In an interview with 60 Minutes Steve Kroft on Wednesday, President Obama said Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s condemnation of his administration’s response to violence against American embassy workers in Libya and protests in Cairo showed a lack of necessary caution.
“Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later,” Obama said. “And as president, one of the things I’ve learned is you can’t do that — that it’s important for you to make sure that the statements you make are backed up by the facts, and that you’ve thought through the ramifications before you make them.”
When asked if Romney’s statement was irresponsible, the president responded, “I’ll let the American people judge that.”
CBS News aired an excerpt from Kroft's interview with Obama Wednesday afternoon.
Update: The White House later made excerpts from the full interview available. They are reproduced below:
“I think most Americans, Democrats or Republicans, understand that there are times when we set politics aside, and one of those is when we’ve got a direct threat to American personnel who are overseas,” President Obama said.
“And so I think that if you look at how most Republicans have reacted, most elected officials, they’ve reacted responsibly, waiting to find out the facts before they talk, making sure that our No. 1 priority is the safety and security of American personnel.”
“It appears that Gov. Romney didn’t have his facts right. The situation in Cairo was one in which an embassy that is being threatened by major protests releases a press release saying that the film that had disturbed so many Muslims around the world wasn’t representative of what Americans believe abut Islam.”
“In an effort to cool the situation down, it didn’t come from me, it didn’t come from Secretary Clinton, it came from people on the ground who are potentially in danger. And my tendency is to cut folks a little bit of slack when they’re in that circumstance, rather than try to question their judgment from the comfort of a campaign office,” Obama said.
“I do have to say that, more broadly, we believe in the First Amendment. It is one of the hallmarks of our Constitution that I am sworn to uphold, so we’re always going to uphold the rights of individuals to speak their minds. On the other hand, this film is not representative of who we are, and our values, and I think it is important for us to communicate that. That’s never an excuse for violence against Americans, which is why my No. 1 priority and my initial statement focused on making sure that not only are Americans safe, but that we go after anyone that would attack Americans.”
Obama said the U.S. will “remain vigilant,” and that “even as we apply pressure on al Qaeda and other elements that are affiliated in big chunks of the world, such as North Africa and the Mideast, we’ve got a lot of dangerous characters, and we’ve got to make sure we’re continuing to apply pressure on them. And that’s something I’m determined to do.”