As I watched the news cycle yesterday, I was bombarded by coverage of Mitt’s multiple misfires in the diplomatic arena. He had a relatively simple job. Fly around to three of the staunchest US allies, shake hands, pose for photos with welcoming world leaders, say “nice to meet you” to everybody, and then get back home.
The one rule he has to follow is that criticism of the president ends at the water’s edge. It is strict tradition and protocol that the US speaks with one voice in the foreign policy domain, and politicians and candidates for office do NOT criticize the sitting US president while on a trip abroad.
The then-junior senator from Illinois, now president, Barrack Obama, was able to do it effortlessly in 2008 when he took a much more ambitious trip to Great Britain, France, Germany, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, Israel and the West Bank. He managed to fill public squares, give meaningful speeches, charm his hosts, and instill pride in an America still living through the Bush-era debacle, all while avoiding any notable gaffes and/or offensive moments.
Mitt Romney, who has made it his mantra that “the president is in over his head,” in stark contrast, has deeply offended his hosts on the very first day of his trip–by suggesting that London might not be ready for the Games, that we wouldn’t know if the citizens of the UK would embrace the Games until they began, and that the reports of problems in advance of the Games were “disconcerting.” And this was just in the morning; the hits kept coming throughout the day! He ruffled enough patriotic feathers in the UK to earn a public rebuke from the British Prime Minister, and a really public mocking from the Mayor of the City of London in front of 60,000 spectators. He then spent the rest of the day apologizing for his gaffes.
For a guy who wrote a book entitled “NO APOLOGY,” it sure was a bad day–for Mitt, and for America. The British press suggested that he was “worse than Palin” and that perhaps we have “another Dubya” on our hands.
It’s hard to blame Mitt. You see, Mitt Romney has absolutely nothing to say or to offer if he can’t bash President Obama. That is his safety net, his flotation device.
He is adrift and sinking fast without it.
On this trip, he has to talk about “other” things. What on Earth will he talk about? He has managed to say exactly nothing in the last several months since he wrapped up the nomination. He can’t, he’s boxed in. He can’t go “severe conservative” in the general election. He’s doled out as much crazy as possible to earn the Republican nomination, but that has to be quickly replaced with something that will appeal to moderates and independents. And the fact is, he has nothing else to say.
Any two-bit Republican can repeat, “lower taxes, less regulation, freer trade and restore America.” And every one of them does it every day. After that, there’s nothing else there.
He’s is gorgeously coiffed, handsomely rich, and perfectly packaged—but that’s the entirety of Mitt. Once you open the box, there’s just a really odd guy who made a ton of money manipulating the securities, tax and bankruptcy codes to his (and his investors) benefit. To become that successful in that job, he had to beg, borrow and steal from investors, bankers, employees, government agencies, and anybody else who would help grow the bottom line.
That job inherently requires that you have no core beliefs. You must take any position and benefit from every opportunity as possible.
If the government is giving out freebies, well, you get in line. If you need to fire a thousand employees, well, you fire up the pink-slip copy machine. If you need an offshore account for something or other, well, you call your friends in Zurich. You are only as deep as the day, and the moment. All that matters is the bottom line. Lose money, and you’re done.
Mitt Romney was very good at being core-less, and very good at growing the bottom line.
With all that success, a funny thing happened. Mitt randomly decided that the next obvious career step would be the White House. To get this far in the game, he’s had to contort himself in unimaginable ways to appeal to the craziest parts of America. Firm positions that he took on the path to get here have been discarded and reformulated for a broader audience, over and over again. When your whole career is about being an opportunist and having no core beliefs to negatively impact the bottom line, then your whole life is about the moment. It’s about getting the applause and moving on to the next venue. But the problem is that Mitt has only developed one pitch. He’s a one-trick applause machine that relies exclusively on an anti-Obama shtick, a thinly veiled racist act.
And, what happened yesterday in London is exactly what happens when you get on stage and cannot use your go-to applause lines. You are exposed.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Mitt Romney—the human gaffe machine. Take away his Obama rant, and he will always say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Anyone remember the bit about the height of the trees in Michigan?
Watching him speak in London made me cringe, in a feeling sorry kind of way. When he visited 10 Downing Street as a guest of the Prime Minister, strict protocol requires that he (as a non-head of state, with no official portfolio) enter the door unaccompanied. When his government escort stepped aside, and left Mitt standing alone for a photo op, I watched with pity as Mitt edged a little to his left, trying to get back closer next to his minder. For a moment, he was all alone on that sidewalk, exposed.
I then watched the awkwardness with which Mitt proceeded to head inside, thankful that his escort was a little nearer. After a day filled with missteps and apologies, and re-apologies, and gaffes and general ineptitude, I couldn’t help but think how this guy really is adrift without his floatation device. And, I am quite nervous of how fast he will sink when he arrives in Israel and starts riling up the Palestinians while kissing Netanyahu’s ring.
Please dear God in heaven (or in Romney’s Mormon belief—planet Kolob), please give Romney the wisdom to shut his mouth when he lands in the Holy Land. These are serious times in the Middle East, and to think that Romney couldn’t stop himself offending our BFFs across the pond on Day 1, well, what danger lies ahead in the always politically sensitive Middle East. And one last thing dear God, please let Mitt have learned his lesson by the time he arrives in Poland, where he is likely say all the wrong things while the Russians are listening.