Four years ago, a first-term U.S. Senator and presidential candidate made a curious decision. He left the campaign trail to travel overseas on a tour of five countries. The senator had taken much heat from the press and his opponent as lacking in foreign policy experience. The trip was designed to burnish the candidate’s credentials, but it also established Barack Obama was not simply a rising star in America, but around the world as well.
Obama traveled to the Middle East, Afghanistan, Iraq and Europe and solidified his rock star persona with a stop in Germany where he spoke to over 100,000 in Berlin. A German diplomat said of Obama’s popularity in Germany, “They see him as a black JFK. Expectations are so high they would not be surprised to learn that he walked across the Atlantic rather than flew,” he said.
I wonder if playing “follow the leader” was on Mitt Romney’s mind when he decided to pull a Obama and go overseas to Great Britain, Poland and Israel. As a one-term governor, Romney’s foreign policy resume is even skimpier than Obama’s in ’08. For Obama, going overseas only enhanced his larger-than-life persona. There’s no way Mittens was expecting thousands to turn out to hear him speak, but if he could grab some headlines and get a few good photo ops with world leaders that would impress the folks back home by appearing presidential.
Yeah…not so much.
Here’s the thing about Romney. He’s fine, if wooden as hell, when he’s on script. But when he’s off-script he’s terrible. As a man far more comfortable around money and privilege than people, Mitt is prone to do and say dumb shit when he hasn’t been prepped sufficiently and he must have snoozed through the briefings for this trip because the moment he landed in Britain he promptly started tripping over his own tongue.
In little more than 24 hours in London, the U.S. presidential candidate has gotten Britons to stop complaining about bumper-to-bumper traffic, cringing about cost overruns and fretting about shoddy security — and instead start taking pride in their country’s long-awaited day in the sun.
From Prime Minister David Cameron to ordinary Londoners rushing to work, Britons recoiled at the visiting American’s suggestion that the logistical problems encountered so far were “disconcerting.” Many who have themselves been slamming organizers as incompetent, and the massive competition as an expensive fiasco, are suddenly rallying around the flag.
“Mitt the Twit” screamed Friday’s headline in The Sun, which just days ago was trumpeting an embarrassing incident in which an official bus carrying the U.S. team from Heathrow airport got lost and spent hours in traffic.
“Who invited party-pooper Romney?” asked the Daily Mail.
“Nowhere Man” declared the more reserved Times of London, a reference to a biting comment by the famously diplomatic Cameron, who implied that Romney lacked the experience to offer advice to one of the world’s great capitals since the Olympics he helped organize in Salt Lake City, Utah, took place “in the middle of nowhere.”
“We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course, it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere,” Cameron said.
Colorful London Mayor Boris Johnson also got in on the act, using Romney’s criticism as a rallying cry to stoke up a crowd of tens of thousands gathered at Hyde Park on Thursday night: “There’s a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know if we are ready. Are we ready? Yes, we are!”
It’s incredibly bad form to go to another country and immediately start insulting your hosts. It’s no surprise Mitt elicits yawns of indifference than screams of excitement. Mitt trying to jock ride Obama’s smooth move of 2008 is like following up Prince with Pat Boone. It’s just not going to get anybody all hot and bothered. He wanted to make himself look like the candidate from central casting, but he just came off as a dumb dick.
Even before Team Romney invaded the Motherland, despite his declaration not to criticize the president while on foreign soil (a major political faux pas), an anonymous adviser told a London newspaper, “We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have”.
How can you read that as anything but a White president in the White House will renew ties with White Anglo-Saxons? Romney disavowed his own unnamed adviser saying “I don’t agree with whoever that adviser is.” Way to go, Mitt! Let everybody know who’s calling the shots in this campaign. Whoever that might be.
Before jetting off to Merry Ole England, Romney was enjoying watching Obama put on the defensive over the misquoting of the president’s “you didn’t build that” remark. The White House began to push back against that non-issue and Romney handed them a gift by making an asshole of himself in front of the Brits and exposing himself as a not-ready-for-prime-time-rookie.
When Mitt gets to Poland and Israel, for his own sake he’d better skip the jokes about circular firing squads and proclaiming “Damn, there’s a lot of Jews here!” or he’d better be wearing his magic underwear. This could end up right, but damn has it started off WRONG.
- ‘Like Mr. Bean,’ but American: U.K. press turns against Romney after one day in London (news.nationalpost.com)
- Oh, Mitt: those Romney gaffes in full (guardian.co.uk)
- Romney Adviser: As an African, Obama Doesn’t Appreciate ‘Anglo-Saxon Heritage’ (littlegreenfootballs.com)