How Should a Presidential Candidate Respond to the Bombings in Libya?

Our Los Angeles-based mom blogger writes an open letter to the presidential candidates following the Libya attack

This morning, I rose early and gingerly approached the world news. Once again, good men (and women) are senselessly dying because of religious fanaticism. J. Christopher Stevens, Washington's ambassador to Libya, and three (as of this writing) unnamed people were murdered because a film mocked Islam. Any time an American dies in service to his country, the nation collectively mourns.

I was dismayed -- no, horrified -- when I sat to watch you, Mitt Romney, address the nation and after only 37 seconds suggest that we "join together in prayer that the spirit of the almighty might comfort the families..." Many of us voters believe in the separation between church and state. My hope is that, should you become our president, you'll quietly observe your religion and lead our nation, while ignoring our souls. I understand that this will be a challenge and may conflict with church doctrine, but we are not electing a preacher-in-chief. We are electing a commander-in-chief. 

When tragedy befalls America, we look to our president to unite the nation. By turning our tragedy into an attack on our own leaders, you missed the opportunity to show us the presidential goods. You missed the moment to be non-political. Undecided voters might have embraced a unifying message.

Speaking of a commander-in-chief, President Barack Obama, we had a failure last night that requires your attention. Perhaps it falls under the purview of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but as you know, your embassy in Cairo issues the following statement [the emphasis below is mine]:

“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. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

President Obama, it'll be tough to be re-elected if you can't get control of a situation like this. We have the right to free speech even when it hurts someone's precious feelings. In fact, the rights to free speech and freedom of religion exist so that we can say what we want, no matter how hurtful or politically sensitive.

Libya didn't murder our ambassador. Islam didn't murder our ambassador. Religious fanaticism killed Americans on September 11th both in 2001 and in 2012. My expectation is that both candidates for this nation’s highest office will respect all Americans and refrain from condemning Islam, refrain from elevating whatever Judeo-Christian sect they ascribe to, and get about the business of peace-building so that Libya can continue nation-building as J. Christopher Stevens would have wanted. 

Jessica Gottlieb is a Los Angeles blogger. Follow her on Twitter at @JessicaGottlieb.

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