A couple of days ago, Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin wrote, “The Obama campaign can’t bear the thought that the well-traveled Mitt Romney will make a nice impression on his overseas tour.” Well, I guess that’s one less worry for the Obamites.
Who could have anticipated the Romney foreign trip would turn out like this? In slightly over 12 hours abroad, the GOP standard-bearer managed to earn a dryly dismissive riposte from Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, while London’s mayor, the larger than life Boris Johnson, who is perhaps the most popular conservative politician in the Western world right now, used Mitt Romney as a punchline in a London rally. These from conservative politicians, top political leaders of our “Anglo-Saxon” ally. Quite an impression, wouldn’t you say Jennifer?
Part of the explanation is that Romney is simply a klutz, that despite a nearly preternatural ability to make money for himself and his partners, he lacks political instincts. But there’s something else: Romney–who was probably the most mainstream of serious contenders for the Republican nomination–doesn’t understand how much American Republican politics has gone off the rails. He might think that the Tory leaders of Britain are pining for Churchillian rhetoric and a restoration of neoconservative warmongering, all under the guise of American “leadership.” But this is simply not the case. David Cameron and the British conservatives are far more comfortable with Obama’s policies than with those of George W. Bush. Among our allies (save, of course, Israel) there was little enthusiasm for the Iraq War, the continuing war in Afghanistan, and there is none for a war with Iran. Yet for reasons to me unfathomable, Romney has encouraged neoconservatives to embed themselves in his campaign, and no doubt, his administration, if there is to be one.
The London trip was therefore marred not only by foot-in-mouth disease, but also a false political premise. If David Cameron and Mitt Romney did in fact share a substantive vision of the world’s problems, the Olympic gaffes would probably never have occurred–there would have been far more important things to talk about.
For this reason I’ll wager Romney will avoid similar gaffes this weekend in Israel, precisely because he, Israel’s right-wing government, and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson do share a common vision. Perhaps Jennifer Rubin will be reassured about that.