Originally Published: 26 July 2012.
Mitt Romney is currently embarking on a week-long trip overseas to prove his foreign policy credentials. He will visit the UK, Poland and Israel. First stop was London on the eve of the 2012 London Olympics.
Given Romney’s much boasted about success running the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics and Paralympics, you would think that a trip to London would the be ideal PR backdrop for his Campaign to exploit.
Rather than giving a generic message of support for the Games and using the event to remind people of his success in turning around the financial fortunes of the Salt Lake Olympics, Romney criticised the handling of the Olympics on US TV.
In all fairness his criticisms were valid, particularly after the Coalition Government’s mishandling of security; the hiring of private contractor G4S who proved incapable of providing adequate security and the resulting need to bring in British troops as security.
However its bad diplomacy. British Prime Minister, David Cameron responded to Romney’s criticism with a biting reference to Romney’s role in the Salt Lake Olympics with ‘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.’
Romney’s comments were also seized upon by London Mayor Boris Johnson as a rallying cry when addressing a crowd in Hyde Park, London. Mr. Johnson said to the crowd, ‘I hear there’s a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we’re ready. He wants to know whether we’re ready. Are we ready? Are we ready? Yes, we are.’
Mr. Romney also made a minor gaffe when meeting Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband, by referring to him as Mr. Leader, which nobody in Britain would do. Perhaps Mitt Romney needs an advisor on British Politics?
Now all this is pretty minor league but given that a trip to London during the Olympics was a gift to the Romney Campaign, their failure to capitalise on it is significant.
Romney also met with former Prime Minister Tony Blair, now Middle East Quartet Envoy, to discuss Middle East affairs ahead of his visit to Israel. Romney displayed a large lack of discretion by revealing he had a meeting with the head of MI6 where they discussed Syria. Publicising meetings with the head of British International Security during the Campaign trail is the height of irresponsibility.
Romney had an impossible act to follow after the Rock Star reception given to President Obama on his visits to the UK. Obama is definitely more popular overseas than he is in the US where he faces responsibility for the dreadful state of the economy.
Significantly Obama helped to change the way the world views America. In direct opposition to George W. Bush’s insular looking view of America and her place in the world, Obama has an international perspective. Obama’s strength is as an international statesman.
Romney needs to either play it safe and use his overseas trip to foster goodwill or he has to boldly state his own positions on foreign affairs. Romney has yet to articulate his foreign policy. What would a Romney Presidency mean for the world? Either way, he hasn’t got off to the best start with his amateur-hour gaffes. At the moment Romney looks more like a CEO than a statesman, he needs to work on this if he is to be elected Leader of the Free World.