Kasie Hunt?and Steve Peoples
GDANSK, Poland: It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Mitt Romney outraged Palestinians on Monday, telling Jewish donors that their culture is part of what has allowed them to be more economically successful than the Palestinians. That fresh controversy on his visit to Israel came just days after insulting the British on what was intended as a feel-good visit to the Olympics in London.
Whether or not the trip changes votes back home, the effect hasn’t seemed to be what Romney’s presidential campaign had in mind.
His first steps onto the world stage as President Barack Obama’s Republican challenger were carefully crafted to avoid political risk. He visited countries that are staunch U.S. allies, limited questions from the media and arranged made-for-TV appearances at symbolic venues in London and Jerusalem. It was all intended to demonstrate he was ready to handle foreign affairs smoothly and lead during dangerous times.
Instead, as he made his final stop of a three-nation tour in Poland late Monday, Republicans and Democrats alike were shaking their heads in the U.S. Though Republicans said they saw no lasting harm, Democrats raised questions about Romney’s ability to handle delicate topics with sensitivity on foreign soil, even under the friendliest conditions.
Romney’s latest trouble stemmed from a speech he gave to Jewish donors in which he suggested that their culture was part of what has allowed them to be more economically successful than the Palestinians. Kind words for Israel are standard for many American politicians, but Palestinian leaders suggested his specific comments were racist and out of touch with the realities of the Middle East.
“Because it’s billed as a layup — it’s billed as something that should be simple — perhaps he let his guard down,” said Hogan Gidley, a senior aide under former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum. “You say, ‘Gosh, this guy is so scripted, the campaign is so disciplined, so smart, how could this happen?’?” Still, he doubted that Romney would suffer any long-term effects among voters who are still undecided three months before the election.
Predictably, Obama’s campaign was more critical, with senior strategist David Axelrod saying on Twitter: “Is there anything about Romney’s Rolling Ruckus that would inspire confidence in his ability to lead US foreign policy?”
It’s unclear whether voters in the U.S. are paying attention to Romney’s stumbles, especially as concerns about the nation’s economy dominate most Americans’ concerns. Still, missteps in the past week have fueled opponents’ contentions that the former businessman and Massachusetts governor is out of touch with the nation and the world he hopes to lead.
As the trip got under way, Romney caused a stir in Britain by questioning whether officials there were fully prepared to host the Olympic Games.