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Libya Consulate Attack Highlights Differences Between Romney and Obama

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
In last week’s presidential debate on domestic policy, the contrast between President Obama and Governor Romney was sharp. While the debate did not touch on foreign policy, the contrast between the two candidates there is equally clear.

Despite promises four years ago to “restore America’s standing in the world,” President Obama has weakened America’s global influence with his strategy of leading from behind. Violence rages in Syria, Iran is closer than ever to a nuclear weapon, the Middle East witnessed anti-American riots on the anniversary of 9/11, and four Americans were murdered in a terrorist attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Americans continue to ask questions about the administration’s policy around the world. Why didn’t the president support pro-democracy protests in Iran in 2009? Why did he promise “flexibility” to Russian President Putin? Why has he allowed China to cheat on trade? Why did he avoid world leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, at the United Nations General Assembly last month? Why was the consulate in Benghazi not more secure?

On Capitol Hill today, Congress will hold a hearing seeking answers to that final question. The commander of the Security Support Team that was stationed in Libya until August will testify that Ambassador Chris Stevens wanted the 16-member security force to remain in the country. But the State Department did not allow it. They were dismissed. And the next month, the consulate was attacked and Ambassador Stevens murdered.

While this testimony alone may not be conclusive, it is clear that the Obama administration has been caught flat-footed, if not deliberately misleading, in its response to the tragic events in Libya and its handling of the security situation there. For the last month, they have dodged questions and offered contradictory responses.

First, they adamantly insisted the attack was spontaneous and the result of an Internet video. Only later did they admit it was, in fact, an act of terrorism and most likely pre-planned. Ultimately, the administration has created more questions than it has answered. They certainly have not been open and honest with the American people, and the president has not even spoken about Libya on the campaign trail. Does he not think deadly attacks on American citizens warrant mentioning?

America needs a president who will lead clearly, boldly and unwaveringly. In a major foreign policy speech on Monday at the Virginia Military Institute, Governor Romney showed he will be just such a president. He outlined his vision for America’s role in world—one of clarity, leadership, and peace through strength.

“The 21st century can and must be an American century,” he said. “Our friends and allies across the globe do not want less American leadership. They want more—more of our moral support, more of our security cooperation, more of our trade, and more of our assistance in building free societies and thriving economies.”

In the face of crises and in the midst of turmoil, America must lead because, as the governor said, “If America does not lead, others will—others who do not share our interests and our values—and the world will grow darker, for our friends and for us.”

Governor Romney understands the status quo is unacceptable, and that a brighter, more peaceful future requires a stronger America. Leading from behind is not true American leadership. He explained Monday, “I know the President hopes for a safer, freer, and a more prosperous Middle East allied with the United States. I share this hope. But hope is not a strategy.”

Some have accused the president of basing his foreign policy on his own political interests. Others have said he is simply in over his head. Whether or not either is the case, the most important point is that this president has not kept his promise to the country. He has not restored America’s role in the world. And with no plan to change course in a second term, we cannot expect anything but more of the same.

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