Let’s see… there was the inane (both ethically and politically) comment by an aide that Governor Romney was better able than President Obama to understand the special relationship between the UK and the US because
interview with NBC’s Brian Williams. Asked about his impressions about whether “they [the London authorities] look ready,” Romney responded:
You know, it’s hard to know just how well it will turn out. There are a few things that were disconcerting: the stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials. That, obviously, is not something which is encouraging. Because in the Games—there are three parts that make Games successful. Number 1, of course, are the athletes: that’s what overwhelmingly the Games are about. Number 2 are the volunteers: and they’ll have great volunteers here. But Number 3 are the people of the country: do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment? And that’s something which we only find out once the Games actually begin.These comments got the locals pretty peeved, and Romney endured snark from Prime Minister David Cameron (“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.”) and public humiliation by London Mayor Boris Johnson (“There's a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we're ready. Are we ready?”).
Plus, of course, the notoriously puerile British press got their collective skivvies in a twist, with the likes of the not-exactly-leftist Mail’s James Chapman tweeting merrily along, using the hashtags #romneyshambles (a play on the “omnishambles,” an apparently trendy British version of SNAFU) and #mitthitsthefan, and dropping such lines as these:
Diplomacy Romney style: casts doubt on Britain’s Olympic preparations; says last thing he wants is for US to be like Europe. Way to go Mitt!Oh, and let’s see what else: he took questions from the British press but not from American journalists, may have forgotten the name of Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, referred to the back garden of #10 Downing Street as the “back-side,” and revealed what should have been an ultra-private meeting with the head of M16.
Serious dismay in Whitehall at Romney debut. ‘Worse than Sarah Palin.’ ‘Total car crash’. Two of the kinder verdicts.
Another verdict from one Romney meeting: ‘Apparently devoid of charm, warmth, humour or sincerity’
He couldn’t have done much worse if he’d referred to the Queen as “the crazy old bat with the funny hats.” As a means of proving that Governor Romney has the gravitas to be President, this was something less than an unqualified success.
Does he deserve the public thrashing he’s now receiving? Some. Not all. Yes, the whole “Anglo-Saxon” thing qualifies as stupid, boorish, and offensive. But it was an aide, not the candidate, and if the campaign was a little slow to get ahead of the story, at least they managed to get out a statement that distanced Governor Romney from something some idiot on the staff said to a reporter (perhaps the staffer didn’t understand that writers for the higher-end British papers, unlike the overwhelming majority of their American counterparts, are actually good at their jobs).
“Back-side” was a slip of the tongue, and no one should get more than a short-term snicker out of it. Ducking the American press was petulant, but I’m guessing he regrets it now, given how he’s been treated by the fourth estate east of the Atlantic. Referring to Miliband as “Mr. Leader” didn’t seem odd to me until the British press chortled about it. Knowing that the meeting was going to occur, someone on Team Romney needed to check protocols to prevent their guy from becoming a walking joke. But I’m afraid I can’t get too worked up over it.
True, even acknowledging a meeting with M16 is a lapse worthy of Scooter Libby. The idea that a spy chief would meet with a mere candidate for office—not even a President-elect—is troubling for the British. That Romney can’t keep his mouth shut when he wants to strut his self-importance: that’s troubling on this side of the Atlantic, as well. But it’s not as if Governor Romney had described the substance of the conversation.
The real furor, of course, came in response to 2002 Salt Lake City CEO Romney’s comments about the Olympics. OK, I love my British friends, and I detest Mitt Romney with every fiber of my being. That said, the controversy over Romney’s remarks to Brian Williams is largely attributable to British authorities’ getting righteously indignant over the idea that there might be problems with their arrogant, inefficient, and venal supervision of the Games. Then the British press went jingoistic in an older sibling sort of way: we’ll beat them up, but you can’t.
Mr. Romney said three things that got him in trouble: 1). We don’t know yet how things will turn out. True statement. Next. 2). Stories about a private security firm not having enough people and customs workers going on strike are “disconcerting.” You mean they aren’t? 3). It remains to be seen whether the British people will rally around the games. Another true statement. Sure, Boris Johnson can attract a crowd in the upper 5-figures to a patriotism-fest on a beautiful day. But the significant traffic problems before the games even begin, the absurd security provisions, the nauseating capitulation to every whim of corporate sponsors, the scheduling that prevents some athletes from attending the opening ceremonies… all these things and more suggest that the average Londoner will be very happy to see the end of the Games.
Certainly, everyone—and I do mean everyone I talked to in London when I was last there, in January 2011, looked forward to the Olympics with far more disgust and trepidation than pride and anticipation. All that could change, of course: which was Governor Romney’s point. We don’t know.
OK, fine, as both a de facto representative of this country and as a former Olympic executive himself, Mr. Romney would have been well served to have been a little more positive: “there have been some problems attributable to the world economy, and there are always unforeseen eventualities, but I have every confidence blahdeeblahblahblah…” But I’m afraid I can’t get terribly upset when Governor Romney finally answered a direct question with a direct answer, even if the clearly scripted response wasn’t as diplomatic as it might have been.
And even if a few hyper-sensitive souls in England got butt-hurt in the first degree.