By Justin Sink
Violent, anti-U.S. demonstrations in the Middle East wouldn't have happened under a Mitt Romney presidency, according to a top foreign policy adviser to the GOP presidential nominee.
“There’s a pretty compelling story that if you had a President Romney, you’d be in a different situation,” Richard Williamson, a top Romney foreign policy adviser, told The Washington Post. “For the first time since Jimmy Carter, we’ve had an American ambassador assassinated.”
Anti-U.S. demonstrations have flared throughout the Arab world over an obscure, online film said to defame the prophet Muhammed, and Romney's campaign has aggressively criticized the Obama administration's handling of the crisis.
Demonstrators in several Arab countries have attacked U.S. embassies, and an attack on the Libyan consulate in Benghazi left U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three others dead. It appears the attack in Libya could have been a coordinated effort by militants —and not the result of an angry mob.
Williamson's comments suggested that if Romney were president, the deadly protests would not have happened. He also seemed to suggest, by raising the comparison to Carter, that Stevens's death wouldn't have happened under Romney's watch.
Romney came under heavy criticism from Democrats for his attacks on Obama, which the president's campaign said was politicizing a tragedy.
Other Republicans also were slow to echo Romney's complaints in the wake of Stevens's death, leaving Romney on a bit of an island. But more and more Republicans are now rallying around his criticisms of the present's foreign policy stance.
The front-page interview with Williamson on Friday in the Post represented the most aggressive stance yet from the Romney campaign, as the Romney adviser also slammed Obama for his statment that Egypt isn't an ally of the U.S.
“The president can’t even keep track of who’s our ally or not. This is amateur hour — it’s amateur hour,” said Williamson, who mocked Obama for a "risk-adverse [sic], lead-from-behind approach" to foreign policy.
Romney's initial criticism of the Obama administration's response centered on a statement from the U.S. embassy in Cairo that hit the makers of the anti-Islam fim for hurting the feelings of Muslims.
The GOP nominee then came under criticism himself when it was noted that the embassy statement was released before the protests. Some also accused the Republican of being tone deaf given the deaths of Stevens and the other three Americans in Libya.
But Romney doubled down on the criticism in a press conference Wednesday, and since them, more top Republicans have joined him. On Thursday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) accused the president of a "feckless foreign policy" while Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said the unrest was the result of Obama's "policy of appeasement."
"There is war against America throughout the entire region. They're attacking us now,” Inhofe said.
Republicans also scored points over President Obama's comments about Egypt, in which he suggested the North African country was not an ally — despite a law passed by Congress that indicated otherwise.
Meanwhile, Romney himself has hammered the president over looming sequester cuts that threaten the Pentagon's budget. Both parties have indicated they'd like to roll back the cuts, although the sides disagree about how to pay to do so.
And former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld tweeted that "the attacks on our embassies and diplomats are a result of American weakness." Democrats quickly pointed out that more embassy attacks had occurred under President Bush than any other president.