The Season of No Repentence

Jews around the world are taking stock of their actions and asking those they have wrong for forgiveness. (Indeed the Philadelphia Jewish Voice just learned that we miscredited a quote and we are truly sorry.)

However, Mitt Romney has based his campaign on theme of No Apology so he can’t apologize for his mistakes, and this will be his undoing.

A perfect example of this is Romney’s blunder in its response to the death of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other American diplomat in Benghazi, Libya. As serious as the underlying mistake was, it is compounded by Romney’s “No Apology” creed which leaves him unable to undo his error.

Romney’s error is related to a misunderstanding of the timeline of events, so it is helpful to first review what happened (Source: TPM.)

  • July 2010: Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida announces that he would burn 200 Qurans to mark the 9th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. At least 20 people are killed in protests against Jones threat. (Pastor Jones is not to be confused with the famous comedian, businessman, and athletes of the same name.)
  • September 2010: Jones cancels the Quran burning and pledges never to burn a Quran.
  • April 2012: Jones burns copies of the Quran and is fined $271 by the Gainesville, Florida Fire Department for the unauthorized burning.
  • June 5, 2012: The Terry Jones and Sam Bacile post an insulting, low-budget, amateurish 14-minute video portraying the prophet Mohammed performing cunnilingus on a loose woman, and “converting” a donkey is Islam. They claim the video the trailer for a feature movie.
  • September 9, 2012: A scene from the film is aired in Arabic on Egyptian television.
  • September 11, 2012 (6:17am ET): Hoping to head off the expected protests, the Director of Social Media at the U.S. embassy in Cairo issues the following statement:

    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.

  • 4:30pm ET: Unarmed protest gathered around the U.S. embassy in Cairo, scale the walls and destroy an American flag. The protesters are removed and the embassy send a tweet condemning the breach, and standing by its initial condemnation of religiously inflammatory speech, which, it noted, was “issued before the attacks.”
  • 5:37pm ET: Pastor Jones issues a press release:

    “Tonight after International Judge Mohammad Day we will be showing the Mohammad Movie Trailer, a video promoting the movie, Innocence of Muslims. It is an American production, not designed to attack Muslims but to show the destructive ideology of Islam. The movie further reveals in a satirical fashion the life of Muhammad.”

    Bacile claims he raised $5,000,000 for the film from anonymous Jewish donors, but the Israeli foreign ministry quickly disavowed the film saying,

    “Nobody knows who he is. He is totally unknown in filmmaking circles in Israel. And anything he did – he is not doing it for Israel, or with Israel, or through Israel in any way.”

    The spokesman Yigal Palmor also called Bacile “a complete loose cannon and an unspeakable idiot.”

  • 5:41pm: Reporters in Libya hear shooting and see smoke rising near the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
  • 7:35pm: Reuters confirms that an American consulate staffer has been killed in Benghazi. This staffer is later identified as Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith.
  • 10:09pm: The Romney campaign issue a statement from Mitt Romney himself condemning the Obama administration for the Cairo embassy’s repudiation of religiously insensitive speech. It falsely suggests that the Cairo embassy’s condemnation came in response to the attacks in both Egypt and Libya.

    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.

    The statement is embargoed — meaning the press cannot report on it – until midnight, Sept. 12 — the moment the Obama and Romney campaigns’ Sept. 11 truce is scheduled to end.
    10:10pm: An Obama administration source disavows the U.S. embassy in Cairo’s statement of condemnation to Politico.
    10:25pm: Without explanation, the Romney campaign lifts its embargo on Romney’s statement and it becomes public.

Since then Romney has been repeatedly been called on by Democrats and Republicans alike to retract the criticism he made in the heat of the moment. Perhaps Romney was unaware that the tweets were issued before the deaths. It is hard to blame someone for not condemning something that has not happened yet. Perhaps Romney didn’t realize that the tweets were sent by an embassy under siege hoping to get across the message that the YouTube video did not express official US policy. Perhaps Romney didn’t read the message he was criticizing.

According to a campaign spokesman, Romney had prepared this attack on Obama and was waiting for a foreign crisis that “fit”. Obviously in their eagerness to exploit the “Obama apology tour” meme which they had developed they were too hasty to check the facts or even wait for the end of the September 11 memorial truce.

However, the essence of Romney’s statement, Romney’s book and indeed Romney’s campaign is that America should never apologize for anything, so however poorly conceived Romney’s statement was, he certainly will not apologize for it now.

The Romney camp continues to claim they did not make a mistake.

Jewish tradition requires to do a kheshbon hanefesh (an inventory of our soul) especially during the High holiday season, taking stock of our deeds during the past year, and where we failed to live up to the standard we would like to hold ourselves up to, we must ask for forgiveness from our fellow man.

I think this is an important lesson for us all.

Statement by the President and video memory of Ambassador Chris Stevens follows the jump.

Statement by the President on the Attack in Benghazi

I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.

I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe. While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.

On a personal note, Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States. Throughout the Libyan revolution, he selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi. As Ambassador in Tripoli, he has supported Libya’s transition to democracy. His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice. I am profoundly grateful for his service to my Administration, and deeply saddened by this loss.

The brave Americans we lost represent the extraordinary service and sacrifices that our civilians make every day around the globe. As we stand united with their families, let us now redouble our own efforts to carry their work forward.


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