I sort of hate to keep obsessing over Mitt Romney's ham-handed smear of President Obama following last night's embassy attacks, but this New York Times story really does advance the narrative. Up until now, I figured there was a pretty simple explanation for the Romney campaign's cockup: they were rushing to get something out and just fell back on a known script (Obama as apologizer-in-chief) without really vetting their statement. But no. It turns out the whole thing was carefully orchestrated:
The resulting statement took shape while Mr. Romney and a reduced staff contingent flew from Reno, Nev., to Jacksonville, Fla., from about 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday, and the statement went out about an hour after he landed and signed off on it. Aides said it was drafted by committee — a team effort by one group of advisers specializing in policy, the communications team and the strategy shop.
....Mr. Romney’s criticism fed into his larger theme of painting Mr. Obama as apologizing for the United States, and his team stuck by it. “While there may be differences of opinion regarding issues of timing,” said one senior strategist, who asked not to be named, “I think everyone stands behind the critique of the administration, which we believe has conducted its foreign policy in a feckless manner.”
This was no late-night, one-person screwup that Romney then felt he had to stand behind. It was a carefully calculated statement drafted by Romney's entire team and then signed off on by Romney himself. Even with his whole staff beavering away on this, apparently not a single person pointed out that (a) they didn't have their facts straight, (b) it might be appropriate to wait a little while before scoring cheap political points, and (c) accusing the president of the United States of "sympathizing" with embassy attackers was beyond the pale.
Alternatively, someone did point this stuff out and got voted down. I'm not sure which is worse.
UPDATE: In case you're wondering, this is the same story that Josh Marshall writes about here. A very different version was up on the Times website earlier, and that's the version that originally prompted this post. The version that's up now (and quoted above) was so thoroughly altered from the original that initially I didn't even realize they were different revisions of the same story. I'm not sure what the explanation for this is.
I'd reproduce the original Times piece below the fold, but I'm pretty sure that would be a copyright violation. Sorry.