The day embassy politics stopped

The political news cycle on Wednesday was dominated by fiery exchanges between the Romney and Obama campaigns over the attacks on U.S. missions in Egypt and Libya, with Mitt Romney denouncing Obama’s Middle East policy, the president calling his challenger trigger-happy, and the candidates’ surrogates duking it out on cable television.  But both sides toned ...

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images

The political news cycle on Wednesday was dominated by fiery exchanges between the Romney and Obama campaigns over the attacks on U.S. missions in Egypt and Libya, with Mitt Romney denouncing Obama's Middle East policy, the president calling his challenger trigger-happy, and the candidates' surrogates duking it out on cable television. 

But both sides toned down the rhetoric substantially today. Obama vowed to bring those responsible for the attacks to justice but then reverted to his stump speech, while Romney noted the deaths of Americans before issuing a broad critique of the president's foreign policy (admittedly with an oblique reference to it seeming as if "we're at the mercy of events, instead of shaping events"). The Romney campaign didn't even pounce when the Obama administration walked back the president's statement last night that Egypt was not a U.S. ally.

Instead, the partisan bickering today took the form of media scorekeeping -- with debate coalescing around whether Romney's controversial critique marked a turning point in his campaign and whether the press treated the Republican candidate unfairly.   

The political news cycle on Wednesday was dominated by fiery exchanges between the Romney and Obama campaigns over the attacks on U.S. missions in Egypt and Libya, with Mitt Romney denouncing Obama’s Middle East policy, the president calling his challenger trigger-happy, and the candidates’ surrogates duking it out on cable television. 

But both sides toned down the rhetoric substantially today. Obama vowed to bring those responsible for the attacks to justice but then reverted to his stump speech, while Romney noted the deaths of Americans before issuing a broad critique of the president’s foreign policy (admittedly with an oblique reference to it seeming as if "we’re at the mercy of events, instead of shaping events"). The Romney campaign didn’t even pounce when the Obama administration walked back the president’s statement last night that Egypt was not a U.S. ally.

Instead, the partisan bickering today took the form of media scorekeeping — with debate coalescing around whether Romney’s controversial critique marked a turning point in his campaign and whether the press treated the Republican candidate unfairly.   

Why the change? Perhaps both sides felt they’d had their say, or realized they wouldn’t stand to benefit from saying more. Either way, I wonder if the silence will last with new protests in the Middle East planned for Friday.

Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland. Twitter: @UriLF

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