GDANSK, Poland, July 30, 2012— -- The White House was subtly gleeful today as Mitt Romney's campaign dealt with the latest group to be offended during the Republican presidential candidate's overseas tour that was intended to showcase his foreign policy credentials.
Romney's newest diplomatic fumble has insulted the Palestinians by suggesting that the discrepancy between the wealth of Israel and Palestinians was due in part to their different cultures. A top Palestinian labeled the analysis racist.
In addition, Romney's campaign said today that they had hoped to go to Germany to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel, but a senior Romney adviser said that she is on vacation.
"I will say though that the governor and the chancellor will find a time to speak soon," the Romney adviser said at a briefing on the planeto Gdansk, Poland today.
The White House weighed in on Romney's remarks that angered the Palestinians.
"One of the challenges of being an actor on the international stage, particularly when you're traveling to such a sensitive part of the world, is that your comments are very closely scrutinized for meaning, for nuance, for motivation," Obama Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said today in the White House briefing.
"And it is clear that there are some people who have taken a look at those comments and are scratching their heads a little bit."
Senior Obama campaign advisor David Axelrod weighed in on Twitter: "Is there anything about Romney's Rolling Ruckus that would inspire confidence in his ability to lead US foreign policy?"
At a fundraiser in Jerusalem's King David Hotel earlier today, the presumptive GOP nominee told his donors, "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."
"And that exists also between other countries that are near or next to each other. Chile and Ecuador; Mexico and the United States," Romney added, before noting that culture "makes all the difference." It's a point he consistently stressed on the 2008 campaign trail.
"And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things," Romney said.
The Palestinians were quick to respond. In a statement to the Associated Press, Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Romney' s comments were a "racist statement."
"This man doesn't realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation," Erekat said. Romney did not meet with Abbas during his trip to Israel.
Romney's campaign said the AP story that first reported Romney's comments was "grossly mischaracterized."
The controversy over his Palestinian comments come on the heels of his Olympic-sized gaffe in London when he said the city's preparations for the Summer Games—something he knows about after spear heading the 2002 Salt Lake Games—were "disconcerting."
The comment ruffled feathers throughout this country and England and resulted in a public upbraiding by both the prime minister and London's mayor.
He was also forced to distance himself from comments anonymous advisers made to the Telegraph saying that Romney had a better appreciation of the "Anglo Saxon heritage."
One thing is clear: Romney's foreign trip became a much more complicated endeavor than the photo-op the campaign was hoping for.
The Romney tour is also a massive contrast to a similar trip then-candidate Barack Obama took during his presidential campaign in 2008. While Romney was greeted warmly in Israel, it was nothing like the crowds that greeted Obama in 2008, most notably at his speech to over 200,000 in Berlin.
Romney hopes that things go better on the third leg his trip to Poland. He already got the backing of Nobel Prize winner and former Polish president Lech Walesa.
"I wish you to be successful because this success is needed to the United States, of course, but to Europe and the rest of the world, too. Gov. Romney, get your success - be successful," Walesa said at their meeting in Gdansk.