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AP Special Correspondent
WASHINGTON--Republican challenger Mitt Romney accused President Barack Obama's administration on Wednesday of showing weakness in the face of tumultuous events that left four U.S. diplomats dead in the Middle East and jolted the race for the White House. Obama retorted that his rival "seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later." Even some Republicans questioned Romney's handling of the issue, calling it hasty. Top GOP leaders in Congress pointedly declined to endorse his criticism of the president.
Said Obama: "It's important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts. And that you've thought through the ramifications before you make 'em."
Obama-the-political-candidate's unusually personal criticism, which came in an interview with CBS, stood in contrast to his appearance outside the White House earlier in the day. Then, he somberly mourned the deaths and announced the deployment of additional Marines at diplomatic posts overseas in his capacity as commander in chief. "And make no mistake. Justice will be done" he declared, referring to those responsible for the murders of Chris Stevens, U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three others.
The four diplomats were killed on Tuesday as protesters overran and burned the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. In a separate incident, the American Embassy in Cairo was breached by protesters, and the nation's flag was ripped down, although no deaths were reported there.
The political fallout came as U.S. officials investigated whether the attack in Libya was a terrorist strike planned to mark the 11th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Initial reports were that both the Libya and Egypt events had been motivated by anger over an amateur film made in the United States that ridiculed Islam's Prophet Muhammad.
Either way, some Republicans joined Democrats in questioning Romney's decision to inject himself into the situation thousands of miles away with his critical statement Tuesday night.
Appearing in Jacksonville, Fla., Romney quickly broadened his remarks to emphasize other disagreements he has with Obama on national security issues, citing "differences of opinion with regards to Israel and our policies there; with regards to Iran, with regards to Afghanistan, with regards to Syria."
Top Republican leaders in Congress did not come to Romney's defense as they--like the GOP challenger and the president--mourned the deaths of the fallen diplomats.
Romney's account didn't mesh completely with events in Cairo.
The embassy statement that he referred to as akin to an apology was issued by the embassy in Cairo at midday on Tuesday at a time the staff was aware of still-peaceful demonstrations in the area nearby. It was four or five hours later when the mob breached the compound's walls and tried to burn a U.S. flag.