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Barack Obama, Mitt Romney Clash Over Embassy Attacks in Libya, Egypt

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton make their way through the colonnade to deliver a statement in the Rose Garden today about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.

Kerry, no doubt, was referring in part to Romney, though he did not mention the candidate by name.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers generally struck a somber, but resolute tone in response to the attacks on the embassy compounds in Libya and Egypt, abiding by the traditional policy of stopping politics at the water's edge in the time of crisis.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was quick to call for the lowering of flags to half-staff at the Capitol complex as a sign of respect for the American diplomats killed.

Sens. John McCain (R), Lindsey Graham (R) and Joe Lieberman (I) issued a joint statement highlighting Stevens' work during the so-called Arab Spring. They refrained from speculation about the specifics of the attack.

"What is clear, however, is that the attackers must be apprehended and punished. We appreciate that senior Libyan leaders have condemned these cowardly attacks, and we now look to the Libyan government to ensure that the perpetrators are swiftly brought to justice and that U.S. diplomats are protected," the Senators said. "We have confidence that our own government will provide all necessary assistance to this end."

The Senators were three of the leading advocates for U.S. support for the efforts of the Libyan people to oust former ruler Moammar Gadhafi .

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) issued a caution to both Egypt and Libya, saying that the people of the two countries need to make sure to disavow the violence.

"The Libyan and Egyptian people should understand that the U.S. shares their commitment to building more hopeful and prosperous nations," Rubio said in a statement. "However, if left unchecked, violent attacks like these against our embassies and diplomats will lead Libya and Egypt down a dark path and rob them of their hopes of a more prosperous and democratic future."

One notable exception to the comity on Capitol Hill came in a statement issued by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.). He was quick to criticize Obama's foreign policy.

"Sadly, America has suffered as a result of President Obama's failure to lead and his failed foreign policy of appeasement and apology. The world must know beyond doubt that America will not allow these types of attacks on our people," Inhofe said. "Obama's failed leadership is in direct contrast with ... Ambassador Stevens brave leadership and effort to protect Americans at the consulate."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) used his opening floor speech Wednesday to highlight the role of Foreign Service officers in promoting U.S. interests overseas.

"It is too often forgotten that American diplomats risk their lives on a daily basis. Our diplomatic corps is filled with admirable and dedicated public servants," Reid said. "And the four Americans who lost their lives yesterday exemplified the courage and sacrifice that happens every day at diplomatic posts across the globe."

Reid noted that Stevens was confirmed to the post in Libya by the Senate just months ago. Reid also said he supported efforts by the Obama administration to enhance diplomatic security.

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