THE BLOG
10/01/2012 01:52 pm ET Updated Dec 01, 2012

Another Foreign Policy Misstep: Libya and Romney's Unnecessary Call for Investigation -- Better to Lose, Than Win Dishonorably

For a brief period in 2007, I co-chaired Mr. Romney's Committee on the Constitution and the Courts. My co-chair, Professor Mary Ann Glendon of the Harvard Law School and myself were pleased to be of service to a candidate in that primary campaign who clearly loved his family, was of service to his church, sought to enrich the culture with athletic competition, and fought for an America that knows the value of sacrifice in battle, but even more knows the nobility of truth and the pursuit and enjoyment of goodwill.

Mr. Romney lost the 2008 primary badly, largely I concluded, by wholly unfair and regrettable attacks upon his faith launched by his fellow Republicans -- or at least those empowered to act in their name. It was a sickening display of win by any means that cost Mr. Romney the opportunity to represent the GOP in 2008 and frankly, I was proud of his willingness to leave the race, rather than fight on those terms.

I, too, left the Republican ranks at that time, but I endorsed Barack Obama. It was an endorsement well given, and I give it again in 2012, for the USA that Barack Obama represents is one that will not leave millions without health care to uphold a conception of freedom our founders would not recognize -- namely, one that proclaims not "one out of many," but "every body's in it for themselves."

There are abundant more positive reasons to re-elect the President from his well-kept promise of ending the war in Iraq to his adherence to his announced timetable in Afghanistan, to his genuine empathy with those who have lost jobs, homes, and their personal dreams on the altar of a badly skewed tax system and profiteering attitudes that think little of the lives, or the environment, destroyed in its wake.

I generally avoid making policy or political choices for negative reasons, but the Romney campaign in 2012 seems determined to supply one. Like many Americans, I was troubled when Mr. Romney traveled abroad and saw fit to criticize the international Olympic planning of our steadfast ally, the United Kingdom. I was equally troubled by the willingness to insert himself into the fragile Middle East discussion with a one-sided play for support back home. But these are venial sins in comparison to what no American citizen should, in decency, abide -- namely, Mr. Romney's dissembling on his initial uninformed criticism of Embassy-Cairo's entirely proper condemnation of a video which portrayed a sacred figure in a faith not his own in disgusting and irresponsible fashion.

For Mr. Romney to characterize our Embassy's statement as a cowardly apology not in keeping with American values is to suggest that Mr. Romney has been living in a country we would not recognize and frankly, a country populated by those holding hateful sentiments like those made against the Mormon faith in 2007-8 which neither of us could stomach.

That is not the America of 2012, and it is largely not that because from his first day in office, President Obama has proceeded in good will to offer all, friend and foe alike, an outstretched hand of peace built not upon lie or appeasement or the denigration of the human spirit, but upon its potential. In domestic and international matter alike, the President has sought common ground for the common good, and despite an attitude from his opposition that had as its announced policy the defeat of Barack Obama at any cost, he has built an economic recovery and a restored international stature upon that hard-won common ground.

Now comes Mr. Romney with the low suggestion that the Obama administration deliberately ignored so-called actionable intelligence of terrorist risk and allowed one of its brightest stars, Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, to be slaughtered. The suggestion is so base that it deprives indecency of its definition.

It is now plain to all that what took place in Benghazi had multiple causes, with the triggering event being the one announced by its enraged participants -- namely, showing offense for an abuse of freedom. Of course, the Secretary of State immediately denounced meeting insult with violence, but this did not mitigate Mr. Romney's ham-handed desire to criticize. Desperate times, desperate measures, I guess, but desperation does not allow what the Romney camp is serving up: an opportunistic suggestion of foreign policy neglect or malfeasance. The Romney camp is almost gleeful, saying, "This incident is a hinge event in the campaign because it opens up the opportunity to talk more broadly about Obama's foreign policy," said Richard Williamson, a former diplomat and an adviser to Romney.

No sir, it does not open up an opportunity for another blood-letting, faux investigation.

The responsible release of factual information and its verification before release is not foreign policy misadventure. How do I know? Because I knew Chris Stevens, and I knew his full appreciation of the risk he was entering into. Don't take my word for it, listen to Chris, himself. In a C-SPAN briefing
in August 2012, Ambassador Stevens demonstrates his full knowledge of the risk that he was assuming. In particular, Mr. Stevens made special note of the opportunistic militias, often die-hard loyalists to Qaddafi, who looked for spur of the moment opportunities to undermine the transitional government. To pretend there is a need for an outside investigation because the Secretary prudently did not want to falsely or prematurely report militia involvement before it could be ascertained is simply another unfortunate example of the GOP tendency to waste money on needless finger-pointing, rather than good governance. Given the false premise of Iraq and the still absent WMD, one might hope the standard-bearer of the GOP a little less impulsive.

But, Mr. Romney's now mounting foreign policy missteps suggest that like George W. Bush, he's only too anxious to cast aspersion and jump to ill-conclusion when it suits him.

Well informed by the best intelligence, including his own as someone fluent in Arabic, Chris returned to Benghazi with a genuine appreciation for Libyan culture in order to advance the aspirations of the Libyan people for an open and accountable government based upon the rule of law and respect for the human person.

Yes, there were and are dangers in Libya, but they were known then, and now. Chris' bravery in the face of danger has been well noted by the President and Secretary. Senator John McCain, who prevailed against you in the GOP primary in 2008, hit the nail squarely when he observed that we would be dishonoring Chris' memory were we to duck and cover in the face of resistance. Embassy -- Tripoli should remain open. Indeed, I myself have written to all three (Obama, Clinton and McCain) volunteering without hesitation take up Chris's work, though I suspect given the good women and men in the State Department that I am hardly alone fin line. Nonetheless, my bag is packed and my diplomatic passport at the ready if needed.

Governor, when I was part of your campaign, you told us -- when others meanly denigrated your Mormon beliefs that you would not respond in kind. There is, you said then, a right way and a wrong way to win an election.. Better to lose than be dishonored. "Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world," you then observed.

The principle remains as true as ever. Will you abide by it?