Campaigns and tragedy: What is appropriate in times of strife?

Allia Calkins

On Tuesday, September 11, 2012, the United States embassies in Egypt and Libya were both stormed by citizens protesting an American Youtube video that depicts the Muslim prophet Muhammad as a womanizing fool. Sadly, four Americans, including the Ambassador to Libya, were killed in the attack. On this day, the eleventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks in 2001, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney had promised to suspend their campaigns for the presidency in honor of the memory of those killed. However, once news of the attacks in the Middle East spread, the two candidates had to revise their plans. President Obama stepped into his presidential role, and Mitt Romney stepped back into his role as a candidate. Romney issued a statement late Tuesday night, an hour and a half before he had promised to resume campaigning, deploring the Obama administration’s handling of the situation in the Middle East.

Although the full events had not yet unfolded, Governor Romney was criticizing the manner by which President Obama – and indirectly the government – had dealt with the violent attacks. The Republicans argued that the administration failed to show an appropriate level of outrage and instead continued to, “apologize for America.” At a time when it was important to show the rest of the world how united and strong Americans are, he led a crusade against the government. Understandably it is an election year, and the U.S. is currently embroiled in one of the closest Presidential races of its history, but it is still important to preserve the image of America being unified.

Imagine if the terrorist attacks on September 11 had occurred during an election year. Would it have been appropriate for the challenger to insult the incumbent’s way of handling the tragedy? Or would the two candidates have stepped back from politics to show the rest of the world how strong America can be in times of trouble? As we learned eleven years ago, taking a step back to commemorate those brave Americans who lost their lives is a much greater statement than any a nominee could make for political gain in an election year.

During an election, there will always be two candidates and often one of those candidates has the luxury (or misfortune) of being the incumbent. In times of tragedy it is easier for him to step back from his candidate role because he must handle the situation at hand. While Obama has not come out and said that he has handled the conflict in the Middle East the best way possible and that voters should re-elect him because of this, h