Obama’s surrogate champions aid to Egypt’s Islamist government
Team Obama is trying to carpet-bomb Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s foreign policy credentials, but managed to drop a bomb on itself Monday when the campaign’s chief foreign policy supporter urged continued support of Egypt’s new Islamist government.
“I find him very shallow. … If one of my students turned it in, he’d get a C,” charged Madeline Albright, a former secretary of State for President Bill Clinton, during a 20-minute Monday press call.
But Albright then denounced Romney for promising to put conditions on aid to Egypt’s Islamist government.
The aid to Egypt “is very much needed now in order to make sure that they are able to pursue what is good for us and for them in terms of getting people back on the right track and the job issues,” Albright said.
Albright’s statements were aimed at Romney’s Monday foreign policy speech, in which he said “I will use our influence — including clear conditions on our aid — to urge the new government to represent all Egyptians, to build democratic institutions, and to maintain its peace treaty with Israel.”
Egypt’s elected Islamist government is backed by the dominant Muslim Brotherhood, which is an 84-year-old, region-wide, Islamic revivalist group whose affiliates have used force and politics to win power in several countries, including Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.
The brotherhood’s Islamic ideology calls for the destruction of Israel, the creation of a region-wide caliphate, the enforcement of Islamic lifestyle via Shariah law, more Western aid and restrictions on Westerners, including curbs on free speech.
The White House is already conditioning the aid to Egypt by, for example, requiring the government to continue the peace deal with Israel. But, Albright said, “if you load conditions on [aid], you can’t get anything done because you completely lose your leverage.”
Obama’s campaign aides quickly recognized Albright’s gaffe.
“Our assistance is also already conditioned on many of the things that he listed, like Egypt meeting its obligation to the peace treaty with Israel, and to proceed with its transition to democracy,” said campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt.
Obama is slated to debate foreign policy with Romney Oct. 16 and Oct. 22.
The administration’s aid policy is increasingly unpopular in the United States, following the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on poorly guarded facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
That attack killed four U.S. officials — including an ambassador — shortly after the withdrawal of a U.S. security team. The attack was accompanied and followed by numerous riots against U.S. embassies in Egypt, Yemen, Sudan, Tunisia and other Islamist-controlled countries.
Since then, House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Relations Chairwoman Rep. Kay Granger has frozen a planned transfer of $450 million in aid to Egypt.
The White House is trying to pass the aid to Egypt’s government amid the possibility of renewed Islamist attacks on U.S. facilities during the final weeks before the U.S.election.
Following a phone call from Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, Obama has repeatedly blamed the attacks and riots on a video critical of Islam’s prophet. For example, he used his Sept. 25 speech at the United Nations to declare that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”
Romney’s “speech showed no understanding in how to deal with [Egypt’s government] because they are in very serious economic trouble,” Albright said.
Islamist “extremists” will be boosted if the government fails to manage the country’s crippled economy, she charged.
“They need to create jobs … so that there are not extremist elements that then get a greater role … [and] by conditioning it so much, it looks again they are responding to our orders and not the people that elected them,” she said.
The brief 20-minute phone conference was begun by LaBolt.
If Romney wants to criticize Obama, “bring it on,” he taunted.
Romney is “erratic and unsteady” even as the president offers “tough, steady and responsible” leadership, he said.
Romney want to keep troops in Iraq, LaBolt said, but “how’s he going to turn the page on the failed policies of the past?”
GOP-affiliated foreign policy advisers say Obama’s leadership has been weak, and have repeatedly highlighted a 2011 quote from an Obama insider who characterized the president’s approach as “leading from behind.”
On Iraq, the GOP experts say the president failed to ink an agreement that would have allowed a small U.S. force to stay in Iraq and fend off Iranian pressure. The negotiations failed after Obama directed the stay-behind force be reduced to 3,000 troops, which is too small to reassure the Iraqis and not large enough to defend itself from Iranian-sponsored attacks.
Since the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, the Iranian government has continued its likely development of nuclear weapons, suppressed a popular revolt and used Iraqi airspace to fly weapons and reinforcement to defeat rebels seeking to topple Syria’s embattled dictatorship.