WASHINGTON -- Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) piled onto a right-wing push Wednesday to blame President Barack Obama for attacks on U.S. diplomatic posts in Libya and Egypt, even as many other leaders counseled caution and support for the democratic underpinnings of the Arab Spring.
Mobs protested in Egypt and Libya on Tuesday, apparently spurred by an anti-Islam film promoted by Quran-burning preacher Terry Jones. In Benghazi, Libya, attackers fired rocket-propelled grenades at the U.S. Consulate, killing four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
West, a former U.S. Army officer, suggested it was the Obama administration's support for the Arab Spring uprisings that encouraged the attacks by "intolerant, barbaric, radical Muslims."
"Americans need to question whether the deaths of these innocent patriots could have been avoided," said the controversial lawmaker in a statement. "The Obama Administration touted the Arab Spring as an awakening of freedom, which we now see is a nightmare of Islamism." West then repeated a false claim that U.S. Embassy officials in Cairo "apologized" for the inflammatory film.
"President Obama's policy of appeasement towards the Islamic world has manifested itself into a specter of unconscionable hatred," West continued, declaring that the events in Libya and Egypt ranked with the Iranian hostage crisis, in which 52 Americans were held for 444 days in Tehran, starting in late 1979.
"President Obama has clearly surpassed former President Jimmy Carter and his actions during the Iranian Embassy crisis, as the weakest and most ineffective person to ever occupy the White House," West said. He did not mention that Obama's watch has also seen the death of Osama bin Laden and scores of extra-judicial killings of terrorists in drone strikes.
Another House Republican, Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, said the U.S. should cut off funding aimed at helping Libya transition to democracy since the people there don't appreciate the help.
"We must stop spending our Treasury on risking our American lives for those who neither appreciate our sacrifice nor believe in basic liberties," Brooks said on the House floor. "I pray the president is listening."
West's remarks were similar to those of Sarah Palin, who declared on her Facebook page that Obama needed to "grow" a "big stick."
But Palin's former running mate, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), penned a far more nuanced response, along with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). They argued that despite the anguish and outrage Americans feel at the diplomats' deaths, it is important to continue to promote democracy and the Arab Spring.
The three senators, who are often critical of the Obama administration, represent perhaps the most influential legislators among centrist and conservative foreign policy makers. McCain is the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, on which Graham also serves, and Lieberman chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
"Despite this horrific attack, we cannot give in to the temptation to believe that our support for the democratic aspirations of people in Libya, Egypt, and elsewhere in the broader Middle East is naive or mistaken," they wrote.
"We cannot resign ourselves to the false belief that the Arab Spring is doomed to be defined not by the desire for democracy and freedom that has inspired millions of people to peaceful action, but by the dark fanaticism of terrorists," they warned, cautioning that if the United States gave up, it would be a win for terrorists.
"To follow this misguided path would not only be a victory for the extremists and their associates, but a betrayal of everything for which Chris Stevens and his colleagues stood and gave their lives," the senators wrote. "In short, it would be a betrayal of our own best ideals as Americans and our own enduring interest in using our great influence to support the overwhelming majority of people in the Middle East who want to be free from the kinds of murderers and terrorists who killed our people yesterday in Benghazi."
The remarks of the senators, who declared they "have confidence that our own government will provide all necessary assistance" to help Libya catch the killers, also contrasted with those of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who leveled harsh criticism at the White House.
Jennifer Bendery contributed to this report.