Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Mitt Romney’s European misadventures: presidency means diplomacy

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The Republican Party has presumably nominated someone who has lived in Europe, whose money has traveled to the Cayman Islands, Switzerland, and Bermuda. Contrast that to George W. Bush, whose Mexico trips satisfied what little curiosity he possesses.

Mitt Romney knows the world as well as any Republican contender in recent memory. So why was his recent world adventure filled with so many gaffes? Just another of Romney’s ongoing “I used to be that guy, now I’m this kind of guy” transformation.

When Sen. Barack Obama went to Europe in 2008, he was cheered by crowds as he went through Europe. The reaction in Germany is still imprinted on our minds 4 years later. Not that Obama didn’t have his own minor gaffes along the way. Obama did refer to “president” instead of “prime minister” when referring to Canada. The two differences were that Obama made his mistakes early and didn’t do any damage on foreign soil.

The oddity of politics is that you can criticize another country on your soil a lot easier than on their soil. Mitt Romney literally should have known better, but didn’t.

What Romney said about the Olympics preparation wasn’t that bad. Doing so with your own Olympic background on British soil made a really bad impression. And the tone felt like he was trying to score political points at home. Candidates can score points at home by behaving in a good diplomatic fashion.

Romney’s classic gaffe was mentioning a meeting with MI-6, an agency the British don’t mention in conversation.

How bad were things for Mitt Romney? David Cameron, a fellow conservative and Britain’s prime minister, made fun of Romney.

When you aren’t president and you want to be president, the idea is to act presidential when you have the chance. The Romney of 10-15 years ago wouldn’t have made these mistakes. Aren’t we supposed to get wiser as we get older?

“As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality,” Romney said. Of course, the Israeli occupation is a very good reason for the discrepancy. Too bad Romney doesn’t seem to know this.

The incidents in England were more socially awkward. Romney’s impression of the Palestinian economy was so off the mark that embarrassing isn’t strong enough of a word, and his observations on the Israeli health care system would have been wonderful and spot-on if he supported Obamacare.

Romney wasn’t personally involved where Rick Gorka, his traveling press secretary, told reporters to “kiss my ass” and “shove it” in Warsaw. Obviously, the incident reflects poorly on Romney; perhaps a fitting end to the trip.

Gorka’s tirade came after a reporter had protested over the press not being allowed to ask questions of Romney. Traveling reporters had only been allowed to ask three questions, all on the first day of the trip.

Romney’s attack on Russia was more about feeding the base in the States than in diplomacy.

As badly as Romney did on his overseas trip, Romney knows this stuff much better than Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, et al. Imagine what Santorum would have said about anything European, much less the Middle East.

Romney ran for president in 2008 and seemed more presidential four years ago than he does now. Diplomacy is part of being president. If Romney doesn’t understand that now after running for president for 5 years, then he’ll never learn.

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