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GOP leaders split on Romney's criticism of Obama over Libya attack

September 12, 2012|By Lisa Mascaro
  • Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

While many GOP leaders on Capitol Hill distanced themselves from Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's criticism of President Obama after U.S. diplomatic compounds were attacked in Egypt and Libya, a top House Republican said it was no surprise American lives were lost given Obama's approach to foreign policy.

"Again and again under President Obama we have met threats and thugs with apologies and concessions," Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.

"Unsurprisingly, these mobs aren't satisfied with apologies anymore, they have clearly been escalating the offensive in the war of ideas for some time,” the Santa Clarita Republican added. "Is it any wonder that events spun out of control and that American lives were lost?"

PHOTOS: U.S. ambassador killed in Libya

In comments Wednesday, Romney repeated his earlier criticism of what he called the administration's "disgraceful statement," referring to a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo hours before a protest of an American-made anti-Islamic video turned to violence. The news release condemned "the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims" and other groups.

An attack later Tuesday night by armed men on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

The violence, on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, reportedly was sparked by a video, produced in the U.S., that mocked the prophet Muhammad.

Top GOP defense hawks in Congress took a decidedly softer public tone than their party's nominee, largely declining to echo the political criticism Romney used in responding to the tragedy.

From Capitol Hill to the congressional campaign trail, Republican officials responded with sadness and calls for justice, but hardly the criticism of Obama that Romney had leveled in the aftermath of the deadly attacks.

"I am outraged by this horrific, savage attack on our diplomats in Benghazi," said Rep. Peter King of New York, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "It is important that swift justice be dealt to those who perpetrated these attacks."

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a tea party favorite, said he was "heartbroken" by the "murder" of the four officials in Benghazi. He demanded that future American foreign aid to the Libyan government be contingent on Libyan officials handing the suspects over to U.S. authorities.

Rep. Todd Akin, the Missouri Republican in a tight race for the Senate against incumbent Claire McCaskill, said the deaths "remind us of the sacrifice of those in service overseas.  This senseless attack and murder underscores the irrational hatred that some still harbor for our country and our citizens."

And Sen. Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Republican who faces a challenge from Obama ally Elizabeth Warren, said his "heart and prayers go out to the families of the victims."

PHOTOS: Mitt Romney on the campaign trail

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lisa.mascaro@latimes.com

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