10:19 am Jul. 27, 2012
Josh: What do you make of Mitt Romney using the occasion of his visit to London to trash their Olympics preparations? Could this be a crazy-like-a-fox scheme to position Obama as an effete semi-American? Or has he just stepped in it again? (Why does he keep doing that?)
Steve: I can't see how it's anything but him stepping in it. My guess is he absorbed the British press coverage of the preparations, which raised all of the issues he did. Apparently, within Britain, there's a lot of griping about the cost, the security and generally how the government has handled everything. And that's what Romney conveyed. But when it's coming from the visiting American dignitary, it sounds a lot different to the average Brit and turns him into an irresistible target for the British press, making it mandatory for Conservative politicians to denounce him.
Josh: So he just had a Belgian endive moment?
Steve: Ha, I think that might be the perfect analogy—just on an international scale at the height of the presidential race in the age of Twitter as opposed to to in the earliest days of the Democratic primary process in a Fax machine-era campaign.
Josh: What do you think his aides are telling him not to say on the next leg of his trip in Israel? Or after that, in Poland? Offending Boris Johnson and getting screamed at by the Daily Mail is light comedy compared to the consequences of a misguided ad lib in either of those places, I'd think.
Steve: Oh definitely, someone funnier than me could come up with a great list here, or maybe someone already has. I mean, the one that jumps out at me with Israel is openly acknowledging their nukes. In Poland ... I dunno, he has a penchant for making awkward small talk and cracking weird jokes when he's forced into informal conversations. Maybe they're just telling him to avoid trying to make any good-natured Polish jokes.
Josh: Do you suppose he'll try to come up with a tasteful way of working Obama's "death camp" slip-up into the conversation? I mean, it occurs to me that that would be a very bad idea. But then Romney seems to have this remarkable habit, for a guy who's so often frustratingly impenetrable, of blurting out what's actually on his mind at the most inopportune times.
Steve: Is there a tasteful way to do that? I mean, if he broaches the subject at all, everyone will know what he's doing. I'm actually really curious about his meeting with Lech Walesa. I'm not sure if there'll be any kind of press conference after it, but my impression is Walesa is fairly hostile toward Obama. I'm wondering if he'd say anything, or if someone else Romney meets with would.
Josh: Am I wrong to think Romney's going to have his best chance at an ad-worthy moment during the Israel leg?
Steve: I was kind of thinking the Olympics would be just best bet for that—it's international, but there's still patriotism, it's something everyone recognizes, and it brings in his own role on saving the '02 games. What kind of Israel ad are you envisioning?
Josh: Praying at Western Wall? Touring Golan with an IDF general? Shaking hands with Likudniks? You know, the kind of thing that yields imagery Sheldon Adelson can work with.
But beyond that, this trip is about showing Romney to be serious and resolute on foreign policy, and to distinguish himself from the wishy-washy Iran-coddling Democrat in the White House, right? Where better than on the ramparts of Judeo-Christendom?
Steve: Right, that stuff probably has more resonance here than anything he could do in Poland. Although God, this Adelson thing—"Republicans hope to make inroads with the Jewish vote," Part 6,300. I know, it's a little different here because there's some real money behind it, and a even a small shift in the Jewish vote in Florida could swing the state, which could swing the whole election. But still, for all the noise, this really doesn't seem anything like a Jimmy Carter 1980 situation, which is the only election since 1924 when the Democratic candidate got less than 60 percent of the Jewish vote. So maybe Romney will get some good pictures out of the Israel swing, but I'm really skeptical it will add up to anything.
Josh: So what's he going to get out of this trip then, in the end?
Steve: Maybe the silver lining is that everyone stopped talking about his taxes for a day? I mean, I think the purpose has been defeated now. Charles Krauthammer's reaction seems telling. He's pulling for Romney and before the trip he wrote a column basically saying that all Romney has to do on the trip is show up, because his mere presence will make a powerful, positive statement. And now he's saying this: “All Romney has to do, say nothing. It’s like a guy in the 100-meter dash. All he has to do is to finish, he doen’t have to win. And instead, he tackles the guy in the lane next to him and ends up disqualified. I don’t get it.”