Taking Romney and the GOP to Task on the UK Trip and Foreign Policy

Disseting the Romney visit to the UK and musing about the state of GOP foreign policy views.

OTB commenter John Persona points to the following from Jonathan Freedland in the GuardianBritain is an easy date. So how did Mitt Romney mess up so badly?

Freedland makes several trenchant observations about Romney’s trip and the GOP’s foreign policy positions.

First, why it might be that the “Romney was just telling the truth” argument:

we’re quite happy to whinge endlessly about security, transport and ticketing failures – but we’ll be damned if we’re going to hear it from some perfect-toothed American.

Indeed.  The bottom line of the gaffe about preparedness for the games is easy:  Romney wasn’t polite.  One does not show up as a guest and start criticizing the host.  If dinner wasn’t perfectly prepared, then find something polite to say.  Honesty that the roast was overcooked need not be shared.

Further, Romney wasn’t even an invited guest but invited himself and was accommodated by the highest levels of the British government (and at a rather busy time).  No doubt this amplified the significance of the various foot-in-mouth moments, yes?

Second, on why the whole thing was worthy of comment in the first place:

For an American politician, Britain is an easy date: just praise the country as a steadfast ally, mention Churchill a couple of times and we’ll roll over. Yet somehow Romney managed to provoke both the prime minister and the capital’s mayor – both fellow conservatives who should regard a Republican nominee as a kindred spirit – into public rebukes. That takes some doing. So what explains how an accomplished politician, with the resilience to have prevailed in a bruising primary campaign, could mess up so badly?

This is really the bottom line, because this should have been a slam-dunk, feel-good visit, and yet this was not the case.

Third, Feedland makes some observation which are, unfortunately, accurate about the current state of the Republican Party:

Romney is fully in step with the party he now leads. For today’s Republican party is characterised by a kind of bellicose ignorance towards the rest of the world, contemptuous of Obama’s attempts to show respect to foreigners, crudely aggressive towards those deemed the US’s enemies, uninterested in its friends.

Now, one might could argue over whether the GOP is “uninterested in its friends” (although certainly a lot of right-leaning pundits have chosen to blame the UK for the Romneyshambles, rather than blaming, well, Romney himself).  However, I have to admit,  “bellicose ignorance towards the rest of the world, contemptuous of Obama’s attempts to show respect to foreigners, crudely aggressive towards those deemed the US’s enemies” (especially the “crudely aggressive” part) strikes me as a pretty much on target.

Recognizing that it is problematic to speak of any political party as if it is a singular entity, and also recognizing that just because one is an adherent of a particular party that one is not responsible for what all one’s co-partisans do, there is still a lot that should give a lot of us pause.

Certainly, for example,  Romney’s rhetoric (and the GOP’s in general) on China, Russia, and Iran have all had great dollops of bellicosity.  Likewise his book, No Apologies:  The Case for American Greatness isn’t exactly, well humble or reflective.*  The questions becomes, of course, to what degree is it campaign rhetoric and how much of it is a guide to how he would govern if elected.

When we move to the broader GOP we can find examples like Michelle Bachmann’s unfounded and xenophobia attacks on State Department Deputy Chief of Staff, Huma Abedin  which fits “bellicose ignorance” if you ask me.  Now, I can easily ignore Bachmann.  But when the Majority Leader in the House, Eric Cantor (R-VA) defends her (along with conservative columnist Cal Thomas), it starts to take on a different tenor.  And yes:  kudos to Senator McCain (R-AZ) for publically criticizing Bachmann.

Of course, the sad truth is that we Americans, in general, often engage in “bellicose ignorance towards the rest of the world” and are “crudely aggressive towards those deemed the US’s enemies.”  We constantly forget that having the largest economy and military doesn’t mean that we always get our way (or, more specifically, that might does not make us right).  We also tend to be really insecure despite our status.  Romney’s book subtitle underscores this, as do statements like this from a recent speech (which is a campaign line in general):

If you don’t want America to be the strongest nation on Earth, I’m not your president. But with his cuts to the military, you have that president today.

I understand the nature of campaign rhetoric, but this is just jingoistic nonsense (but perhaps I repeat myself).  First, regardless of anything else, the military and economic power of the US has not faded since 2008.**  Second, the cuts in question are part of the sequestration deal that the Republicans wanted as part of the debt ceiling compromise, and third (and perhaps most importantly):  even if we cut defense spending, we remain the most militarily powerful country in the world by several orders of magnitude.

More excerpts from the speech along the same lines:

Have we gained greater confidence among our allies and greater respect from our adversaries? And perhaps most importantly, has the most severe security threat facing America and our friends, a nuclear-armed Iran, become more likely or less likely?

[…]

I am not ashamed of American power. I take pride that throughout history our power has brought justice where there was tyranny, peace where there was conflict, and hope where there was affliction and despair.

To Freddland’s point, however:  why is this sort of thing the kind of thing that the GOP nominee feels is needed in his major foreign policy speech?

I will end by noting, in fairness:  American’s in general, regardless of party affiliation, tend to like this type of rhetoric because, like most everyone else, we like some nationalism now and again.

—–

*Although, granted, I have only seen excerpts, so perhaps I am mistaken.

**Now, there have been Great Recession related problems, to be sure.  But a) that started before the election, b) the rest of the world has been affected as well, and c) the US remains the world’s lone superpower by any measure.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics, World Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. anjin-san says:

    The Economist’s before the fact assessment of Romney’s trip:

    As always when presidential candidates travel abroad, Mr Romney’s trip is about votes, not diplomacy. If the Republican looks and sounds like an American statesman abroad, and, most important, avoids any obvious gaffes, his tour will have served its purpose.

    Great job Mittens…

  2. Murray says:

    “We also tend to be really insecure despite our status. ”

    Exactly. In my mind anybody who needs to be told on a daily basis that the US is the Greatest Country God Ever Put on This Earth has a serious lack of self-estime.

    As Margaret Thatcher put it: “If you constantly feel the need to say you are a lady, you probably are not one”.

  3. al-Ameda says:

    I’m glad that Mitt Romney is out there presenting himself to the world, such as he is.

    The more he’s out there the more likely it is that we will see him as he really is – not as he imagines a presidential candidate should be, or how he is scripted to be – but as he is. He’s awkward, he’s kind of phony, and he can’t stay on script. That is Mitt Romney.

    In 2008 I was somewhat surprised at how weak a candidate he turned out to be. I thought he would eventually get by John McCain and win the GOP nomination. This year I’ve paid close attention to the GOP race and now I can see why Romney lost to McCain – many Republicans do not trust him and he’s somewhat phony.

  4. Moosebreath says:

    “what explains how an accomplished politician, with the resilience to have prevailed in a bruising primary campaign”

    Resilience is not how Romney prevailed. The fact that he could blast his opponents 10-1 with negative ads whenever he felt threatened is how he prevailed. When he failed to do so (e.g., South Carolina, Santorum’s surprise wins in Colorado and Missouri, etc.) he lost.

  5. anjin-san says:

    As a lesson in good natured statesmanship – if not to say simple manners – it was a masterclass.

    For Michelle Obama cast aside stuffy protocol to join in the fun and games to celebrate today’s opening of the Olympic games with more than 1,000 children.

    http://www.standard.co.uk/olympics/olympic-news/london-2012-olympics-are-you-watching-mitt-michelle-obama-gives-a-fun-masterclass-in-diplomacy-7982153.html

    ‘What a car crash… worse than Sarah Palin’: British politicians’ fury at Romney’s blunder-filled visit to London ahead of Olympics

    Top political figures in Britain have been queuing up to criticise Mitt Romney after he kicked off his first foreign tour by publicly questioning whether London would be able to run the Olympics smoothly.

    The most high-profile humiliation came when thousands of Brits jeered him after London’s Mayor Boris Johnson mocked him at a concert to mark the end of the Olympic Torch relay.

    However, behind the scenes officials were even more scathing about the Republican presidential hopeful, describing his visit as a ‘car crash’ and comparing him unfavourably to Sarah Palin.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2179630/Mitt-Romneys-Olympics-visit-London-What-car-crash–worse-Sarah-Palin.html

  6. Murray says:

    @Moosebreath: “Resilience is not how Romney prevailed”

    Agreed. Neither was the primary “bruising” for him since his opponents basically self-destructed.

  7. john personna says:

    I thought the bits on CEO versus political thinking were very good. It’s a common theme that managers are organizers who bring together people and ideas, orchestrating the best, but that isn’t always the way it works. Some CEOs big-foot things and … end up with the sort of staff who makes commemorative pins about them.

  8. @john personna: I agree, and almost commented on that section as well, but ended up going down the FP rabbit hole instead.

    For example, I think that following is spot on:

    s we’ve learned in recent weeks, thanks to the likes of Barclays’ Bob Diamond or G4S’s Nick Buckles, corporate titans, so used to the nodding appreciation of yes men, can lack elementary tact and diplomacy, failing to weigh their words for tone, timing and likely reception. Technically, nothing in what Romney said about London 2012 was especially contentious – if, that is, he were merely the former CEO of the 2002 Games speaking privately to Coe a month ago. But for a man who seeks to be the lead partner in the US-UK alliance, speaking on the day before the Olympic flame was lit, it was a diplomatic disaster.

    Emphasis mine.

  9. jan says:

    @al-Ameda:

    “I’m glad that Mitt Romney is out there presenting himself to the world, such as he is. “

    I’m glad he’s out there too, being less of an insincere smoozing politician than simply giving honest answers, as reflected in the Piers Morgan interview. Sure, it was a PC gaffe, one that will be played over and over again. It will turn some people off. But, it will also draw some people to him, because there were no falsehoods in what he said, only a lack of political tact.

  10. A critique of Romney’s foreign policy is certainly in order, I’ve written several pieces about it here myself. But I really have to say that I think the whole Britain thing is being given far more attention than it really deserves. Nothing Romney said was factually untrue. Indeed, the reason there are now more British troops patrolling the games that the hills of Afghanistan is because of the complete failure of the security contractor to live up to its contract with the organizing committee. The rest of it, no doubt, was a reflection of Romney’s own experiences in Salt Lake City.

    Call it impolitic. Laugh at the jokes the British tabloids made. But, good lord, this constant obsession with gaffes that our political press has anymore is really quite pathetic.

  11. @Doug Mataconis:

    Call it impolitic. Laugh at the jokes the British tabloids made. But, good lord, this constant obsession with gaffes that our political press has anymore is really quite pathetic.

    Perhaps. But when a candidate goes on a foreign trip to prove his foreign policy and diplomatic bona fides and screws up multiple times and in multiple ways on what is arguably the easiest leg of the trip, this is news. Now, I can’t comment or defend the way it is being covered on cable news, as I haven’t watched any of that coverage.

    I will say, Doug, that your critique of the coverage sound exactly like the kind of thing people would say to you about your Palin posts. In terms of blogging, we all have reactions and that tends to spawn more posts than is needed sometimes.

    othing Romney said was factually untrue.

    True, but that is not the only standard we hold people when judging their utterances or behaviors. Again: as I said in the post, if you are guest at dinner at my house, utter honesty about my cooking skills or wine-selection abilities may be the wrong way to go. Yes?

  12. john personna says:

    @jan:

    I direct your attention to the second of these short paragraphs (from The Daily Mail), the first is kind of gratuitous:

    Speaking anonymously behind the scenes, officials were even more scathing in their verdicts, describing Mr Romney’s second day in London as a ‘total car crash’ and saying he was ‘worse than Sarah Palin’.

    Another official who met with the former Governor of Massachusetts said he was ‘apparently devoid of charm, warmth, humour or sincerity’.

    You might be trying a little gentle spin there, but I’d really worry about a guy who in face to face meetings with experienced leaders came across as devoid of charm, warmth, humour or sincerity.

  13. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    So you don’t like the press blowing up about it(*), but what about this basic inability to deal with a foreign power? That mechanics of that start at the personal level.

    As we should know by now, much of international affairs can, for better or worse, be explained by personal relationships between leaders. The Europeans had enough of Qaddafi, etc.

    * – anybody can be a “party pooper,” to borrow one British newspaper’s description of Romney

  14. Steven,

    Palin makes specific, and idiotic comments, about American politics. Mitt Romney made a correct statement about the London Olympics that got a few Brits a little miffed. Very different, IMO. In reality, all this story is is an opportunity for the Mitt bashers to bash him some more. I’m no supporter of his, but this is far from being reasoned political debate.

  15. @Doug Mataconis:

    far from being reasoned political debate

    What of the above (what I wrote or what Freddland wrote) isn’t reasoned or part of a legitimate political debate?

    Also: you are missing my point and avoiding another.

    First, the avoidance: you keep asserting the factual nature of the one statement and ignoring the point made about its appropriateness as well as the fact that context matters as does the goal of the trip. Had Romney stated he was going to London to provide a frank and honest assessment of the games, then we would be having a different conversation.

    Second, the missing the point: people constantly criticized you for giving Palin more attention than she deserved (a criticism I think was unfair, btw). However, your criticism of the Romney in the UK discussion sounds just like the kind of things that people used to say about your Palin posts. I understand that you thought were jusitfied and these are not, but I am saying that I do not see a big difference save for the preferences of a given writer or commentator.

  16. @Doug Mataconis:

    ut I really have to say that I think the whole Britain thing is being given far more attention than it really deserves

    Back to this point: if Romney didn’t want a lot of intense scrutiny, then perhaps he should have avoided going to the country that the whole world is paying attention to at the moment and where some substantial percentage of the world press is currently located.

    Really, as I think about, this miscalculation/mishandling of the situation makes it all the more significant.

  17. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Among other things, you are sticking on the initial NBC interview as the only event.

    Boris Johnson is the Conservative Party Mayor of London. After Boris gave Mitt a few jabs, this was the response:

    A Romney campaign official has blasted Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, as an ‘eccentric, odd fellow’ whose public attack on the Republican candidate was ‘unbecoming’ and an indication of his bias towards President Barack Obama.

    Do you think Romeny’s crew only told truths or went off the rails?

    I mean how hard would have been to say “I think it was all in fun, and I’m pleased everyone had a good time.” You don’t have to be much of a politician to find that political voice within yourself.

  18. @Steven L. Taylor:

    I am referring to a political media that focuses constantly on gaffes, malapropisms and misstatements. It’s irrelevant nonsense.

  19. @john personna:

    Yes? So? This election isn’t going to be decided based on a comment someone made about a British political office most Americans have never heard of.

  20. john personna says:

    I guess this finally registered … you are right Doug, Mitt is your kinda guy, for the very reason you can’t back down.

  21. anjin-san says:

    @ Doug

    Nothing Romney said was factually untrue.

    Given Romney’s track record of being truth challenged, this is indeed noteworthy…

  22. So because I don’t care about stupid political gaffes regardless of who makes them means I’m a Romney supporter?

    That makes no sense whatsoever

  23. anjin-san says:

    stupid political gaffes

    Part of the problem here is that these don’t appear to be gaffes. This is who Romney is.

  24. Ben Wolf says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I am referring to a political media that focuses constantly on gaffes, malapropisms and misstatements. It’s irrelevant nonsense.

    Yes? So? This election isn’t going to be decided based on a comment someone made about a British political office most Americans have never heard of.

    All you’re really saying is you think Britain is small and stupid and no one cares about it, and because of this no one should pay attention to anything Mitt Romney does to insult it. What should we pay attention to, Doug? Despite your protestations these comments by Romney and his campaign staff aren’t gaffes, they’re reflections of how these people view the world as evidenced by their consistent arrogance. If these were incidents of mis-speech, you’d expect these comments to be all over the place rather than consistently denigrating anything which isn’t American.

  25. Modulo Myself says:

    @anjin-san:

    Romney really is the guy who is in over his head. What a shock! An entire talking point that turns out to be really about the one issuing it.

  26. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I hoped to be oblique, but straight up, you are stubbonly defending stubborn stupidity.

  27. @john personna:

    Not defending. Just saying I don’t give a crap about it and I think it’s pathetic that the American political media focuses so much on irrelevant nonsense like this.

  28. @Ben Wolf:

    Well it’s mostly the fact that the Brits don’t get to pick our President and what a few Fleet Street tabloids said isn’t going to mean much to voters in Ohio, Virginia, and Missouri, among other places

  29. al-Ameda says:

    @jan:

    It will turn some people off. But, it will also draw some people to him, because there were no falsehoods in what he said, only a lack of political tact.

    We already have a few masters of “a lack of political tact” – Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin come to mind, and I find nothing admirable about them.

  30. Lynda says:

    Excellent points Mr. Taylor.
    Strangely Mitt’s speech outside No. 10 was pretty decent and if it had been his first remarks to the nation would have changed to commentary completely. In essence he said acknowledged that there had been problems but he was confident those issues would fade into the memory when everything kicked off and he was sure it was going to be fantastic. He even attempted a bit of self-deprecating humor which, although it came off as slightly condescending, would have been appreciated and the headlines would have been “Mitt confident in Brits” etc with lots of “he knows what he is talking about” and references to his success at SLC. Throw in a couple of bits of “faith in British pride” or “London survived the Blitz am sure it will overcome these little issues” and the British bulldog would have rolled over for his tummy to be tickled.

    Instead of showing he can strengthen the special relationship, his purported goal on this leg, the Telegraph has this http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/timstanley/100172926/romneys-farcical-tour-of-olympics-london-exposes-the-cultural-gulf-between-britain-and-america/
    This is the same paper that publishes an annual top 10 of “Obama’s British insults” so is hardly in the tank for Obama http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/nilegardiner/100142971/barack-obamas-top-ten-insults-against-britain-2012-edition/

    I agree that the US can sometimes manage to be both outwardly confident and yet surprisingly insecure but so can Britain. That is what makes the RomneyShambles such a surprise; just a touch of empathy would have had the Brits lauding him as a statesman instead of mocking him.

  31. Lynda says:

    One thing Romney can be grateful for though – can you imagine what Margret Thatcher would have done to him if she had still been PM?!!!

  32. @Doug Mataconis:

    Well it’s mostly the fact that the Brits don’t get to pick our President and what a few Fleet Street tabloids said isn’t going to mean much to voters in Ohio, Virginia, and Missouri, among other places

    Certainly true–but no one here is arguing otherwise.

    Let me ask this:

    1) What was the point of this trip from Romney’s POV?
    2) How well did he achieve those goals?
    3) Do the answers to 1 & 2 tell us anything about the candidate or the campaign?

  33. 1) To attend fundraisers, meet foreign leaders, and generally give the impression of being able to handle foreign affairs.

    2) It’s far, far to early to answer that question. Ask me again after he leaves Poland and returns home.

  34. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    When an American Presidential candidate comes out of a meeting with British leaders reviled, that might actually say something about the candidate.

    I don’t fault him personally for the MI6 and Mr. Leader flubs, but I’m astonished that he’d go overseas without the kind of staff to prevent them. That says something about his leadership.

    Th bottom line might be more about why he could not run a good trip than that he said some right things here or was treated unfairly there.

  35. John,

    Have you spoken with Cameron, Clegg and Millibrand personally? I wouldn’t base many conclusions about what happened in those meetings on what shows up in the British press, personally.

  36. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Do you consider a demand that I talk personally to world leaders to be rational and non-stubborn?

    Anyway, from my understanding of reporting rules, if the Mail attributed to an official, it had to at least someone present and angry. Kind of amazing that a visiting pol would raise any anger. You would think he could defuse it as far as “no comment.”

  37. @Doug Mataconis:

    2) It’s far, far to early to answer that question. Ask me again after he leaves Poland and returns home.

    On the one hand, fair enough in the sense that things could turnout (and are likely to get better just for lack of as much scrutiny).

    On the other: really? Are you going to assert that given an honest moment with his campaign staff that they would say that this trip is anywhere near what they were going for? Really?

    To quote myself from above:

    if Romney didn’t want a lot of intense scrutiny, then perhaps he should have avoided going to the country that the whole world is paying attention to at the moment and where some substantial percentage of the world press is currently located.

    Really, as I think about, this miscalculation/mishandling of the situation makes it all the more significant.

    I know it is your instinct to stand your ground on your argument, but I am having a hard time believing that you really think that all of this discussion is just about paying too much attention to silly details.

    A main goal in a campaign is to win the news cycle. Would you deny that Romney, in a totally self-afflicted way, lost this round?

  38. @Doug Mataconis:

    Have you spoken with Cameron, Clegg and Millibrand personally? I wouldn’t base many conclusions about what happened in those meetings on what shows up in the British press, personally.

    Clearly, he has not.

    However, Cameron’s public statements (the dig about holding the Olympics in the middle of nowhere, for example) hardly indicate a fellow who was thrilled with Romney. And the clip of the mayor of London that I posted the other day publicly calling out Romney to a crowd of 60k is not an example of the press taking things out of proportion.

  39. Steven,

    It’s worth noting that the Cameron “dig” came before he had met with Romney.

    Again, I find all of this profoundly, profoundly silly and not worth all the attention its getting.

  40. @Doug Mataconis: And yet it undercuts your narrative this all this is based on what the British press is saying.

  41. anjin-san says:

    Doug’s gold medal in the water carrying event is a lock.

  42. Steven,

    I don’t believe it does considering that 99% of the coverage of this “story” (and I use the term very loosely) is based on what the British media has been saying.

    There really are more important things to talk about. The balance of your post about Romney’s foreign policy, for example. Why do we need to focus on irrelevant nonsense?

  43. @Doug Mataconis: I suppose I would be better persuaded if you actually engaged the specifics of the questions and issues I have raised. I feel like we are having a parallel conversation in which I have tried to ask questions and raise specifics and you are mostly just asserting that it is all a press creation and silly.

    You are more than entitled to your position. I just think you avoiding the simply fact that this was not an event thrust upon Romney, but was instead a Romney campaign designed event that has backfired to date.

    I think, too, it is nonsense only in the sense that all campaigns are nonsense on one level, but that also do reveal things about the candidates, as I think this trip has done for Romeny. On that level, it goes beyond the silly stuff.

  44. @Steven L. Taylor:

    But that’s the point. I see nothing of substance in “gaffes” like this.

  45. @Doug Mataconis: I suppose I would find your position more persuasive if you tried to persuade me. I have tried (and clearly failed) but that’s fine.

    However, constantly repeating your position isn’t very persuasive. It actually begs the question of what you point is.

  46. @Steven L. Taylor: Or,more accurately, what your goal is. I understand your point, even if I am unpersuaded by it. However, if your goal is for us to talk less about this stuff, I would submit you are accomplishing the opposite feat 🙂

  47. Lynda says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Honest question – what did you think when, on his first visit to the US after Obama’s election, Obama gave former British PM Brown a bunch of common DVDs that could only play on US machines?

    Personally, I though it a funny way of showing he cared about the “special relationship”

    I think the same is true about Romney’s questioning of Britain’s security readiness & enthusiasm to host the Olympics less than 48hours before they started.

  48. john personna says:

    @Lynda:

    I kinda hoped it was an openning attack on copyright cabals and region codes, but alas no

  49. @Doug Mataconis: Let me try one more angle: if all of this is silly and none of it matters, why did Romney go on the trip in the first place? This is the real crux of the matter.

  50. Jeremy R says:

    @Lynda:

    That is what makes the RomneyShambles such a surprise; just a touch of empathy would have had the Brits lauding him as a statesman instead of mocking him.

    I agree as far as the RW British media (telegraph, daily mail, etc) is concerned. They depend on a lot of RW blog and Drudge traffic and are predisposed to spin coverage to the US Right’s tastes. It’s pretty amazing Romney blew it even with them.

    His camp is also whinging about both Cameron and the London mayor — they just can’t seem to let it go:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/david-cameron/9427438/David-Cameron-angered-US-conservatives-with-unprecedented-election-year-embrace-of-Barack-Obama.html

    David Cameron has failed to build alliances with the Republican Party and angered American conservatives with his “unprecedented” election-year embrace of Barack Obama, advisers to Mitt Romney have complained.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2179997/Romney-campaign-blasts-eccentric-odd-Mayor-Boris-Johnson-London.html

    A Romney campaign official has blasted Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, as an ‘eccentric, odd fellow’ whose public attack on the Republican candidate was ‘unbecoming’ and an indication of his bias towards President Barack Obama.

  51. Jeremy R says:

    @Jeremy R:

    Oh, and some intra-Romney campaign squabbling seems to be leaking out, trigger by #romneyshambles:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2179997/Romney-campaign-blasts-eccentric-odd-Mayor-Boris-Johnson-London.html

    The campaign official, who was not directly involved organising the London trip, that that the Romney campaign had not prepared sufficiently for ‘a visit of this magnitude’ and that the candidate had not been briefed properly on how to answer questions about the staging of the Olympics.

    ‘What he gave was the honest assessment of the situation based on his previous experience. Unfortunately in a diplomatic context that’s not the sort of thing that should have been coming out of the candidate’s mouth. It was bad messaging and media prep.’

    The trip should have been a straightforward one, he said. ‘You show up, you smile, you do photo ops, you talk about the special relationship, the deep bonds that connect us and then you go home, or in this case on to Israel and Poland.

    ‘Unfortunately, it shows that the campaign by solely focussing on jobs has really neglected foreign policy and international affairs.’

    He said that the campaign had not had a dedicated protocol adviser ‘to ensure there were no snafus’, such as when Romney addressed Ed Miliband, the Opposition leader, as ‘Mr Leader’ and when he stated he had been briefed by the head of MI6.

    ‘The first rule of diplomacy is that when you’re in a foreign country you get titles and forms of address correct.

    ‘It played into some stereotypical impressions of Americans, that they’re ignorant of local concerns, that they don’t get names or titles right.’

  52. @Steven L. Taylor:

    If I wasn’t already above my snark limit i’d say “to not watch dressage.”

  53. anjin-san says:

    why did Romney go on the trip in the first place?

    Not to support his wife apparently. Did he really claim to not know when her event was taking place?

  54. @Jeremy R:

    OK, now I’ll definitely go over my limit:

    ‘Unfortunately, it shows that the campaign by solely focussing on jobs has really neglected foreign policy and international affairs.’

    I think what he really means is “while they were busy at their video-editing consoles.”

  55. Lynda says:

    @john personna:

    Oh John, that comment is especially poignant given that last night I was not able to watch the same live broadcast from the BBC that my British family did.

    Instead I had the treat of NBC’s edited version several hours later.

  56. @Steven L. Taylor:

    I’ve already explained that. And, I still insist that focusing on what were, in the end, truthful comments by Romney is really incredibly silly

  57. Lynda says:

    @Jeremy R:
    Do you think the follow up to the No Apologies book will be a How to Win Friends and Influence people the Romney way?

    Those comments about Cameron and Johnson will surely open their eyes to how wonderful Mitt really is
    🙂

  58. @Doug Mataconis:

    I’ve already explained that. And, I still insist that focusing on what were, in the end, truthful comments by Romney is really incredibly silly

    In honesty, I do not think you have addressed it.

    And, further, all of this is not simply about the one comment and for your to insist on focusing on just that does not help your case.

  59. anjin-san says:

    It seems Mitt has decided hiding from the press might be best:

    Romney Bans Media from Jerusalem Fundraiser

    Mitt Romney arrived in Jerusalem and was scheduled to attend a fundraiser on Monday but his campaign announced “that it would block the news media from covering the event,” the Washington Post reports.

    “The campaign’s decision to close the fundraiser to the press violates the ground rules it negotiated with news organizations in April… Under the agreement, a pool of wire, print and television reporters can cover every Romney fundraiser held in public venues, including hotels and country clubs. The campaign does not allow media coverage of fundraisers held in private residences.”

    A spokesman “declined to explain the campaign’s decision to violate protocol with the Jerusalem event.”

  60. C. Clavin says:

    But Doug…
    “…Not defending. Just saying I don’t give a crap about it and I think it’s pathetic that the American political media focuses so much on irrelevant nonsense like this…”
    You are pretending Romney didn’t go there specifically because the political media would pay attention. He wanted to use the media to polish up his foreign policy bonafides. He failed. Now you want everyone to ignore that he failed to achieve his goal. And it’s not the single issue that you keep leaning on.
    Bottom line…he wanted to prove he could be Presidential on the International level. He failed. And now you want to simply ignore that Romney does not seem to be capable of being Presidential on the International level.

  61. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Here’s why this is relevant. Mr. Romney has a narrative that goes like this: Mr. Obama is an amateur, he’s in over his head, he’s unprepared, weak and not up to the Big Job. Whereas I, Mitt Romney, am wise, mature, capable and ready from Day One.

    That’s the story.

    So when Mr. Romney steps onto the stage and says stupid things that result in him being ridiculed by our closest ally — even called out by a conservative PM — it runs counter to that narrative. It undermines both the attacks on Mr. Obama, and the notion that Mr. Romney is better-prepared.

    To argue that it’s irrelevant because it’s not about policy per se is obtuse. Campaigns are stories, they are not policy papers.

    And with good reason. Because we are hiring a guy for a 4 year gig and many, many things will occur in 4 years that are not dealt with in his current policy positions. So we are looking for a more general sense of his qualifications and abilities. Those have been placed in doubt because A) He comes off like a clod, and B) He set out to push a narrative and obviously failed and that fact, in itself, is revealing.

    “Clod who can’t tell his own story,” is not what we’re looking for in a POTUS. That’s why it’s relevant.

  62. @Doug Mataconis: In other words: if we are supposed to ignore the statements, actions, press coverage, and public reaction to the visit, are you arguing that the trip itself is the problem?

  63. @michael reynolds:

    Campaigns are stories

    Bingo.

  64. Steven, Michael, and C. Clavin,

    Did Romney have a minor PR disaster? Yes

    Does it matter? I submit the answer is absolutely not, and that we’re wasting our time talking about it.

  65. @Doug Mataconis:

    Did Romney have a minor PR disaster? Yes

    Does it matter? I submit the answer is absolutely not, and that we’re wasting our time talking about it.

    If by “mattering” you mean “winning or losing the election” then you are correct.

    However, if campaigning matters at all, then you are simply incorrect and have not provided an argument to support your position.

    After all, what is a campaign other than a string of minor PR successes and failures?

  66. michael reynolds says:

    Campaigns are not supposed to have PR disasters because such things are a function of management. Mr. Romney’s running on his management skills. Would you call this good management? No? Then it matters.

    I’m not saying it’s a 10 on a 10 point scale. It’s a 3. But a 3 still matters.

  67. C. Clavin says:

    If the result of the trip doesn’t matter then the trip itself never mattered. And if that is true then why did Romney bother in the first place, as it took focus away from the economy?
    He took the trip because it matters that he look Presidential. He didn’t look Presidential. Ipso facto it matters.

  68. DRS says:

    I can’t believe you win many court cases with this attitude, Doug.

  69. C. Clavin says:

    The next thing to watch is Isreal, where Romney will undermine decades of American foreign policy and peacemaking efforts in the hopes of winning the support of the neo-cons and AIPAC.
    To which Doug will respond: Why are we wasting our time on this?

  70. Youri says:

    I think the story that unfolded just helped to highlight that some American politicians grow too used to their comfort zone. This keeps them from ever getting better at it should they ever have to go out of their comfort zones. Sarah Palin had troubles going beyond her Alaska. Romney had troubles going beyond America’s borders.

    Perhaps the task is a little beyond their abilities. Obama for instance is outstanding at taking impromptu questions and staying on topic. He has had to answer all sorts of questions before and during his Presidency. In fact, some of his campaign was to answer the questions that ordinary people came up with right at the moment. It takes a good ear to listen the questions, a good brain to parse them and put together an answer.

    The Republican candidates haven’t been as good at it.

  71. al-Ameda says:

    @Youri:

    Romney had troubles going beyond America’s borders.

    And he’s probably going to have troubles going beyond his $77,000 tax deduction on his wife’s equestrian dressage horse too.

  72. john personna says:

    @al-Ameda:

    It’s not that bad. It’s not like he bought a Chevy Volt or something. That, his supporters could not abide.

  73. de stijl says:

    To me, the underplayed story from the Brian Williams interview was this:

    It’s a big, exciting experience for my wife. I have to tell you, this is Ann’s sport. I’m not even sure which day the sport goes on. She will get the chance to see it, I will not be watching the event. I hope her horse does well.

    He threw his wife under the bus horse in a desperate bid to somehow, anyhow not to be the butt of the joke in the 2012 dancing horse version of the Kerry windsurfing ad. That’s not just sad and pathetic, but more than a little bit sick.

  74. al-Ameda says:

    @de stijl:

    “It’s a big, exciting experience for my wife. I have to tell you, this is Ann’s sport. I’m not even sure which day the sport goes on. She will get the chance to see it, I will not be watching the event. I hope her horse does well.”

    Translation: “Okay everyone, I don’t even know what equestrian dressage is. I love American football and American baseball. Also, my tax accountant prepared our tax return and took that $77,000 deduction for our equestrian horse, completely without my knowledge. Also, I love the Super Bowl.”

  75. Jeremy R says:

    @al-Ameda:

    He may as well just own it, instead of feigning total disinterest:

    http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/romneys-dancing-horse-competes/story?id=16162590

    Romney campaign officials told ABC News that Mrs. Romney will not fly to the Dutch town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch this week to watch Rafalca and the rider she sponsors, Jan Ebeling, represent the United States in the freestyle dressage World Cup Finals. Until recently, her presence at such an elite event would have been automatic — followers of the sport describe her as a fixture in the stands on the global dressage circuit, and in past years she brought her husband Mitt Romney along with her.

    The Romneys have owned, by some estimates, eight dressage horses, which can carry a six-figure price tag.

    The Romneys investment in dressage is as much emotional as it is financial. The Romneys have long shared a fondness of horses — the news website Gawker obtained tape of Romney speaking lovingly about the animals with Sean Hannity in an off-air exchange, praising the bloodlines of his wife’s Austrian Warmbloods, but also noting his preference for the “smoother gait” of his own Missouri foxtrotter.

    Braddick said the Romneys were regulars at dressage events and traveled to Europe together to purchase horses for their California stables. When Ebeling was preparing a dressage routine to try and qualify for this year’s World Cup, one of the sport’s major annual events, Braddick said it was Mitt Romney who selected the music that would accompany the horse and rider’s performance — selections from the soundtracks to “Rainman” and “The Mission.”

    “Jan told me, ‘Mitt picked the music … that was his contribution, and we love it,’ ” Braddick said. He added that this was not an insubstantial contribution — many riders have music specially composed for competition, and some even hire an orchestra to play a version that will precisely fit the footfalls of the horse in question.

  76. de stijl says:

    @al-Ameda:
    @Jeremy R:

    And what’s so sad (and telling) is that it would take a decent PR person about two minutes to come up with a way to defuse the rich guy angle and make it all about how much he supported his wife.

    Throw in a touch of Mrs. Romney’s MS and how much it helped her cope with her illness – a bit of “Yeah, I realize that this could look like I was born with a silver spoon in mouth, but I don’t care how the other guys are going to spin this because I love and support my wife and I will obviously be with her at this amazing time for her” – and it could be gold.

    But he chose to throw her under the bus. Comes across as a total prat. I don’t get it.

  77. de stijl says:

    @al-Ameda:

    He wishes (or at least his campaign staff wishes) that he was as good at translating as you are.

    What usually comes out of his mouth is:

    “I have some great friends who are NASCAR team owners,”

  78. al-Ameda says:

    @Jeremy R:

    The Romneys have owned, by some estimates, eight dressage horses, which can carry a six-figure price tag.

    Owning a performance horse, whether it be racing or dressage, is an expensive proposition. To board them, train them, and otherwise maintain them, costs thousands of dollars per year.

    ‘Mitt picked the music … that was his contribution, and we love it,’ ” Braddick said. He added that this was not an insubstantial contribution — many riders have music specially composed for competition, and some even hire an orchestra to play a version that will precisely fit the footfalls of the horse in question.

    No surprise there – Mitt is one of those ‘master of the universe’ types, he wants to have his imprimatur on things. He likes control. It is pathetic that he now begs off Dressage because private polling probably indicates that it does not resonate with base GOP voters.

  79. That´s not a silly gaffe. Brazil and India chose French fighter jets over American Jets precisely because Sarkozy used his diplomatic muscles to sell his country and his jets abroad. Lula used his diplomatic muscles in the Arab World so that Brazilian companies can sell chicken and other products in the Arab World.

    A President sells his country abroad, and this image, this soft power matters. That´s why the British uses so much money to fund the BBC World Service. Bush projected the image of the arrogant and stupid American that people outside the US loves to hate: that´s one of the reasons that most people outside the US opposed the invasion of Iraq.

    If Romney goes to the United Kingdom and manages to create furor over these kinds of remarks, imagine what kind of diplomatic disaster he could create in regions that are more hostile to the Americans. Again, I´m a foreigner(and unlike 99,99% of Americans I can read in several languages other than my Native Portuguese) so I live with foreign people that says all kinds of things about the United States and the people that lives there.

    But, unless the Americans are willing to lose foreign markets to other countries and partnerships, then this is not a “silly gaffe”.

  80. @Youri:

    Romney had troubles going beyond America’s borders.

    Not only beyond America´s borders. Romney refused for months to go to any Sunday Morning Show and it´s easy to understand why. Most of his TV interviews are painful to watch. His interviews with Brian Williams, Bob Schieffer and Jan Crawford are particularly horrible. He said to Savannah Guthrie that organizing the Olympics counted as “foreign experience”. That´s not so much better than the “I see Russia from my house” line.

  81. al-Ameda says:

    @André Kenji de Sousa:

    He said to Savannah Guthrie that organizing the Olympics counted as “foreign experience”. That´s not so much better than the “I see Russia from my house” line.

    Not only that, he couldn’t have “saved” those olympic games if the federal government had not provided over $700M in funding.

  82. de stijl says:

    @André Kenji de Sousa:

    and unlike 99,99% of Americans I can read in several languages other than my Native Portuguese

    I learned a new German word today – Rechthaberisch. I swear it was not at all because of one of our hosts here at OTB who is not the author of this post, but who may have participated in the comments. It was absolutely, positively not related to someone pathologically digging in his heels so hard that he fell over backwards.

  83. Me Me Me says:

    So for two threads running Doug adamantly insists that the evidence that Romney can’t speak without a script, can’t assemble a competent staff to advise him, and can’t command respect in “quiet rooms” is trivial.

    I wonder what qualities Doug thinks a President should have.

    Regardless of the answer, I think somehow managing to provoke your closest allies into rebuking you IN PUBLIC on your first trip abroad while their aides tell reporters that you came across as an American Borat is an indication that whatever it takes, you ain’t got it.

    Who would now bet against Mitt making some spectacular gaffe in the debates?

  84. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    Bush projected the image of the arrogant and stupid American that people outside the US loves to hate: that´s one of the reasons that most people outside the US opposed the invasion of Iraq.

    Honestly I’m on the pragmatic left. If he’d sold the Iraq invasion as “let’s remove a terrible dictator that uses his armed forces and poison gas against his own people” and provided a solid plan for the after-war effort I would have been the first on-board.

    But between “weapons of mass destruction”, kicking down doors and taking names and “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” there was no choice but to oppose it.

    Heck, the last one alone should have prevented everyone with a shred of self-respect (a great big hello to Mr. Blair on this) from signing on.

  85. reid says:

    No Apologies: The Case for American Greatness

    Could he have chosen a more dickish title? Sums up the annoying macho thinking of the far right. Would anyone at all not think he was a jerk if he was talking about himself instead of the country? What’s the difference?

  86. jukeboxgrad says:

    Could he have chosen a more dickish title?

    I think this is an important point that doesn’t get much attention.

    He is talking about himself. A key part of being a truly adult human is the ability to sincerely apologize. Mitt lacks this ability and this is a reason why he seems not human. Sociopaths/narcissists like Mitt don’t understand the concept of apology because they lack empathy and remorse.

    So his title is unintentionally authentic and revealing.