If you’d asked me last week how I saw Mitt’s big foreign policy trip playing out, having him name-checked as a naysaying stooge before a huge crowd at the start of the Olympics — by a Tory, no less — would not have popped to mind. It’s like a scene from a lost “Naked Gun” movie in which Frank Drebin runs for president.
Watch the quickie clip below from last night’s NBC interview to see what caused the kerfuffle. The word that got the British press hopping today is “disconcerting.” Said a pissy David Cameron about Romney’s Olympics stint at Salt Lake City, “It’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere.” (Upon hearing that, SLC’s mayor offered to get Cameron a map.) The hard-left Guardian quotes one senior British source as saying, “What a total shocker. We are speechless.” The Telegraph’s beating him up too:
Mitt Romney is perhaps the only politician who could start a trip that was supposed to be a charm offensive by being utterly devoid of charm and mildly offensive…
Not once have I heard him [in his stump speech] praise Britain or extol the special relationship he now belatedly trumpets. He even reprised his dislike of the NHS shortly before leaving for these shores of benighted, yellow-toothed natives who spend half their lives waiting in hospital, having tried as governor of Massachusetts to ensure that everyone in his state, as in Britain, had access to health care.
His current pledge to “revive” ties between the US and Britain sounds suspiciously like a talking point drummed up in a policy meeting and designed to differentiate himself from President Barack Obama for domestic purposes.
Romney’s since walked back his comments but the wet cement of this narrative is already turning dry. You’ll see three reactions on the right to all of this, I suspect. One: Who cares? It won’t cost Romney a single vote. As lefty Nate Silver put it, “[Doubtful] that Romney will carry Hertfordshire after this Olympics gaffe.” Two: Romney was right. Watch his comments again. He’s clearly been paying attention to British preparations from the unique perspective of a guy who’s had to deal with all of it before. Even Piers Morgan felt obliged to concede his points on CNN this afternoon. Fleet Street’s shooting the messenger here. Three: Why, Mitt, why? The point of the trip is to draw a contrast with The One’s oafish insistence on insulting the British after he took office, from removing the bust of Churchill in the Oval Office to this immortal moment of narcissistic idiocy. Romney’s going to restore the “special relationship” and his first step in doing so is by gladhanding every Brit in sight. (He even mentioned the Churchill bust today.) It’s the easiest diplomatic task imaginable. And yet, somehow, when Brian Williams tossed him a softball about whether British preparations looked okay, the executive/consultant within couldn’t resist a few criticisms. Baffling. This week is nothing but a big photo op, yet somehow it already involves Boris Johnson sneering at “a guy called Mitt Romney” at an Olympics rally. Good lord.
This wasn’t his only gaffe today either, but thanks to Johnson, this is the one that’ll end up in rotation on CNN and MSNBC.