POLITICS

When will Romney hit Obama on Libya mess?

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Byron York

DENVER — Each day brings new revelations about the Libyan consulate attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.  In the latest story, from the Washington Post, reporters found sensitive U.S. government documents at the burned-out consulate in Benghazi — a location journalists can visit but which the FBI apparently deems to dangerous to inspect in the official investigation.

Earlier, there were revelations of repeated attacks and threats directed at U.S. facilities and people in Libya — and news that American diplomats had requested more security from the State Department, but were denied.  More information will come out next week when the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a hearing on the matter.  And then, of course, there are the Obama administration’s evolving and inaccurate accounts of what happened in Libya.

Given all that, many Republicans are asking why Mitt Romney has not made a bigger deal of the unfolding Libyan scandal.  Some Republicans, not those in the campaign, believe Romney has been too quiet about the issue after making his widely-criticized statement on the Egypt embassy attack the night of September 11.  In the weeks after, as facts emerged every day that cast doubt on the Obama administration’s competence and honesty, Romney has not stressed the issue.

Romney advisers disagree. “He has talked about it,” says close aide Eric Fehrnstrom, talking with reporters in the Denver debate media room.  “We’re going to have a foreign policy debate later this month.  There will be a foreign policy speech as well, coming up.”

“He has addressed Libya,” Fehrnstrom concluded.  “I disagree with your assessment that it has gone unaddressed.”

Romney advisers also believe Libyan events are hurting the president on their own, without any interference from the Romney campaign.

The debate devoted solely to foreign policy is scheduled for October 22.  There is another debate before then, on October 16, that could cover both domestic and foreign policy issues.  In any event, waiting until the next debate to discuss Libya in detail would be quite a delay, given the urgency of the issue now.

Of course, it’s possible that moderator Jim Lehrer could bring up Libya in tonight’s debate, and advisors say Romney is prepared to discuss the issue, should it come up.

There’s no doubt Romney knows what is going on in the Libya story.  One of his advisers is Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Utah Republican who just happens to chair the House subcommittee that is investigating the State Department’s actions in Libya and who will play a key role in next week’s hearing.  Should Romney choose to make a detailed statement on the growing Libya mess, he’ll know what to talk about.

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