After being widely criticized this morning for his ugly and dishonest criticism of the Obama administration overnight, Mitt Romney appeared before the cameras this morning, delivering a statement and fielding some questions from reporters.
At a certain level, this should have been relatively easy. All Romney had to was come out, denounce the violence, honor the fallen, and extend his condolences to the families of the victims. In other words, Romney could have used this opportunity to undo some of the damage from his self-inflicted wound, and appear presidential.
Alas, Romney once again chose a different path.
Mark Halperin, a barometer of the political establishment's attitudes, called this the "most craven" and "ill-advised move" of the 2012 campaign.
It's just remarkable to see Romney unravel like this. Within hours of learning that a respected U.S. ambassador had been killed by a violent mob overseas, the Republican's first instinct was to launch a partisan campaign attack against the president. It came after a dishonest smear of the president last night -- on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, when Romney said he'd refrain from such attacks.
The nine-minute clip is well worth your time. Just two minutes in, Romney condemned messages from officials under attack in the U.S. embassy in Cairo, falsely accusing them "apologizing for our values."
Romney noted that the White House distanced itself from the same messages, which only made this morning's statement that much more misguided -- Romney was, simultaneously, saying the White House is wrong, the White House is right, and the White House is sending "mixed signals."
Romney must realize he was wrong overnight, but apparently feels as if backing down isn't a credible option -- so he's digging deeper, politicizing a tragedy, repeating falsehoods, and desperately trying to smear the president during an unfolding crisis.
It's a familiar pattern: Romney says something classless and untrue; he gets called out for his mendacity; then he repeats the falsehood under the cynical assumption that voters are easily fooled and there will be no consequences. This time, however, the GOP candidate is trying the strategy while trying to exploit deadly violence against Americans abroad.
Questions about whether Romney is fit for the nation's highest office will only get louder in light of this debacle.