The facts matter
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Within 12 hours Mitt Romney lied twice. He suggested the White House sided with rioters and militants. In a blatant and cynical attempt to make hay on the campaign trail, he mischaracterized a statement by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo condemning an anti-Muslim film online that had sparked the riots as its "first response" to the violence. In fact, the embassy statement came before the protests. It expressed the American ideal of religious tolerance and was intended to de-escalate an approaching fury due to an absurd anti-Muslim film inspiring anger among Egyptians.
Three points are critical in this tragedy and the travesty of Mr. Romney's callous manipulation of horrific events.
First, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes made clear, "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic. ... The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about ... substantive evils ... ." Inflammatory, bigoted propaganda about Islam does create a clear and present danger to Americans in Muslim majority countries.
Second, facts matter. The embassy statement was made before the riots and was no apology, but a proactive attempt to prevent rioting.
Third, American politicians who cynically exploit the tragic loss of American lives for campaign gain prove themselves to be human owls "vigilant in darkness and blind to light, mousing for vermin, and never seeing noble game." Mr. Romney is smug and pretentious. He needs to recede into obscurity.
First Published September 19, 2012 12:00 am