Weigel

Not a Gaffe: Conservatives Stand Up for Romney’s Embassy Statement

Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan speaks at The Family Research Council (FRC) Action Values Voter Summit on September 14, 2012 at a hotel in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GettyImages)
Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GettyImages

WASHINGTON – Conservatives have more cattle calls than liberals do. No bias, just fact. The constellation of social conservative groups, fiscal conservative groups, Tea Parties et al demand that Republicans come and pitch to them. So there are plenty of opportunities to hear conservatives re-heating their red meat, instead of “reaching out to independents.”

I say this to explain how Mitt Romney’s campaign-rattling statement embassies became a rallying cry. At the Values Voter Summit, Romney’s “gaffe” has been explained as a Reaganesque statement of heroic principle. Bill Bennett, who was given the task of introducing Paul Ryan, told the audience that Romney had “thundered” – not just, you know, e-mailed – his statement. “When [remarks] are condemned so universally by the establishment press,” he said, “It’s likely that they are true.”

Ryan himself opened his speech by explaining just how brave the Romney statement was.

We have all seen images of our flag being burned and our embassies under attack by vicious mobs.  The worst of it is the loss of four good men, including our ambassador to Libya.  They were there for the most peaceful purposes in service to our country.  And today our country honors their lives and grieves with their families.

All of us are watching events closely, but we know who America is dealing with in these attacks.  They are extremists who operate by violence and intimidation.  And the least equivocation or mixed signal only makes them bolder. 

Look across that region today, and what do we see?

- The slaughter of brave dissidents in Syria.

- Mobs storming American embassies and consulates.

- Iran four years closer to gaining a nuclear weapon. 

- Israel, our best ally in the region, treated with indifference bordering on contempt by the Obama administration. 

Amid all these threats and dangers, what we do not see is steady, consistent American leadership.

In the days ahead, and in the years ahead, American foreign policy needs moral clarity and firmness of purpose.  Only by the confident exercise of American influence are evil and violence overcome. 

That is how we keep problems abroad from becoming crises. That is what keeps the peace.  And that is what we will have in a Romney-Ryan administration.

Like I’ve been saying: Not a gaffe, a message.