In a well-written and very well-delivered and wide-ranging foreign policy speech (full transcript here) that touched on everything from Russia to North Africa to the Middle East, Governor Mitt Romney wasted no time in laying out a vision for America as player in world events as opposed to the bystander Obama seems determined to turn us into. The overall theme was a stark choice between Obama's policy of disengagement and lost opportunities to shape events, and an America that with the help of its allies will have a hand in shaping the world.
The sharpest moments, though, hit on Obama's appalling mishandling of Libya. Though Romney blamed no one but the terrorists for the assassination of four Americans, including our Ambassador, there's no question that Benghazi is the kind of tragedy that can happen when America isn't engaged or paying close attention.
That Obama has been a foreign policy-bystander is no longer in doubt, especially in the Middle East. But what we've witnessed in Benghazi was criminal neglect in the area of security and a full-blown cover up in the aftermath.
At the end of the month, Obama and Romney will meet in their third and final debate -- this one on foreign policy. And it looks as though Romney's prepared to make Libya very much a part of that conversation:
The attacks on America last month should not be seen as random acts. They are expressions of a larger struggle that is playing out across the broader Middle East—a region that is now in the midst of the most profound upheaval in a century. And the fault lines of this struggle can be seen clearly in Benghazi itself.
The attack on our Consulate in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012 was likely the work of forces affiliated with those that attacked our homeland on September 11th, 2001. This latest assault cannot be blamed on a reprehensible video insulting Islam, despite the Administration’s attempts to convince us of that for so long. No, as the Administration has finally conceded, these attacks were the deliberate work of terrorists who use violence to impose their dark ideology on others, especially women and girls; who are fighting to control much of the Middle East today; and who seek to wage perpetual war on the West. …
America has a proud history of strong, confident, principled global leadership—a history that has been written by patriots of both parties. That is America at its best. And it is the standard by which we measure every President, as well as anyone who wishes to be President. Unfortunately, this President’s policies have not been equal to our best examples of world leadership. And nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East.
I want to be very clear: The blame for the murder of our people in Libya, and the attacks on our embassies in so many other countries, lies solely with those who carried them out—no one else. But it is the responsibility of our President to use America’s great power to shape history—not to lead from behind, leaving our destiny at the mercy of events. Unfortunately, that is exactly where we find ourselves in the Middle East under President Obama.
It's also worth mentioning that Obama's bungling of Libya helped to make Romney's speech much more important than it otherwise would've been. Had the Obama Administration shown anything resembling competence and honesty in the wake of the attack on our consulate, Romney's speech would've merely come off as the checking the of a box all presidential candidates must check.
It's Obama's incompetence and deceit that made Romney's superb speech a big deal and a win.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC