US election duel shifts to foreign drive after attacks

US election duel shifts to foreign drive after attacks

US election duel shifts to foreign drive after attacks

AP photo

President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have dropped their verbal battle over the economy to take aim at each other over the United States’ foreign policy following attacks on Washington’s missions in North Africa.

Romney came under a barrage of criticism from Democrats over the former Massachusetts governor’s remarks about the administration’s handling of the Middle East violence in which he accused the Obama administration late Sept. 11 of showing weakness in responding to the attacks after the U.S. Embassy in Cairo issued a statement criticizing a U.S.-made film, “The Innocence of Muslims,” for inciting religious anger in Egypt and leading to protests outside the mission.

“It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks,” Romney said.

Republican hopeful Romney called it “akin to an apology” before adding later, “It’s never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values.”

In an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” Obama said the episode showed Romney’s penchant for having “a tendency to shoot first and aim later” as the embassy statement was issued before protesters had scaled the Cairo mission’s walls and before similar demonstrations killed four U.S. diplomatic personnel in Benghazi.

“It appears that Romney didn’t have his facts right,” Obama said. He said the embassy was trying to “cool the situation down” and it was released “from folks on the ground who are potentially in danger.”

“My tendency is to cut folks a little bit of slack when they’re in that circumstance, rather than try to question their judgment from the comfort of a campaign office,” Obama said. He added that as president, “it’s important for you to make sure that the statements you make are backed up by the facts, and that you’ve thought through the ramifications before you make them.”

A statement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton minutes before Romney’s was released condemned the attack in Libya that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others and said there was no justification for such violent acts. Republican Sen. John McCain also accused Obama of pursuing “a feckless foreign policy” that has compromised American influence around the world. He said that the attack on the U.S. Consulate was evidence of “a belief in the Middle East that the U.S. is withdrawing” from the world.