President Obama blasted GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney for his response to the attacks on the U.S. embassy in Libya last night, saying that Mr. Romney has a tendency to “shoot first and aim later.”
During a briefing with reporters on Air Force One, White House spokesman quoted Obama directly from a wide-ranging interview he gave to CBS News’ 60 Minutes Wednesday.
“There is a broader lesson to be learned here,” Mr. Obama told CBS News. “Gov. Romney has a tendency to shoot first and aim later … as president you can’t do that.”
Instead, he said, you have to think through the ramifications of your statements before you make them.
During the same interview with CBS News, the president said: “I think most Americans — Democrats or Republicans — understand there is a time when we set politics aside, and one of those is when we have a direct threat from overseas.
“Most officials reacted responsibly and were trying to find out the facts before they spoke,” he continued. “It appears that Gov. Romney didn’t have his facts right.”
The first statement released from the U.S. embassy in Libya, he said, wasn’t from me or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“It came from the folks on the ground who were in danger,” he said. “…And my tendency [towards people in that position] is to cut folks a little bit of slack.”
Mr. Romney sent out a statement late Tuesday night hammering Mr. Obama for not immediately condemning the angry mobs that stormed the U.S. diplomatic posts in the Middle East that left four dead.
He said a statement from the U.S. embassy in Libya amounted to a an administration opinion and called the contents of it “akin to an apology” for Americans’ freedom of speech.
“The administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt instead of condemning their actions,” Mr. Romney said. “It’s never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values.”
The Obama administration is also disputing the accuracy of Mr. Romney’s statements about the timing of the release. Mr. Romney initially said the embassy had sent out the statement in reaction to the rioting and the deaths of U.S. officials, when in fact, the statement was sent during an initial phase in an attempt to calm the rioting mobs outside the embassy who were reacting to a film about Muslims produced in the U.S.
“We believe in the First Amendment,” Mr. Obama told CBS News, according to Mr. Carney’s account. ” … On the other hand, this film is not representative of our values.”
In response to a question about whether the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Cairo and Benghazi were coordinated, Mr. Carney said “it’s too early to make that judgement.
“I know this is being investigated and we’re working with the Libyan government … so I would not want to speculate on that at this time,” he said.