Barack Obama, the man who never in his life has taken responsibility for anything, has started trying to shift the blame for the State Department’s too-revealing response to the Cairo embassy mob attack. Our friend Jennifer Rubin has the scoop:
Right Turn has learned that the ambassador to Egypt, longtime foreign service officer Anne W. Patterson, was not in Egypt during the siege of the embassy. According to sources directly aware of her travel schedule, she has been in Washington for several days. The State Department confirmed that Patterson was not in Egypt but declined to provide the name of the individual who was left in charge in her absence.
Early Tuesday the Cairo embassy put out a statement online that read: “The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.”
That part of the statement sounds like a fair expression of Obama administration policy. No doubt, the statement either came from Washington, or was supplied by an embassy staffer who thought he or she knew how Obama and Hillary Clinton would want to respond to an attack on a U.S. embassy. Now, of course, things are different:
A State Department official, authorized only to speak on background, said there was absolutely no coordination with the White House. The Cairo statement was sent to the Near East desk at the State Department and was rejected.The State Department insists the official in Cairo did not wait and posted the message online.
So that’s the Obama administration’s claim: the apologetic statement that was posted by the embassy, and then aggressively reaffirmed on Twitter (before those Twitter posts were deleted, presumably on orders from Washington) came from a rogue State Department employee. Identity, of course, unknown. Jennifer asks:
Why did Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wait until late Tuesday night to disclaim the statement? That remains uncertain, although a State Department official insists the concern was focused elsewhere.
It seems obvious that the embassy statement either originated at a high level in the State Department or was posted by whoever is next in line to the ambassador to Egypt as an expression of Obama administration policy. Obama and Clinton only began to distance themselves from the Cairo apology nearly a full day after the fact, when, appropriately, it came under heavy fire. This appears to be another example of the extraordinary tone-deafness of the Obama administration. Perhaps we will learn, as the blame game goes on, that some underling has been cashiered for misunderstanding Obama/Clinton policy toward the Middle East. But that is highly unlikely. Having survived a news cycle or two, Obama and Clinton will gratefully allow the whole episode, and their roles in it, to be forgotten.
UPDATE: Foreign Policy has much more, all of it via leaks from the madly-backpedaling Obama administration. The Cairo culprit is identified as senior public affairs officer Larry Schwartz, who allegedly wrote the notorious press release and also oversees the embassy’s Twitter feed.
“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 to the 9/11 attacks 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.’”
Despite being aware of Washington’s objections, the embassy continued to defend the statement for several hours, fueling the controversy over it, a decision the official again attributed to Schwartz.
“Not only did they push out the statement but they continued to engage on Twitter and retweet it,” the official said. “[Schwartz] would have been the one directing folks to engage on Twitter on this.”
So Larry Schwartz is being thrown under the bus. It will be interesting to see where the blame game goes from here. A Congressional investigation may be the best way to get to the bottom of the story.