Mitt Romney’s international trip was expected to give the presumptive GOP presidential candidate some respite so he could focus on foreign policy and project an image as a statesman. But the results were not as expected.
The London Olympics were the perfect backdrop for Romney’s campaign to remind voters that the candidate played an essential role in turning the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah into a success when they seemed doomed to fail.
The strategy became problematic when Romney said in an interview that problems that came up in the last few weeks before the opening ceremony were “disconcerting,” unleashing harsh criticism from British politicians and media.
This was the time to show he was a skillful diplomat, but he did not rise to the occasion.
Another disappointment came in a separate interview, for CNN, when Romney refused to discuss his foreign affairs platform, invoking the tradition that a candidate does not criticize the president while abroad. Maybe Romney does not have a U.S. foreign policy plan that can be explained positively rather than just being a platform to attack Obama?
Given Romney’s silence, what made news were the comments from an anonymous campaign source that said the White House could “not fully understand” the Anglo-Saxon heritage between the U.S. and Britain and the history of that relationship. Not only is this a dumb comment, but-within the context of an African-American president-it is also dangerously provocative because of its cultural and racial implications.
If Romney’s Olympic journey around London did not work out as expected, his next stop in Israel would project the desired image of a statesman. The idea was to contrast the Republican’s strong support for the Netanyahu administration with Obama’s relationship with the Israeli leader, which has not been good. Nevertheless, this did not stop Obama from signing a law that strengthens the military alliance between the U.S. and Israel the day before Romney arrived in the Middle East. Once again, there is an unfavorable contrast between the rhetoric of a candidate and the action of a president.
It is true that Romney’s gaffe in London was not that bad, that the British media and some politicians maliciously took advantage of it to make fun of the candidate and that the power of the White House-in re-election mode-is overwhelming.
But this does not justify the mistakes of the GOP campaign, which goes abroad to get away from the debate over Bain Capital, only to run across new problems. Romney’s ability to manage U.S. foreign policy, given that so many people were offended during a courtesy visit, has now come into question.
For that, he should have just stayed home.