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We didn't start the fireFaced with criticism for his amateurish reaction to the mob attacks on diplomats in Libya and Egypt, Mitt Romney’s campaign has been quietly asking Republicans to pretty please say something nice about him if they’re asked, or at least maybe they could deflect the question by explaining that this is all Obama’s fault, duh. CNN obtained a copy of the Romney campaign’s suggested talking points, which include sample questions and answers like these gems:

“Did Governor Romney ‘jump the gun’ last night in releasing his statement?”

“No. It is never too soon to stand up for American values and interests.”

Unlike some of the early attacks on the President yesterday, the memo at least remembers to start off by mentioning “the four American patriots who lost their lives in yesterday’s attacks” and goes on to insist, despite the mixed messages being sent by Romney’s political interference in a developing foreign crisis, that “America cannot send mixed signals to either our allies or our enemies.”

The best bits (if by “best” you mean “most transparently attempting to shift the focus away from Romney’s colossal boneheadedness” — which we do) are to be found in the suggested Q & A replies:

Don’t you think it was appropriate for the embassy to condemn the controversial movie in question? Are you standing up for movies like this?

– Governor Romney rejects the reported message of the movie. There is no room for religious hatred or intolerance.

– But we will not apologize for our constitutional right to freedom of speech.

– Storming U.S. missions and committing acts of violence is never acceptable, no matter the reason. Any response that does not immediately and decisively make that clear conveys weakness.

– If pressed: Governor Romney repudiated this individual in 2010 when he attempted to mobilize a Quran-burning movement. He is firmly against any expression of religious hatred or intolerance.

Nice that the repudiation of religious intolerance is saved for a last-ditch answer there. Notice that the first part of the question is carefully sidestepped. Notice also that, despite the clearer picture we’re beginning to have of the people behind the film, the talking points address only Terry Jones, who it now turns out wasn’t directly involved in its production (Jones was trying to promote it in the US — and was thoroughly ignored here).

Reports indicate the embassy in Cairo released its initial statement before the invasion of the embassy commenced. Doesn’t this show they were trying to tamp down the protest and prevent what ultimately happened, not sympathize with the protesters?

– The Administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt instead of condemning their actions.

– Distancing themselves from the statement and saying it wasn’t ‘cleared by Washington’ reflects the mixed signals they are sending to the world.

– American leadership needs to be decisive and resolute when our interests are threatened or attacked. For the last four years, this has been lacking.

– We have seen a foreign policy of weakness, indecision, and a decline in American influence and respect – and yesterday we saw the consequences.

– If pressed: The Obama campaign is now attacking Governor Romney for being critical of the same statement the Administration itself disavowed. This is hypocritical.

They were wrong to stand by the statement AND to disavow it, and since they disavowed it, how dare THEY attack us for attacking THEM for apologizing for America! Got it: Obama needs to adopt the consistency and resolute refusal to change positions that has characterized Mitt Romney’s entire political career.

tl;dr version: “Dear Republicans: Here’s how to manage the idiotic thing I said. Don’t mention I was an idiot. Obama’s the idiot, and he’s weak. Enemies foreign and domestic. USA! USA! USA!”

Update: About that “wrong to stand by the statement” and “also wrong to disavow the statement” thing: See also the outstanding comment by James Michael Curley,* which points out that the only “distancing’ or “disavowal” of the Cairo Embassy statement appears to be a Politico story quoting an unnamed “administration official;” if there are any official statements stepping back from the Cairo Embassy statement, we haven’t seen them, and we’d note that the administration has repeatedly condemned attempts to incite anti-muslim sentiments.

*(1st page of comments, about 29 comments down, in reply to TheGyrus — in case the link is as screwy as links to individual comments often are).

[CNN]

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