Last night, responding to attacks on the American embassy in Egypt and consulate in Libya in which the ambassador to Libya and several other Americans were killed, Mitt Romney released a statement slamming President Obama for “sympathiz[ing] with those who waged the attacks.” Romney was referencing a statement put out by the embassy in Egypt before the attacks which condemned an anti-Islam film that was the pretext for riots in Cairo and Benghazi.
Foreign policy experts (Republicans among them) have criticized Romney's timing and journalists have pointed out that the attack itself “does not stand up to simple chronology.” But the content of the message -- that the president is sympathetic to people who attack and kill Americans -- is noteworthy in that it is a direct echo of the fevered and inflammatory smears aimed at the president by fringe elements of the right-wing media.
Indeed, Romney's statement was almost a word-for-word rehash of an accusation leveled against Obama by Dinesh D'Souza in his documentary film, 2016: Obama's America -- a slipshod, pseudo-intellectual smear job that's drawn condemnation from across the ideological spectrum. In the film, D'Souza argues that Obama inherited a “Third World collectivist” worldview from his deceased father that he is secretly implementing in order to reduce America's global stature, which leads the president to be “weirdly sympathetic to Muslim jihadis” captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
This is obvious nonsense, given the administration's record on terrorism, but it appeals to the slice of the population that already believe that Obama is foreign and dangerous and a threat to the country. This inflammatory gibberish -- along with the long-standing canard that the president constantly “apologizes for America” -- has risen all the way from the right-wing fever swamp and is now animating high-level Republican political strategy on foreign policy.
It's a jarring reminder that the fringe, while not always visible, has a distressingly high amount of influence on national politics.