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SALT LAKE CITY — To no one's surprise, the tragedy in Libya has quickly become a political issue in the presidential race.
The Romney campaign issued a sharply worded criticism Tuesday night of the Obama administration's foreign policy. Wednesday, it was the Romney response that was drawing criticism.
We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence.
In Washington flags were lowered, while in Florida, Mitt Romney spoke to reporters, blaming the president for a statement that was issued before the murders in Libya by the U.S. embassy in Cairo. The statement criticized an anti-Muslim movie made in the U.S. that sparked the protests.
"An apology for American values is never the right course," Romney said. "We express immediately when we feel that the president and his administration have done something which is inconsistent with the principles of America."
President Obama restated his principles.
"We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others," Obama said. "But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence."
Two highly respected, longtime national political observers, Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann, in town to promote a book on the nation's "dysfunctional" political culture, say Romney's comments may have come in response to those in the GOP saying he needed to be tougher. But the comments could spark a backlash.
"He shouldn't have acted as quickly and as critically as he did," Mann said. "There was plenty of time to weigh in after the fact."
Ornstein added that "when you decide to step into a crisis abroad where Americans are endangered or dead, you are playing with fire."
Other Republicans had mixed reactions.
Jon Huntsman, former Ambassador to China, expressed condolences, saying "politics should end at the water's edge."
South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint said Romney was right, saying "we should never apologize for American freedom."