Elevating his tendency for gaffes to the international stage, Mr Romney said that because of concerns about security, it was “hard to know just how well it will turn out”.
He then appeared to breach protocol by disclosing that he had received an unusual briefing from Sir John Sawers, the chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), on the situation in Syria. An adviser boasted to The Daily Telegraph that Mr Romney had also previously met the head of the Security Service (MI5).
Mr Romney told NBC News he saw “a few things that were disconcerting” about London’s preparations. “The stories about the private security firm not having enough people, supposed strike of immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging,” he said.
His remark prompted a sharp rejoinder from David Cameron. “We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world,” said the Prime Minister. “Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere.”
This was widely taken in the US to be a reference to Utah, the sparsely populated western state where Mr Romney was chief executive of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002.
Ouch. And Romney apparently was done a big favor by the Prime Minister, and royally botched it:
Mr Romney also noted outside No 10 that he had spoken to “the head of MI6” about the situation in war-torn Syria, raising suggestions that he had broken with convention by disclosing a secret briefing. It is also extremely rare for Sir John to share details about British intelligence with any politician who is not a head of state.
Patrick Mercer, a Conservative MP, said: “It is very unusual. The head of MI6’s time is extremely precious – I wonder if this does not set a strange precedent where other leaders of other oppositions will also want similar briefings which can’t help Britain’s security.”
The Brits are calling it “Romneyshambles.” Fortunately for Romney, British people do not hold the franchise in the United States, and nobody in the US who is likely to vote for Mitt Romney much cares if Romney offends the British. Still, this is pretty embarrassing for us.
UPDATE: Ann Althouse has some good words to say about Romney and how the press has jacked him around on this.