We were concerned that this might happen. Just the other day we wrote warning him to be careful…that we didn’t need any more of his gaffs.
We thought he might stumble in Israel; lobby for more Palestinian control over Jerusalem. We worried that he might go to Poland and marginalize the importance of worker’s “Solidarity.”
Never in our wildest dreams did we think that Mitt Romney would cause an international incident by pissing off the Brits.
Mitt Romney embarked on an overseas tour specifically designed to makes him appear more “presidential” on the international stage. But barely 24 hours into the trip had he managed to call into question the competence of England’s Olympic Organizing Committee, reveal a secret meeting with the head of off limits MI6, forget the name of the leader of the Labour Party and brush off his own wife’s participation in the Olympic Games.
It all started off innocently enough with a scheduled interview with NBC’s Brien Williams. At one point during the interview Williams calling on Romney’s experience as head of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games, asked the candidate for his impressions of the London Games…a big fat softball question if there ever was. Most politicians would have responded something like this: “The venues look great! The British people have been wonderful. They have welcomed us with open arms. Everything is FANTASTIC! I’m sure the British people will put on a wonderful Olympics.” Easy!
Not for the presumptive Republican nominee. Romney fielded the question like a Saint Bernard chasing a beach ball. Instead of complimenting his hosts he got all up in the weeds about their difficulties. He said it was too early to tell if the games would be successful. He brought up the lack of security personnel and the immigration and customs problems that had made the news and embarrassed the Brits. But, he condescendingly noted, once the focus switches to the athletes these difficulties will be forgotten.
The Brits were incensed. The tabloids had a field day; lampooning Romney’s rudeness with banner headlines. London Mayor Boris Johnson used Romney as a punch line as he addressed thousands at a rally in Hyde Park. Prime Minister Cameron even fired a shot. He said the London organizing committee was preparing to stage an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, biggest most bustling cities in the world; a task far more difficult than the one faced by Romney’s Salt Lake City Committee who were staging their games “in the middle of nowhere.”
Romney tried to walk back his comments during a series of public “pressers” staged throughout the day. But he only kept digging the hole even deeper.
Romney met with British Labour Leader Ed Miliband…and then stumbled trying to remember his name eventually referring to Miliband as “the Leader.”
Later, while thanking those who were gracious enough to meet with him, Romney let slip that he had secretly met with the leader of MI6…the British equivalent of the CIA. The problem here is that the MI6 is never discussed openly in Britain. The Brits didn’t even acknowledge that MI6 existed until the mid-1990s. But here was Romney thanking them for their time.
Then there was the strange way he handled an inquiry about his wife Ann’s participation in the Olympics.
Ann owns a horse that is competing in the dressage competition. Romney was very quick to point out that this was all Ann’s deal. He didn’t know anything about the competition…didn’t know the name of the trainer…didn’t know when her horse would be competing…and had no plans to watch the competition. Instead of expressing pride and happiness for his wife he seemed eager to distance himself from a sport frequently associated with the very rich.
The pro-Romney camp trotted out Romney surrogates to tamp down the damage. Governors Jindal of Louisiana and McDonald of Virginia, both on Romney’s VP short list, said that all the kerfuffle was much ado about nothing. “The American people don’t care about this…they don’t care what the Brits think.”
But a host of Republicans disagreed shaking their heads over the candidate’s missteps. Even noted conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer said that he had “run out of adjectives” to describe how badly Romney had performed.
In spite of his supporters protestations to the contrary; this trip is an important for Romney. It is an opportunity to give the world a glimpse into what a Romney presidency might look like. Thus far he has demonstrated his inherent ability to be rude, forgetful and dismissive of his wife’s accomplishments.
Mitt Romney may be a wiz at crunching numbers and making money. But he has shown once again how disconnected he can be as a human being.
This was the easy part…now on to Israel and Poland.
Get your popcorn ready; it’s gonna’ be a show.