There are two conclusions to be drawn from the despicable attacks on the U.S. consulate in Libya that killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
The first is that these were coordinated military operations by terrorists, conducted under the cover of spontaneous demonstrations responding to an obscure movie trailer on YouTube that profanes the Prophet Muhammed and Islam. It is a reminder that the United States must be constantly on guard against such perfidy, particularly at diplomatic outposts and especially on anniversaries of 9/11.
The second is that toxic politics at home have sunk into such an abyss that Mitt Romney apparently felt obliged to criticize statements coming from the U.S. embassy in Cairo, and from President Obama, at the height of a diplomatic crisis. It is a sad example of a candidate choosing opportunism over statesmanship and scripted campaign talking points over thoughtful, careful language. That his statements didn't make much sense is almost beside the point.
The Republican megaphone has been blaring the same themes about Obama apologizing for America and sympathizing with enemies of the United States since the president delivered his address to the Muslim world in Cairo in 2009. While it is true that the president acknowledged in that speech that the fear and anger arising from 9/11 had sometimes caused America to stray from its ideals, no fair reading of the speech can interpret it as an apology for the United States or its policies. Romney's comments Tuesday and Wednesday are a repetition and extension of that falsehood.
The president's response to the violence against U.S. diplomats has been swift and appropriate. He condemned the killings and vowed to bring those responsible to justice. There is no reason to doubt that the United States will work closely with its allies in Libya and elsewhere in the region to find the killers. Indeed, many in Libya and Benghazi in particular are grateful to the United States because NATO air power helped to liberate that city from Moammar Gadhafi's forces in the recent revolution.
However, the political situation in that nation remains unstable, with a weak government attempting to enforce order in a country where rival militias with various political goals, some of them anti-American, are competing with the government for power.
Under those circumstances, it is impossible to predict how the American search for justice will proceed. But proceed it will. Without apology.