Mitt Romney has spoken out strongy about the embassy attacks in the Middle East, beginning with this statement:
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.
Romney’s remarks were met with attacks, some of them quite vitriolic, from Democratic operatives, from Obama himself, from old-media members, and even from some old-line Republicans. These people are basically asserting that no candidate has the right to engage in real-time criticism of a sitting President which a diplomatic or military crisis is underway. Indeed, it seems that many of Romney’s critics are far more furious at him for speaking out than they are at the people who attacked the embassies and murdered an American ambassador.
I’m reminded of an episode I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. Following the German invasion of Poland in 1939, the Chamberlain administration waffled. Many members of Parliament were furious, and were not shy about letting their views be known. General Edward Spears, himself an MP at the time, described the scene:
Arthur Greenwood got up, tall, lanky, his dank, fair hair hanging to either side of his forehead. He swayed a little as he clutched at the box in front of him and gazed through his glasses at Chamberlain sitting opposite him, bolt-upright as usual. There was a moment’s silence, then something very astonishing happened.
Leo Amery, sitting in the corner seat of the third bench below the gangway on the government side, voiced in three words his own pent-up anguish and fury, as well as the repudiation by the whole House of a policy of surrender. Standing up he shouted across to Greenwood: “Speak for England!”
(Greenwood) hoped the Prime Minister would be able to make, he must make, a further statement when the House met at 12 next day, Sunday…Here many shouted “definite statement.” Every minute’s delay imperilled the foundations of our national honour. There must be no more devices for dragging out what had been dragged out too long. The moment we looked like weakening the Dictators would know we were beaten.
After the declaration of war, and following the British debacle in Norway, Chamberlain again came under attack in the House.
(Leo Amery) reviewed what had occurred since the fall of Finland, and in devastating sentences proved how clear and inevitable German action in Scandinavia had been, and how blind was the Government for not having foreseen the sequence of events…The house remained still and strained as it watched the redoubtable small squat figure of Amery smash the Government. It was as if he were hurling stones as large as himself, and hurling them with a vigour that increased as he proceeded, at the Governmental glass-house. The crash of glass could not be heard, but the effect was that of a series of deafening explosions. He concluded with the terrible words of Cromwell when he dismissed the Long Parliament: “You have sat here too long for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say–let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”
Had Romney’s critics been around in those days–and to the extent their arguments are meant seriously–then I guess they would have wanted all these MPs to simply shut up and allow the Chamberlain government to proceed with its feckless policies unhindered.
The Spears quotes are from his memoir Assignment to Catastrophe.