Rarely have we watched a false media narrative assembled and deployed so quickly, right before our eyes and ears. The Right Scoop has incredible open-mike audio, plus a transcript, of reporters at Mitt Romney???s press conference on Wednesday comparing notes to ensure that no matter who Romney called upon for questions, the ???gaffe??? narrative would be pushed.
???I???m just trying to make sure that we???re just talking about, no matter who he calls on we???re covered on the one question,??? says a CBS News reporter. Another ???journalist??? clarifies what that ???one question??? should be: ???Do you stand by your statement or regret your statement????
Somehow this ???Romney gaffe??? narrative became more important than anything said or done by the actual President??? who received absolutely zero criticism from the press herd for running away from his ???press conference??? without taking any questions at all. Isn???t that amazing? If the parties were reversed, the most widely viewed video clip in America right now would be a robotic Barack Obama mumbling through the end of his prepared statement and trotting away with Hillary Clinton at his side, while a reporter tries to ask him if the murder of the U.S. ambassador to Libya should be viewed as an act of war.
If Romney had accepted no questions at his press conference, he would have been pilloried. If he???d said nothing about the conduct of the Obama Administration during the hours of developing crisis on Tuesday night, the press would be running stories about how he might as well wrap up his campaign right now, because he has no critique to offer of Obama???s masterful foreign policy.
It seems as if some are buying into the media spin without really knowing what Mitt Romney said, or what he was responding to. The second-stage boosters have already fired on this manufactured narrative, boosting it into a stable orbit in which angry sentiments are forcefully expressed by people who literally do not know what they are talking about. This is made worse by the media???s remarkable willingness to ignore the statement from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo that kicked off the whole affair. The embassy outrageously, and perhaps illegally, deleted its most offensive messages, and the press has obligingly forgotten about them, even though plenty of copies are preserved across the Internet.
So let???s take it from the top, and remind anyone coming in late what this whole kerfuffle is all about. Here is the now-deleted statement from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo that Romney was responding to:
???The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims ??? as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.???
If you???re falling for the spin that the Administration didn???t ???apologize??? for anything, I???ve highlighted the parts you???re not supposed to remember.
Here is what Romney said in response, after it was known that trouble had spread to Libya, and there had been at least one American casualty, but before the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens was reported:
???I???m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. 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. I???m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi.???
There???s a weird new permutation of the ???Romney gaffe??? meme going around that says Romney???s big problem was getting the ???timing??? of events wrong. This is based on interpreting his second sentence ??? ???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??? ??? as a reference to something the State Department or White House might have done after crises had erupted in both Libya and Egypt. In truth, he???s talking about the very first response from an official source at the beginning of the crisis in Egypt: the statement from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
This is not difficult for anyone who was following events closely on Tuesday night to understand, and that???s when Romney issued his statement, during a period when Obama was completely silent (and, according to reports today, might have actually turned in for the night, with the fate of the American ambassador in Libya still unknown.) There???s only room to complain about the ???timing??? of the statement, or Romney???s understanding of the ???sequence of events,??? if you???re inadvertently or willfully ignorant of what actually transpired during the night, and rely entirely on media narratives cooked up the following morning. It???s not Mitt Romney???s fault that the goalposts were moved after he spoke, and the media-certified ???first response??? of the Obama Administration became something the White House or State Department said hours after Romney???s statement was issued.
If Romney made a ???gaffe,??? it was his failure to insert another sentence quoting the Cairo embassy statement he was criticizing, to make it impossible for his words to be twisted later. He made the political mistake of assuming that people reading his statement eight hours later would know what he was referring to.
Bear in mind that some of the people whining about Romney???s ???timing,??? based on distortion of one sentence in his statement, are the same people who think Obama???s notorious ???You didn???t build that??? statement cannot be understood without a hundred pages of ???context.???
Let it not be forgotten that the White House initially tried to distance itself from the Cairo embassy remarks, saying they were ???not cleared by Washington,??? even as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton initially stood by those remarks. Foreign Policy reports that numerous sources within the State Department agree with Romney???s critique ??? they just haven???t been willing to put their names on public statements, released as events unfolded in real time. The Obama campaign???s media allies are hammering Romney for publicly saying something much of the Obama Administration is saying off the record.
Hours after Romney called out the Administration for its response to events in Cairo, Twitter messages were being deleted left and right, as a new unified narrative was deployed by the White House and State Department. But in just a single day, the media has rewritten history to the point where many who criticize Romney???s comments don???t know when he made them, or what he was denouncing. He made it all fairly clear during his Wednesday morning press conference??? but by then, he was talking to the oncoming horns and hooves of a media stampede.
There???s a good reason for the swift and coordinated response from the Obama-friendly press corps, and it???s not just the urge to score some points against Mitt Romney. They are scared to death that the Obama Administration???s conduct during the crises in Egypt and Libya will be examined closely. They believe, correctly, that shifting attention completely away from Obama is imperative, and they knew it had to be done quickly.
Why has President Obama been skipping more than half of his daily intelligence briefings ??? including, evidently, all of the briefings in the week leading up to September 11? Why wasn???t the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya ??? a hotbed of al-Qaeda activity ??? better protected on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, especially since there were numerous warnings of possible reprisals for the recent liquidation of al-Qaeda bigwigs? Why were Libyan forces entrusted with so much responsibility for the physical security of that consulate, given how much trouble we???ve been having with compromised local security forces in the Middle East?
How was this Administration so completely blindsided by an orchestrated mob action across multiple Middle Eastern nations? Why have so many of its public statements, including what Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton said after they had plenty of time to process the events of Tuesday night, playing into the narrative that it???s all a spontaneous outburst of rage against a ???blasphemous??? YouTube video? What about the Administration???s rapidly deteriorating relationship with Israel? And why is the President politicking in Las Vegas ??? and making explicit use of the crisis to score political points ??? even as embassy attacks spread out to Yemen, and perhaps beyond?
Never have so many ???journalists??? simultaneously decided to avoid asking such important questions. They don???t even seem upset that Obama won???t give them a chance to ask.