Romney jumps the gun

John T. Sullivan | Guest Columnist

When I was growing up and taking citizenship classes in school, we were always taught that “politics stops at the water’s edge” and that “we only have one president at a time.” I guess all of that went out the window on Sept. 11 when Mitt Romney, with less than cautious abandon, dove into the precarious political waters of Middle Eastern uncertainty to heap scorn on the president of the United States at a time when unity of purpose, resolve and response would have made more sense.

Libyan men protest against Ansar al-Shariah Brigades and other Islamic militias in Benghazi, Libya, Friday, Sept. 21.

Libyan men protest against Ansar al-Shariah Brigades and other Islamic militias in Benghazi, Libya, Friday, Sept. 21.

Clearly, for whatever reason, Romney jumped the gun to inject himself into an ongoing crisis, while prudence dictated that he hold his fire and shut his mouth, especially in the face of the death of an American diplomat. He should have kept quiet, at least until the dust settles, and it becomes clear what happened and is still happening.
Romney sounded as if he were the pseudo-president, speaking as if he represented America and attempting to undercut the credibility of our one and only president at a time when standing together in the face of attacks against our embassies and our personnel should be soundly condemned. He is not elected to any office and has no right to speak on behalf of the American people. He is simply a candidate for office. Nothing more, nothing less. Nor does he “represent” us, or anyone, at least not yet. With this type of performance, I hope he never will.
This move by Romney is nothing short of a knee jerk reaction and a boneheaded attempt to cash in and capitalize on a volatile situation, one that calls for a demonstration of American resolve and unity in the face of a common enemy: intolerance, ignorance and extremism in the guise of religious zealotry.
If Romney had simply said, “We stand by the president and secretary of state in this hour of peril and are united in support of their efforts to see that justice is done and that American values will be protected and defended,” he would have looked better. Instead, he showed himself to be a much smaller man than his opponent, the current president, Barack Obama.
Speaking with one voice against our enemies is a sign of strength, not weakness. Politicizing a situation when Americans are in harm’s way or when our embassies are under attack will do us no good. In fact, it will only undermine our resolve. In times of peril, we must stand as one. The neocon political reaction to the attacks on our embassies in Cairo and our consulate in Benghazi is just wrong. We need to unite behind our president and speak clearly with one voice that attacks on our embassies will not be tolerated nor will they go unpunished. We must show we are together in this resolve, as we did after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. There will be enough time to debate the merits of our policies, both long and short term, that have helped to put us in peril. However, when events like these attempt to upend our American apple cart in the world, we need to stand together.
This is no time to question the commander in chief’s birth certificate. It is time to show the world that we will not allow any extremist group to dissuade us from our American values of protection of freedom of speech, even when we disagree with what is being said. At the same time, we must express contempt for the efforts by a small minority to denigrate others’ religions. We must encourage respect and tolerance in the face of extremism and knee-jerk reactionary “isms.” In short, we must show our true mettle and resolve, lest other nations perceive us to be weak and divided. There is a time for political debate on foreign policy, but not when we are under attack. At this time we must find unity in our purpose and spirit, and embrace the values under which our country was founded, for this is our greatest weapon against the tyranny others might seek to impose upon us.
Surely, united we should stand, for divided we may fall and fail.

John T. Sullivan Jr. is an adjunct professor of political science at PSU and MSSU.

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