Mitt Romney’s overseas adventure has seen its share of uncomfortable diplomatic exchanges, the first episode taking shape even before the candidate jetted off to England and the Olympics last week:
1) Who Mitt made mad: We could do a separate list of missteps by Romney aides. Early in the trip, a mystery adviser said that President Obama couldn’t properly understand the shared “Anglo-Saxon heritage” between the U.S. and Britain. This morning, as the end draws near, a spokesman, Rick Gorka, got to do the honors.
What Mitt said: Nothing. And that was the problem. Romney hasn’t taken questions in a few days, so with reporters lobbing queries over a rope line, Gorka stepped in and told them to ”Kiss my a**” and “shove it.”
What they said: The issue is less the popular response – it’s unlikely Romney lost any supporters because of this – but rather that whatever else he’s said today will be drowned out by stories about his loose-lipped lieutenant.
2) Who Mitt made mad: Miroslav Lajcak, Slovakia’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister.
What Mitt said: Criticizing President Obama’s handling of regional diplomacy in a speech to the VFW, he said the trouble “began with the sudden abandonment of friends in Poland and the Czech Republic… They had courageously agreed to provide sites for our anti-missile systems, only to be told, at the last hour, that the agreement was off.”
While it’s true Obama scuttled Bush-era plans to build anti-missile launchers in Poland as part of his administration’s strategic “restart” with Russia, the plans have not been entirely abandoned.
What they said: ”People have moved on,“ Lajcak told The Wall Street Journal. “We are in a different situation now. We are discussing a different project. I see no reason to revisit discussions from three years back.”
Who Mitt made mad (less “mad” than “disappointed,” really): The Solidarnosc (“Solidarity”) trade union, formerly headed by the celebrated Polish leader Lech Walesa.
What Mitt said: Lots of stuff about organized labor, not much of it kind. At the 2012 National Meeting of the Associated Builders and Contractors, for instance, Romney made a pledge: ”One of the first things I will do, actually on day one, is I will end the government’s favoritism towards unions and contracting on federal projects. I will fight to repeal Davis-Bacon…and I will fight for right-to-work laws.”
What they said: Solidarity distanced itself from the candidate, despite what sounded like a stamp of approval from Walesa. “Regretfully,” the current union chief wrote, “we have learned from our friends in the American trade union central AFL-CIO representing over 12 million workers about Mitt Romney’s support for the attacks against trade unions and labor rights.”
1) Who Mitt made mad: Basically everyone, most notably David Cameron, Britain’s Conservative prime minister, and London mayor Boris Johnson, also a Conservative.
What Mitt said: On the subject of the London Games, Romney, in an interview with NBC, expressed some concerns. “It’s hard to know just how well it will turn out,” he said. “There are a few things that were disconcerting: the stories about the private security firm not having enough people, supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging.
“Do [the British people] together and celebrate the Olympic moment?’ That’s something which we only find out once the Games actually begin.”
What they said: Cameron drew a contrast between London and Salt Lake City, where the Romney-directed Olympics took place, 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.”
Johnson did his chiding in front of thousands of Londoners: “There are some people coming from around the world who don’t yet know if we are ready. There’s a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we are ready. Are we ready? Yes we are!” The crowd went nuts.
2) Who Mitt made mad: Mad might be a bit strong, but the Labor party’s Ed Miliband couldn’t have been too pleased after their first meeting and brief photo op.
What Mitt said: The problem lay largely in what he didn’t say — specifically “Miliband.” Romney seemed to forget the opposition leader’s name: “Like you, Mr. Leader, I look forward to our conversations this morning.”
What they said: Miliband played it cool. The Independent newspaper just sounded confused. Their headline: “Mr. Leader? Did Mitt Romney forget Ed Miliband’s name?”
1) Who Mitt made mad: Palestinians, to start.
What Mitt said: At a fundraiser, the candidate discussed the economic disparities between Israelis and Palestinians. “As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, 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,” he said. (Note: Romney way overestimates Palestinian wealth here.)
“And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of [Israel], I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things.”
What they said: Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, was not pleased. “It is a racist statement,” he said. “This man doesn’t realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation.
“It seems to me this man [Romney] lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people… He also lacks knowledge about the Israelis themselves. I have not heard any Israeli official speak about cultural superiority.”
On Monday, Sen. John McCain sought to clarify on Romney’s behalf: “I am sure that Gov. Romney was not talking about difference in cultures, or difference in anybody superior or inferior,” he said at a press conference.
2) Who Mitt made mad: The Chinese government.
What Mitt said: “My understanding is the policy of our nation has been a desire to move our embassy ultimately to the capital (Jerusalem)… I would only want to do so and to select the timing in accordance with the government of Israel.”
What they said: The Associated Press reports: ”A commentary Tuesday by the official Xinhua News Agency said Romney’s ‘hawkish remarks’ ignored the sensitive nature of Jerusalem. It said the comments disregarded the Palestinians’ claim to the war-won eastern sector of the city, which was annexed by Israel in 1967 in a move that is not internationally recognized.”