I’d just like to start this post by saying this is actually my third attempt at it. Mainly because every time I finish it, Mitt Romney has either uttered more stupid remarks, or someone has rebuked him. Thankfully it looks like good old Boris Johnson has finally put him in his place, so it’s probably safe to finish.
Mitt Romney had only been in my beloved country a matter of hours, but that was all the time he and his campaign team needed in order to make a series of embarrassing gaffes. Each of which was swiftly followed by rebukes ranging from the mild to the extreme from British politicians. It has been a joy to behold. The majority of the British public answer with “Who?” when quizzed about Romney, although that is hardly a fair reflection given we have a few other things going on in our country right now. However, it’s also fair to say that most of the British press has not taken to him.
Most unusually for an American, he seems very unsure of himself, almost lacking conviction when in front of the British media. Even George W. Bush, a man almost universally considered to be an idiot, had an almost frightening level of self assurance. The British perception of American politics is that everything is highly sanitized and is just a series of highly controlled and pre-prepared sound-bites. So it has come as a bit of a shock to see this guy arrive with much fanfare, only to watch him fumble and insult everyone. Of course it doesn’t help that the current incumbent of the White House is still adored in Europe, so Romney was always going to be up against it. I just didn’t think he’d be this bad.
So what has he actually done wrong?
Well for starters, he expressed doubts about the readiness of London — and the rest of Britain — to host the Olympics. He then proceeded to backtrack on those comments by damning the organizing committee with faint praise. There have been well-publicized issues surrounding the availability of security guards and talk of a potential border control staff strike over the last couple of weeks, to which Romney referred to as “disconcerting.” He then tried to use this to again play up his role in delivering the 2002 winter games in Salt Lake City. Ever the statesman, David Cameron gently rebuked his statement yesterday morning by saying;
“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.”
The real magic happened last night, though, when the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, parodied Barack Obama‘s campaign slogan “Yes We Can” and openly mocked Romney in front of a crowd of 60,000 people in London’s Hyde Park.
“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!”
Boris borrowed Obama’s famous slogan, telling the crowd: “Can we beat France? Yes we can. Can we beat Australia? Yes we can. Can we beat Germany? I think we can too.” In true Boris style, he then went on to use the same event to have a pop at Greece and Spain for their economic woes. What beggars belief in all of this is that Romney and these guys should be on the same side — Cameron and Johnson are both conservative politicians. It just goes to show how much the US and Britain have shifted, that our conservative government would much rather be friends with President Obama than have some creepy, nervous looking upstart march in and insult everyone.
Typically, it would be damage limitation time for his campaign team. The party line seems to be that yesterday’s events are not at all relevant to the presidential race. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said, “We’re not worried about overseas headlines, we’re worried about voters here at home in America.” Erm. Sorry, but being President of the United States is considered to be the toughest job on the planet largely because of the amount of international diplomacy involved.
If Romney cannot even turn up on the doorstep of the America’s biggest ally without insulting people then I would worry about his competence when dealing with say, the Chinese or the Russians.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid delivered a more sobering verdict to the Huffington Post. “It’s not good for us as a country — it’s not good for him — but as a country to have somebody that’s nominated by one of the principal parties to go over and insult everybody.”