On Tuesday, Mitt Romney baffled many pundits and observers from both sides of the aisle when he politicized the tragedy in Libya (on September 11, of all days) as events were continuing to unfold, eventually taking the lives of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens (view our Libyan Attacks cartoon collection).
The only pundits to defend Romney’s statements are far-right media figures like Laura Ingram and Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh went so far as to say the Republican Presidential nominee looked “presidential.”
However, we can look back to history during the Presidential election to see how Romney compared to Ronald Reagan, by all accounts the most revered figure in conservative politics. When news broke in April 1980, in the middle of the Presidential campaign, that an attempted to rescue Americans being held hostage at the embassy in Tehran failed, Reagan’s immediate response was one of support, rather than an attempt to score cheap political points:
Reagan told a Los Angeles press conference, “This is a difficult day for all of us Americans. . . . It is time for us . . . to stand united. It is a day for quiet reflection . . . when words should be few and confined essentially to our prayers.”
And even though Reagan went on to criticize Carter’s record on foreign-policy during the campaign, he held back on red-meat rhetoric during his debate with Carter in the fall:
“Your question is difficult to answer,” Reagan said, when the debate moderator asked how he would deal with a similar hostage crisis. “Because, in the situation right now, no one wants to say anything that would inadvertently delay, in any way, the return of those hostages if there is a chance of their coming home soon, or that might cause them harm.”