Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney got lots of grief after he stuck his foot in his mouth and attacked the Obama administration shortly after US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed last week.
Now it’s President Obama’s turn to take the heat.
Republicans and conservative bloggers have hammered the administration during the past few days over the revelations that the attack on a US consulate in Benghazi was a terrorist attack and Ambassador Stevens had almost no security to protect him.
Sen. John McCain, a cranky war hawk whose perennial criticism of the president’s foreign policy has sounded like a broken record (remember those?), sounded passionate and persuasive on the subject on Anderson Cooper 360 Wednesday night.
Now, as more and more information gets out, the president and his foreign policy team have had to abandon their stonewalling and have had to admit that yes, things went a little awry.
On Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney acknowledged that the September 11th attack that killed the ambassador was not a spontaneous assault on the consulate by crowds enraged by an anti-Muslim film but was instead an “opportunistic…terrorist attack.”
And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who wants to serve out the remainder of her term without incident before possibly running for president again, said there was “no information” Ambassador Stevens had been on an Al Qaeda hit list.
CNN had reported that on Cooper’s show, citing a source “familiar with Ambassador [Christopher] Stevens’ thinking.”
Still, the Secretary said she had formed a commission to investigate the killings, headed by Thomas Pickering, a distinguished former diplomat.
All of this is taking a toll on the president. His approval rating on foreign policy dropped to 49% in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal released this week, down from 54% the previous month. Some 46% of voters now disapprove of his handling of foreign policy, a six-percentage-point rise in that number.
I don’t think this is a critical political problem for him yet, and I doubt Romney will pick up much ground in this area. But it’s something the White House has to be watching less than 50 days before the election as events in faraway places are starting to hit close to home.