Administration officials: Romney was right, that statement from the Cairo embassy was awful

A fatal blow to the media’s concern-trolling this morning? Nah. Their complaint, ostensibly, was with the timing of Romney’s criticism. If only he’d waited 12-18 hours and then sheepishly leaked his complaint about the embassy’s statement to a reporter, the way these tools did, presumably everything would be chill. Although actually, if he’d taken that advice and waited, he would have been concern-trolled then instead for not speaking up and seizing the opportunity to put Obama on the defensive on foreign policy. He can’t win. Quoth Steve Hayes, “You knew the media were going to obsess on this and obsess on it they did.”

But as it turns out, even the administration agrees with his criticism of the embassy.

“In an effort to cool the situation down, it didn’t come from me, it didn’t come from Secretary Clinton. It came from people on the ground who are potentially in danger,” Obama said. “And my tendency is to cut folks a little bit of slack when they’re in that circumstance, rather than try to question their judgment from the comfort of a campaign office.”

But Obama’s remarks belie the enormous frustration of top officials at the State Department and White House with the actions of the man behind the statement, Cairo senior public affairs officer Larry Schwartz, who wrote the release and oversees the embassy’s Twitter feed, according to a detailed account of the Tuesday’s events…

“The statement was not cleared with anyone in Washington. It was sent as ‘This is what we are putting out,'” the official said. “We replied and said this was not a good statement and that it needed major revisions. The next email we received from Embassy Cairo was ‘We just put this out.'”…

“People at the highest levels both at the State Department and at the White House were not happy with the way the statement went down. There was a lot of anger both about the process and the content,” the official said. “Frankly, people here did not understand it. The statement was just tone deaf. It didn’t provide adequate balance. We thought the references were inappropriate, and we strongly advised against the kind of language that talked about ‘continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.'”

Supposedly there was a “heated discussion” between the State Department and the White House as the controversy exploded last night, with even Hillary ultimately getting involved. I’m mighty keen to know more about that timeline, particularly vis-a-vis when the administration first learned that Chris Stevens was under attack. The chief line of criticism against Romney today, remember, is that his priorities are out of whack; he was wound up last night about Schwartz’s disgraceful statement when (unbeknownst to Romney, apparently) Stevens was being terrorized. Well, sounds like the White House and State Department were wound up about it too. Were they fretting over the optics of what Schwartz wrote while the siege in Benghazi was going on? I realize that our giant diplomatic bureaucracy can do two things at once, but if we’re going to play the fake-outrage game over Romney’s priorities because he took five minutes to criticize Schwartz last night, I want to know how many minutes Hillary and Obama took too. Concern-trolling is fun, as nearly any reporter could tell you.

Jazz Shaw Jun 22, 2021 6:01 PM ET