Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s trip to the United Kingdom received heightened media coverage after he told NBC’s Brian Williams, “There are a few things that were disconcerting. The stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials…that obviously is not something which is encouraging.”
Romney’s critical commentary on the London Olympics are an unwelcome distraction to a trip the Romney campaign had wished would bolster his foreign policy credentials, an area of policy he has no experience in given that his government experience is limited to being Governor of Massachusetts.
The comments fall in a series of gaffes that have brought Romney negative media attention throughout both his primary and general election campaigns. These particular words have the added negative of introducing Romney to many British officials and members of the press in an antagonist tone, which constitutes a significant lapse in judgement given the United Kingdom’s position as one of the country’s most important allies.
As a result of his comments, Romney’s reception during his overseas trip will be defined by the outlash by the British press in the days after his comments. Headlines included “[Romney is} devoid of charm, offensive, and a wazzock,” from the Daily Mail. A reporter from Sky News asked if Romney is ready to be president and called him “just daft.” More significantly, the Mayor of London and British Prime Minister David Cameron both responded to his attack on the British preparations. Cameron noted that it is much more difficult to operate an Olympics in one of the busiest cities in the world than in the middle of nowhere, directly undercutting an accomplishment Romney boasts of often: his successful management of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The missteps of Romney’s trip abroad stands in strict contrast to that of former Senator Obama’s during his campaign for president in 2008. While Romney has managed to garner significant negative media attention during trip to the U.K., Obama had tremendous success and widespread positive reception during his eight-country trip abroad. Where Romney antagonized the citizens, press, and leaders of the United Kingdom, Obama delivered a speech to over 200,000 applauding Germans in Berlin. Americans watching from home marveled at Obama’s ability to draw such an enormous crowd. Obama’s ability to impress and achieve respect overseas lent credence to his ability to conduct the nation’s foreign policy in a way Romney’s trip has not.
Romney also visited Israel on Sunday, using his close relationship to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bolster support among Jewish voters. Romney took a firm stance against Iran’s ongoing nuclear efforts, and pledged that a Romney administration would not be idle again the Iranian threat. His trip was free of a misstep similar to his comments in the U.K., and was the type of trip Romney needed in the United Kingdom.
Despite the considerable attention the media has paid to Romney’s Olympic blunder, it is quite unlikely that Romney’s comments will impact relations between the U.S. and the U.K. in a tangible way. More informative is Romney’s continuous inability to stick to a successful message that has plagued his campaign since the beginning of the primaries. His repeated gaffes and his reluctance to release his tax returns undercut his ability to be viewed as an effective business executive capable of leading our country into prosperity.
For Mitt Romney to overcome the current dead heat in the polls, he must show a far greater sense of judgement than he showed during this overseas trip. The fact that Romney has been successful both in business and in government cannot be questioned by members of either party. Romney must use the skills he used to realize his past success in his campaign for president, a task he has failed repeatedly to accomplish.