Gov. Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for president, confused the facts in his ill-timed and ill-advised comments Wednesday about the fatal attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya and statements made by the U.S. embassy in Egypt.
Even worse was his muddled representation of our country's principles.
Forget for the moment that the embassy in Cairo did not speak for the president when it released a statement about an American-made, anti-Muslin film, saying it "condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims." Forget, too, that the statement was released before the attacks on the embassies, rather than after as Romney said in his first burst of campaign trail indignation.
Consider instead Romney's contention that the statement was an expression of sympathy "with those who waged the attacks."
Perhaps it wasn't great diplomacy, but clearly the point was to reassure Muslims that a nasty anti-Muslin film and other anti-Muslim drivel that comes out of this country don't represent the beliefs of the government or many Americans.
Later, Romney defended his remarks saying the embassy "issued what appeared to be an apology for American principles. That was a mistake."
The statement affirmed American principles. We protect the right of people to produce these nasty things but we also protect and respect the right to practice the religion of your choice peacefully.
It is a source of great national strength, not weakness or appeasement, to reconfirm our support of religious freedom, to empathize with people whose beliefs are under attack and to condemn those attacks.
It's also an act of national self-interest. Chest-thumping, insistence on American rightness in all things and shows of military power will not make enduring allies of people who believe we do not respect their religion and culture.