After an obscure California real-estate developer posted an anti-Islam video on YouTube, a video that was then promoted by an obscure right-wing preacher in Florida, news of the video spread in the Middle East. Hours before protests reached any U.S. embassy or consulate, the U.S. Embassy in Egypt issued a 99-word statement:
“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.”
This, in Mitt Romney’s mind, represents an “apology” from the Obama administration for “American values.”
But there’s a pattern of bipartisan diplomacy that’s worth remembering here. Dave Weigel noted this morning, for example, that the Bush/Cheney administration condemned European caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in 2006, saying, ”We find them offensive, and we certainly understand why Muslims would find these images offensive.”
Two years later, President Bush apologized to Iraq’s prime minister for an American sniper’s shooting of a Quran.
In 2011, when that fringe Florida pastor caused riots abroad by announcing plans to burn Qurans, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo condemned the stunt, saying in a statement, “Since the founding of our nation, the United States has upheld the principles of tolerance and respect for religious freedom.”
In Romney’s mind, are all of these statements offensive? Do they all reflect “apologies” for “American values”? Is just being cravenly opportunistic now because he’s down in the polls?
Or more to the point, if there’s a Romney administration, will he refuse to engage in this kind of diplomacy?