Former Ambassador Richard Williamson on the shocking lack of presidential leadership by Barack Obama in Egypt and Benghazi, Libya
HH: Incredibly, on a tragic day when an ambassador was murdered, Ambassador Chris Stevens was murdered along with three American diplomats, the president of the United States has just given an interview to CBS News, in which he attacks Mitt Romney and thumps his chest for foreign policy prudence. Here’s what the President said to CBS.
BO: There’s a broader lesson to be learned here, and you know, Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later. And as president, one of the things I’ve learned is you can’t do that, that it’s important for you to make sure that the statements you make are backed up by the facts, and that you’ve thought through the ramifications before you make them.
CBS: Do you think it was irresponsible?
BO: I’ll let the American people judge that.
HH: Joining me now to discuss the events rapidly unfolding in the Middle East and on the political trail is former Ambassador Richard Williamson, former assistant secretary of State, and now senior foreign policy advisor to Mitt Romney. Mr. Ambassador, welcome back. What do you make of the President’s statement?
RW: Hugh, thanks for letting me be back and visit with you. I think the events are tragic. We all feel great compassion and condolences to Ambassador Chris Stevens’ family and loved ones, and that of the other diplomats that were killed. But bottom line, this is a result and indicative of the absolute failure of leadership by President Barack Obama. They want to focus on the process question. We want to focus on the substance. And by the way, Governor Romney’s statement tonight, today, was accurate. He said I will not hesitate to stand up for United States values, for our Constitution, for our principles when they’re under assault, and that’s what happened yesterday when the U.S. Embassy, part of the Obama administration, gave an apology before, and then reiterated it after the assault on sovereign U.S. soil.
HH: Now Mr. Ambassador, I am struck by a couple of things here. One, the President is blasting Romney after sending the Marines to Libya to close the barn door today, and not dealing with the substance of what is an eruption of anti-Americanism across the entire region. And I think he’s being abetted in this by the American media. Is it, have you ever seen anything like this?
RW: Well, first of all, I appeared on a couple of the cable shows today, and I don’t think they changed a word from what the Chicago machine and David Axelrod had sent them as talking points. And I kept saying the question isn’t process, it’s substance. The question for the American people is whether you should have American leadership or leadership from behind, whether or not you should have peace through strength, or the gradual weakening of America’s defenses, whether you should stand up for our values, or whether you should be compromising and mute your voice. Look, it doesn’t matter if it’s the 20,000 people slaughtered in Syria, or more seriously, even, the movement of Iran to nuclear breakout, which the IAEA in its report just last week further documented higher and greater quantities of enriched uranium to 20%, substantial increase by thousands of the cascades. And the Obama administration is more interested in trying to stop Israel from defending itself than to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. It’s extraordinary. And then when the leader of Israel seeks a meeting with the President, this is a president who has golfed more than a hundred times, more than his predecessors, who’s had 120 fundraisers, and today is campaigning, doesn’t find the time to meet with a head of state of our most reliable ally in the region. This is indicative of a failure at the White House, a failure by the President, and a lack of concern and commitment to American values and security interests.
HH: Now Ambassador Williamson, I want to get back to the substance in a second, but I do have to focus on this media meltdown. There was an open mic today before Mitt Romney spoke. Here is a little bit of what it caught. CBS’ Jan Crawford is coaching and organizing the media assault on Mitt Romney. Here is a glimpse.
JC: Ask the question. Yeah, ask the question. I wouldn’t even think…I mean, I would just say do you regret your question, I mean your statement, not even the tone, because then you can go off on…he can’t say that. We’re just talking about…who he calls on, we’re covered on the one question that…
HH: So they’re coordinating, and I guess CBS, because that’s who the President went to this afternoon, stands for Carry Barack’s Stuff. Are you surprised?
RW: It’s very disappointing. You know, this is a point of American crisis. This is a point where our American sovereign land, and our embassy in Cairo, and our consulate in Benghazi have been assaulted. This is when violence has been done, and American lives have been killed. And some in the mainstream media is much more interested in gotcha politics than the substance. The American people really deserve better. The American people want to know where these two people would lead the country. And the fact is, irrevocably, that Barack Obama has failed. He’s failed in the Middle East. We have turmoil, we have a U.S. that has less resolve, less respect, and less resilience. And he wants to try to take shots at his political opponent. You know, wouldn’t it be nice, wouldn’t it be nice if the president was speaking about the need for us to project our influence, reassert our authority, project American values, and most importantly, our security interests. And how could you do more to sacrifice our security interests than allow Iran to continue to move toward nuclear breakout?
HH: Mr. Ambassador, when Ryan Lizza wrote the New Yorker piece in which the President’s team took credit for “leading from behind,” announcing that that was the President’s policy, many people were aghast, amused, shocked. But they’ve kind of put their arms around that now, and the up is down nature of the President today, attacking Mitt Romney for shooting first and aiming later, and then sending the Marines in the day after, not being prepared on 9/11 for an embassy attack in Egypt, and an assassination, sadly successful, in Libya. And yet they’re strutting on foreign policy, and the media is buying it. This is truly Alice in Wonderland.
RW: And Hugh, you and I both had the opportunity to serve in the White House with President Ronald Reagan. We had a tragic event where our embassy was attacked in Lebanon and Americans died. Lessons were learned. President Reagan made thoughtful discussions, didn’t engage in politics, and then continued on rebuilding our Defense, leading with peace through strength, and eventually bringing down the Soviet Union and the Russian empire. This administration, instead of learning from lessons, tries to score cheap political points, and in the process, is willing to sacrifice U.S. interests. It’s a shame.
HH: Now Mr. Ambassador, I don’t know if you’ve talked to Governor Romney today, but what is your advice to him about responding to this? Bill Kristol, among others, has been out in saying go forward, articulate and defend this high ground you’ve taken. Pete King has said give a foreign policy speech. I’m in favor of reissuing No Apologies, the book that he’s been campaigning on for two years, so that everyone sees he’s been saying this. But what’s his attitude today? And do you think that the attempt by the Beltway-Manhattan media elite to rally around the President will deter him?
RW: Well, I did talk to the Governor today, and we talked about this, the events. And he’s resolute. He’s not going to back down. He’s not going to apologize for America. He’s going to stand for our values. Indeed, this morning when asked about the timing of his statement, he said he’s not going to delay in pushing back when our values and principles are under assault as they were in the pathetic statement issued by the, by Barack Obama’s embassy in Cairo yesterday.
HH: Last question, Mr. Ambassador, yesterday, Ha’aretz reported that Benjamin Netanyahu had requested a meeting with the President, who said no. He had no time. You referenced this, even though he’s going on Letterman next week, or at least was scheduled to go on Letterman next week. My question is the White House is now attempting to say that no meeting was ever requested. What’s your understanding of this story? And of course, the Israeli Prime Minister is not going to call out the president of the United States. But Ha’aretz is pretty well wired in to the Israeli government.
RW: It’s disappointing when the President and the White House aren’t tethered to the truth.
HH: You have no doubt in your mind that Netanyahu requested that meeting?
RW: It’s my understanding that there were such discussions, but more importantly, the President of the United States should be reaching out to our ally to say let’s meet. The President of the United States should be looking for diplomatic and strategic common ground and coordination with our allies in the region – Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Jordan, Israel and Turkey. And the fact that this has broken down, that there’s this public hemorrhage, is a condemnation of the President’s failed policies.
HH: Ambassador Richard Williamson, thank you for joining me. Your reactions next, America.
End of interview.