Even as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney defends his criticism of how President Obama handled an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, other Republicans echoed Romney by saying Obama's policies are partly to blame.
Romney has denounced a statement, issued by an employee of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, that condemned an inflammatory video that helped spur the attacks. The Republican nominee said it was "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."
Democrats have assailed Romney for that response, noting that the attacks in Libya happened after the Cairo embassy issued its statement and accusing Romney of conflating an embassy employee's statement with the Obama administration's official response (Obama condemned the attacks, and the embassy employee reportedly ignored instructions to not issue the statement).
But amid the continuing fallout, Romney has found support from members of his party. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, a key Romney surrogate, called the Cairo statement "inappropriate" and backed Romney's contention that "the American government ought not to issue an apology."
Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, took the criticism a step further by likening the statement to a judge "telling the woman, 'You got raped, you asked for it because of the way you dressed.'"
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Other Republicans tied the situation in Libya to a broader indictment of the Obama administration's foreign policy record. Sen. John McCain of Arizona linked the attacks in Benghazi to Obama's "feckless" foreign policy and charged that extremists are emboldened by America's declining influence in the region, citing "a belief in the Middle East that the United States is withdrawing."
Rep. Allen West, a firebrand Florida Republican who has been a vocal and unrestrained antagonist of the Obama administration, said that "President Obama has clearly surpassed former President Jimmy Carter and his actions during the Iranian Embassy crisis as the weakest and most ineffective person to ever occupy the White House."
Those criticisms dovetail with Romney's efforts to portray Obama as a weak, indecisive leader who is more concerned with apologizing for America's actions abroad than with promoting American interests or confronting its foes. His quick response to the Cairo embassy statement, roundly questioned as overly hasty, was consistent with that larger campaign strategy.
"They clearly sent mixed messages to the world," Romney told reporters on Wednesday. "And the statement that came from the administration -- and the embassy is the administration -- the statement that came from the administration was a statement which is akin to an apology and I think was a severe miscalculation."