President Obama assailed the reaction of his GOP opponent to the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi Wednesday, saying "Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first, aim later. And as president, one of the things I've learned is you can't do that." Mr. Obama said presidents must "make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts. And that you've thought through the ramifications before you make 'em."
The president made his comments in a previously scheduled interview for 60 Minutes with CBS News' Steve Kroft.The remarks fit in with his attack on Romney during the Democratic National Convention last week, in which he and other Democrats suggested Romney would not be an effective commander-in-chief.
Likely because Romney chose to attack the president while the attack on the diplomatic post in Benghazi was still going on - and, according to the Romney campaign's initial response, based on a false impression that the U.S. Embassy-Cairo press release expressing concern about the anti-Muslim movie had been issued after it was attacked - President Obama has so far avoided responding to serious criticisms of the role of the U.S. in the region, blowback from the Arab Spring, and whether his administration was lax in ensuring proper security at embassies and diplomatic posts on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11.
"Most Americans, Democrats or Republicans, understand that there are times where we set politics aside," Mr. Obama said. "And one of those is when we've got a direct threat to American personnel who are overseas. I think that if you look at how most Republicans have reacted, most elected officials, they've reacted responsibly, waiting to find out the facts before they talked."
Romney didn't, the president said. "It appears that Governor Romney didn't have his facts right." Noting that the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, which had been "threatened by a major protest," released a press release "saying that the film that had disturbed so many Muslims around the world wasn't representative of what Americans believe about Islam, in an effort to cool the situation down. It didn't come from me. It didn't come from Secretary Clinton. It came from folks on the ground, who are potentially in danger. And, you know, my tendency is to cut folks a little bit of slack when they're in that circumstance rather than try to question their judgment from the comfort of a campaign office."
"More broadly," the president added, "we believe in the First Amendment. It is one of the hallmarks of our constitution that I'm sworn to uphold. And so we are always gonna uphold the right for individuals to speak their mind. On the other hand this film is not representative of who we are and our values. And I think it's important for us to communicate that. That's never an excuse for violence against Americans, which is why number one priority and my initial statement focused on making sure that not only are Americans safe, but that we go after anybody who would attack Americans."
Asked by Kroft if Romney's statement was "irresponsible," the president said that was up to the American people to decide."