All-Star Panel: Politics of embassy attacks

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," September 12, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, this is all about the statement from the Cairo embassy that came out early yesterday morning about noon time in Cairo where it said that "The embassy condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims." It didn't talk about the upcoming protest that was expected. It reiterated that, saying it stood by that statement later in the day when the protests were happening and when they scaled the wall and took down the American flag shortly thereafter.

Now, the Romney campaign put out a statement about the attacks, about the loss of life in Libya, and it continued "It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn the attacks on our diplomatic missions but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks."  So how does this play as you hear the back and forth? We're back with our panel. Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I think on the substance Mitt Romney's critique is the right critique. The president did send mixed signals. The administration from the first tweet from the embassy in Egypt did lead with an apology. Even subsequent statements by Hillary Clinton where she added in a denunciation of the violence always led with what was tantamount to an apology.

So I think on the substance, he's got a very good case. On the timing would I have done in the press conference today, I probably wouldn't have, but that has much more to do with the fact that you knew the media were going to obsess on this, and obsess on it they did. They are so now fascinated by this process story, using this process story the beat up Mitt Romney rather than taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture question about the policies.

I mean, you have in effect, what we're witnessing is perhaps a partial collapse of the Obama doctrine, the "leading from behind" manifesto that has governed the way the administration has conducted foreign policy over the past three-and-a-half years. And all we heard about all day today was the media and whether Mitt Romney should have put out a statement at that time.

BAIER: Mara, the administration did disavow the Cairo embassy's original statement --


BAIER: -- 16 hours later.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: But then they repeated the same sentiment today, both the president and Hillary Clinton in the Rose Garden.

BAIER: I understand. But the tick-tock on how it happened.

LIASSON:   They said in a quote to Politico they seemed to disavow it.

BAIER: And ABC News.

LIASSON: But then later the embassy re-tweeted the same thing saying we are not going to apologize, and even if our embassy has been breached we're still believe in, you know, will speak out against bigotry.

BAIER: So that in and of itself is confusing.

LIASSON: Yes. And the problem is that if Mitt Romney wants to make an argument against the way the president has handled the Arab spring, he needs to make it. And he wasn't making it today and he was just focusing on the statement. If that is it, if that's the sum total of his charge against the Obama administration I don't know where it's going to go. And he did, it's risky if you inject yourself into a fast-moving foreign crisis, he learned this through the Chinese dissident story where he got involved and then the next thing you know he was criticizing the administration for not getting the guy out and then the guy gets out.

I just think that these things have to be thought through and he has to make the arguments and he has to make them in a concerted way over time. If this is just going to be a one-day thing where he takes a swipe at Obama and then goes back to the economy I don't know how it's going to help him.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I agree. I think the substance of what Romney said at that time was absolutely right. The problem is that he needs to make a larger argument. There is a collapse of Obama's policy. It began with the Cairo speech. It began with the apologies to Iran. It began with regret for the Iraq war. It began with the so-called outreach, and it completely collapsed. It has gotten nowhere on Iran. These are the fruits of appeasement and apology.  He should make a general speech, not attack here and there, but a speech explaining and connecting all the dots. That's what a candidate ought to do and to leave attacks to surrogates and to Ryan.

BAIER: There is much more to talk about about the politics of all this and we want to go through all the polls as well. That's why we have an online show on Wednesdays, and it follows this program. That's it for panel. But stay tuned for something lighter.

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