC Wednesday morning. "We all remember what happened in 1979," Andrea Mitchell responded. "So you've got a president running for re-election and all of the criticism that he's already endured from the Romney campaign about his policy in the Middle East, particularly in Iran and so there are a lot of echoes."

Yes, this is just like the Iranian hostage crisis, Hot Air's Ed Morrissey wrote.

Once again we have an American government that either tacitly or actively undermined an ally in the region in favor of supposedly democratic Islamist radicals, and once again we have an American government that gets taken by surprise when the government that results either fails to protect our embassies and consulates or arguably participated in an attack on them. Once again, the response to those attacks have been more mea culpa than mighty, and once again the weakness of the response puts our other diplomatic missions at risk.

It’s looking a lot like 1979 all over again.

Commentary's John Podhoretz notes the 1979 hostage crisis too, and warns:

The strange spectacle of the dreadful initial response from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo—apologizing for an offense that the United States did not offer and that under any circumstances would not justify an attack—followed by a White House disavowal six hours later (“we didn’t clear it”) can be ascribed to the initial daze of a two-pronged attack that must have left everyone in shock. That lack of clarity must end today, or there will be more of this. Much more.

Muslim radical sympathizer

RedState's Erick Erickson, a CNN commentator, thought Obama didn't have enough genuine sympathy for Christians, tweeting, "Honestly hard for me, as a Christian evangelical, to believe Obama saying "US rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others."

Michelle Malkin, on the other hand, imagines too much sympathy for Muslims.

As you may have heard, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo chose the 11th anniversary of 9/11 to apologize for “hurt Muslim feelings” as radical Egyptian clerics stoked faux-rage over an obscure documentary attacking Islamic extremism. The Obama administration’s mortifying apology, of course, did not mollify the Muslim agitators. Appeasement has never mollified the practitioners of the Religion of Perpetual Outrage.

"Probably not the best day to re-read Obama's Cairo speech," The National Review's Jonah Goldberg tweeted. This 2009 speech to the Muslim world is the basis for the idea that Obama went on an apology tour.  Fox News pundit Sarah Palin reminded Facebook fans of one of her classic 2008 quotes -- "Apparently President Obama can’t see Egypt and Libya from his house."  Summarizing the attacks and condemning the embassy for apologizing, Palin continued:

It’s about time our president stood up for America and condemned these Islamic extremists... We already know that President Obama likes to “speak softly” to our enemies. If he doesn’t have a “big stick” to carry, maybe it’s time for him to grow one.

I'm pretty sure that last line means grow a penis? The piece of anatomy usually used in this way is some slang for testicles, but that's plural. Palin could also mean grow a backbone. Not sure.

Mitt Romney and Republican National Committee chair Reince Preibus also condemned Obama for "sympathizing" with Muslim radicals. Other Republican leaders have not joined them on that charge, issuing statements that don't mention Obama's response. This is probably because they saw the response coming. "The evidence that the president 'sympathizes with attackers in Egypt' was not immediately apparent, likely because it does not in any way exist," ABC News' Jake Tapper wrote. "Mitt’s shameful Libya statement," read the headline on Salon's Steve Kornacki's post. Politico called Romney's statement "incendiary," NBC News' First Read calls it "over the top."

Romney's response set up the Democratic counter-outrage.  "We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack," Obama campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt said.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.