Romney Abroad: A Candidate Tries to Find His Diplomatic Voice

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Carsten Koall / Getty Images

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, prepares to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on July 31, 2012 in Warsaw, Poland. After visiting London, Israel, and the polish city of Gdansk, Romney traveled to Warsaw to meet with the Polish President and Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski.

Seasoned foreign policy advisers will tell you that in diplomacy there’s an inside voice and an outside voice. Candidates – especially those running in primaries – will say the most bombastic and outrageous stuff on the record only to admit moderation and identify areas of compromise off the record. For diplomats the opposite is true: off the record, they will tell you what they really think of their foreign counterparts; on the record they will be full of nothing but praise and platitudes. The inside voice is for creating strife; the outside one is for avoiding it. Problems occur when politicians take their inside voice abroad, as Mitt Romney has learned this week.

(PHOTOS: The Rich History of Mitt Romney)

In hindsight, Romney’s trip – to the London Olympics, Israel and Poland – looks like it was going to be a challenge for the candidate under any circumstances. Comparisons with President Obama’s triumphal 2008 trip as a candidate were inevitable. Romney was never going to draw 100,000 adoring Germans to a speech in Berlin, and the trip quickly became rhetorically constraining. In 2008, Obama was celebrated for being a historic African American candidate who had a positive message of hope and, most importantly, he wasn’t George W. Bush. Romney is challenging now incumbent Obama who remains much more popular abroad than at home. The trap came when he pledged to follow tradition – all U.S. politicians usually refrain from political attacks on the commander-in-chief while abroad – while also refusing to detail his own policy initiatives, which left him precious little to talk about.

(MORE: After Foreign Tour, Europe Asks ‘Is Romney a Loser’?)

London: Running for President requires a candidate to spend his days promoting his resume as better than anyone else’s. So, it’s perhaps no surprise that Romney questioned whether the Brits would be as prepared for the London Olympics as he was for the Salt Lake City games when he ran them in 2002. If he hadn’t been traveling to London, this swipe might have rated page A20. Instead, the insult earned him a rebuke from British Prime Minister David Cameron, a fellow conservative, about how holding an Olympics in “the middle of nowhere” was obviously easier than holding one in one of the most densely populated cities in the world. The British papers labeled Romney “Nowhere Man,” and the U.S. press declared him “DOA” in the UK. For a candidate whose whole critique of Obama’s foreign policy is that the President is too critical of allies and too friendly to enemies, Romney started his trip by slapping one of America’s closest allies in the face.

Israel: What got Romney in the most trouble in Israel was again using his inside voice when he was outside. At a Sunday morning fundraiser in Jerusalem, Romney said this:

I was thinking this morning, as I prepared to come into this room, of a discussion I had across the country in the United States about my perceptions about differences between countries. And as you come here, and you see the GDP per capita — for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000, and you 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 a dramatic, stark difference in economic vitality. And that is also between other countries that are near or next to each other. Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and the United States.

(PHOTOS: On the Trail with Romney)

This provoked a Palestinian firestorm; accusing Romney of racism for suggesting that one culture is simply more industrious than another. The campaign, taken aback, pointed to a similar statement Romney made in Chicago in March:

My business used to take me to different parts of the world … I was often struck by enormous differences between different nations that in many cases were living right next door to each other. I was interested in the differences in their prosperity, and how it was that nations so close to each other in terms of geography, could be so different in terms of prosperity. I mean, look at Mexico and the United States, Israel and Egypt, Chile and Ecuador.

Setting aside the fact that Romney, a guy trying to win the Latino vote, just pretty much accused Mexicans of cultural laziness – why else did the U.S., right next door, succeed while they have struggled? – saying this in Chicago and saying it in the capital Palestinians claim as their own are two very different things. In Chicago, these remarks underline American exceptionalism to a largely Republican audience at the end of the GOP primary season. In Jerusalem, you are not just propping up the Israelis at the expense of the Palestinians, you’re antagonizing much of the Arab world, many of whom are also important American allies.

(MORE: Romney’s Israel Stop: Keeping Up Appearances)

Poland: By the time the Romney campaign hit their last stop, tempers were flaring –never a good thing in diplomacy. As Politico’s Jonathan Martin wrote:

As Romney was walking away from Pilsudski Square toward his vehicle, reporters asked him about his string of gaffes and whether he had any comment for Palestinians, some of whom took offense at the Republican’s suggestion Monday in Jerusalem that Israel’s economy is superior because of cultural advantages Israelis enjoy. Romney ignored the questions and got in his car. ‘Kiss my ass, this is a holy site for the Polish people,’ said aide Rick Gorka. ‘Show some respect.’ Gorka than told a reporter to ‘shove it.’ Gorka subsequently called a pair of reporters to apologize, saying he lost his cool. ‘It was inappropriate,’ Gorka said.

Stateside, this would’ve hardly registered a blip on the radar. But, capping off a week of candidate gaffes and staff blunders, the faux pas seemed to validate the Democratic line that Romney and his staff have a ways to go before they’re ready for the prime time world stage.

MORE: Mitt Romney’s Commander in Chief Problem

28 comments
deconstructiva
deconstructiva

Thanks, Jay. I agree with contrast between outer voices vs. inner voices …and Romney’s failure to tell them apart. I’ve watched some teevee folks talk about Mitt’s lack of foreign experience (France excepted, ditto for Switzerland, Cayman Islands, etc., but I digress). I’d pin his failures here, however, on his character. Not lack of character, but what he already possesses: elitism, aloofness from the peasants, greed. Add what he does lack, especially empathy, and the R's have a disaster in the making. Well, at least Romney didn't tell Polish jokes.

fhmadvocat
fhmadvocat

Not that it would matter to the Republican electorate, but Mitt Romney is clearly not ready for the prime time international stage.  Let me count the gaffes:

Worse than his concerns about the Olympics, but did he say about Great Britain in his book, "No Apologies"?  It is a "small island" which "makes things that the world doesn't want", and didn't he claim the only reason it wasn't run over by Germany in WWII is because of the English Channel?  Boy, that should make him popular!  And the fact that he insulted the Conservatives of England demonstrates he has insulted our strongest ally.

In Israel, he gave high praise for the Israeli health care system which is Obamacare on steroids, and he praised it for keeping health care costs down.  Does this guy really know what he is talking about?

You would think a guy who did his missions trip to France would know better and be more diplomatic.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

Surprising that he is so unsophisticated given his wealth and age. Maybe he hasn't traveled very much outside of his circles.

I would have thought that spending that time in France, even if it was as a missionary, would have given him some polish. Perhaps he was too focused on the missionary work to absorb any of the culture or maybe the French simply rebuffed them and he thought that's the way the world works.

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

As I sorta mentioned directly to Jay, Romney has foreign experience beyond France: Switzerland, Cayman Islands, anywhere his money goes. He obviously didn't learn about secrecy and discretion from his bankers ...except where it applies to his tax returns, of course.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©
ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©

Could be the corrupting influence of being born with a silver spoon in your mouth.

~

jmac
jmac

Being so encapsulated in a bubble that you tell college students to simply ask their parents for a loan to pay for school is about as cocooned a life as one can have.   Add that to saying you're going to put an income tax on the working poor as you write-off $ 77,000 in expenses for a horse when 88 percent of Americans make less than $ 75,000 a year, and you are in a dark hole - deaf, dumb and blind.

jefflz
jefflz

Romney is an incompetent politician with zero diplomatic skills. Say, wasn't the last GOP president just like that as well? Is there a pattern here?

gysgt213
gysgt213

Mitt has a lot more problems than just with diplomacy.  He cannot tell the truth about anything. He did not even know the correct numbers before he stated what he did about 

Palestinian and Israel.  Not to mention the fact that the entire thought process didn't make any sense because there are Arab nations with a higher GDP than Israel so does that make their cultures more  industrious than Israel or ours? Or are we just bagging on countries with blockades or under siege?

fhmadvocat
fhmadvocat

gunny,

Excellent point.  What is the GDP per capita of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and all those Arabs states?  Does that make their culture "superior" to Israel's?

bigbudd
bigbudd

if romney wins that's proof enough for me that the mayan long count calendar is true. december 21st the world will come to an end....

scariestdemocrat
scariestdemocrat

Romney is an embarrassment to the US.

The conservative Daily Mail slammed Romney as: "devoid of charm, offensive and a wazzock'I had to look it up - 'wazzock' - Popularised by Tony Capstick (in "Capstick Comes Home") in 1981 and used since as a minor insult (similar to how "idiot" is used as an insult)

The Sun: "Mitt the Twit,"-  trashing Romney as a "wannabe president."

The Independent: "Romneyshambles"—accusing him of not only committing a diplomatic gaffe but later "the cardinal sin of U.S. politics, flip-flopping" on his criticism.

Sky News: "Is this guy really prepared to be president?"

The Independent: "Ready. set. go! (Whatever Mitt Says)"

- inside the paper: "Romneyshambles: Mitt begins his trip with a swipe at London"

Daily Mirror: "You're Rom, Mitt! PM Hits Back at Games Doubter"

Guardian:  Brutally reading: "Mitt falls at the first hurdle"

Times: "Romney loses his way with gaff about the Games"

kbanginmotown
kbanginmotown

Speaking of the "Tin Ear"...did Romney really not pay taxes for 10 years?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/... 

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©
ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©

I've read that several times on the internet, kbang.

It would be irresponsible not to speculate, isn't that how it goes?

~

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

A single source says something probably untrue, but until he releases those returns it could happen every day.

gysgt213
gysgt213

Which ever it is it's okay because the answer is retroactive.

pollardty
pollardty

Since we have no way of knowing I'll speculate to my hearts content.

kbanginmotown
kbanginmotown

Mitt's "Diplomatic Voice" appears to be as finely-tuned as his "Singing Voice" ...

Tero1
Tero1

Best. Political Ad. Ever.

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

They run it a bunch down here.

Jack oughta let his daughter get jobs on her own.  Wait, what??

Paul Dirks
Paul Dirks

Kiss my a$$, this is a holy site.....

Sorry. That comment would draw ridicule no matter where it was uttered. It's just too perfect.

Paul Dirks
Paul Dirks

Kiss my ass, this is a holy site....

Sorry. A line like that would draw ridicule no matter where it was uttered.

sauceboy
sauceboy

The best part of Mitt's comments about Palestinian GDP (regardless of occupation, blockades, checkpoints, etc.) is that really, he's just making the "observation" that Jews are really good at making money.

Now who could possibly find that offensive? :)

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

They're really good at taking the $ our government gives them no questions asked, and creating a pretty good economy from that. 

filmnoia
filmnoia

That quote from Rick Gorka sounds like Willard is employing people who possess the debauched frat boy/sports bar bully gene, in other words the white male American jerk. Truly a campaign that belongs on the Amateur Hour.

pollardty
pollardty

It is what the Republican party has become.

Brandt Hardin
Brandt Hardin

 

It was a less than stellar week abroad for “Mitt the Twit.”  Romney should be more knowledgeable of

foreign policy since he knows every corner of the world he can hide his

money!  He’s already has international financial

ties which run all the way from Switzerland to the Cayman Islands.  Never mind that he’s never been involved with

politics outside of the US- only his millions of dollars have.  Read about the role of Mitt’s money and his

Magic Mormon Underwear are playing in the polls at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot...

where you can see for yourself the true power of both on display in full color!