A viable presidential candidate must display a deft hand not only in domestic affairs but handling an international audience as well. Republican nominee Mitt Romney has attempted just that. Romney returned from a week in Europe where he spoke in Britain, Israel, and Poland. How did it go? Well, he criticized the host country of this year’s Olympics for a lack of preparedness, drew the contention of Palestinians as well as Palestinian-Americans, and his aide told members of the press corps in Warsaw “to kiss my ass”. So, no, not so good. But perhaps that is too broad of a stroke. Let’s take a closer look at each stop.
With a long history of charitable relations between America and Britain Romney may have thought this visit would be more of a photo opportunity and less of a controversy that would end with high-speed backpedaling. His comments concerning the level of security for the 2012 Olympic games which he called “disconcerting” riles many Londoners. Romney statement, “It's hard to know just how well it will turn out,” offended not only London mayor Boris Johnson but British Prime Minister David Cameron. Cameron went as far as saying, “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." Ouch.
Dusting himself off from the awkward but unintentional gaff, Romney set his sights of Israel and spoke in Jerusalem from a speech clearly intended to sing the praises of Israel and vow that an America under his leadership would always keep them protected. As well received from the audience as it was, he forgot the other half of the equation. When he tried explaining the economic differences between Israel and Palestinian Authority he used ‘culture’ as the defining difference which many sympathetic to Palestinian concerns viewed as a slight on Palestine and the Palestinian people. He did not help matters when he explained that he could have easily said the same about America and Mexico, especially considering his popularity among Latino voters which is tenuous to non-existent.
Coming into the homestretch Romney stopped in Warsaw and attempted to play it safe with less speech and more smile. Ever-mindful of his tongue in regards to reporters, the Romney camp answered a total of three questions from the international traveling press corps during his six-day tour. This left reporters anxious for anything of substance from the republican and the situation came to a head while he was visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. After being told Romney would take no questions and to return home the press corps refused and followed him to the Tomb while he was paying his respects. The press corps peppered him with shouted questions lobbed as one would heckle a lousy stand-up comic. Many of the questions overheard concerned his previous speeches in Britain and Israel, “Governor Romney, are you concerned about some of the mishaps on your trip?”, “Governor Romney, do you have a statement for the Palestinians?” And, “What about your gaffes?”. To which one of Romney aides fired back, “Kiss my ass. This is a holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect.” Whether the aide’s remarks were warranted is irrelevant. it served to add fuel to the notion that his European tour was disorganized and a marginal failure. With ninety-eight days until the election Romney needs to tighten his act and think before he or his aides speak if he wants to be taken as a formidable opponent against President Obama, whose naturally well-honed oratory has served to only bolster his international cache among the global audience and subsequently us back home.
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