Was it a Romneyshambles?
With the US presidential election only a few months away, Republican candidate Mitt Romney embarked on his first official international tour as a White House contender. There was significant media uproar as his opinion seemed to anger various states in an attempt to demonstrate his ability as a world leader. Has this tour strengthened support and secured ties with allies, or has Romney put his foot in it on multiple occasions and scuppered his chances to take the Oval Office? How beneficial has this tour really been for Romney’s prospects both at home and abroad?
It appears that wherever Romney visited, he somehow managed to offend someone, whether it was the British government and Olympics organisers, the Palestinians in Israel or the Russians whilst in Poland. When asked about his opinion of the Olympics and its organisation, he responded that there were some disconcerting problems with regards to immigration and security. The British media, along with Boris Johnson, slated Romney for his opinion and questioned his credibility as an organiser and a politician. But was the media backlash justified? Have we all not continually heard of the threats of border staff strikes, and the shortfalls of G4S to provide enough security? Many would argue that Romney’s minor criticism was reasonable considering the situation and his scepticism rather than optimism, lies behind his apparent campaign to tell it how he sees it.
Off to Israel next, where at an expensive and elite donor dinner he remarked that much of Palestine’s economic inferiority to Israel could be attributed to their very different cultures. In such a heated dispute, such comments only served to outrage the Palestinians, who highlighted the significant economic embargos and restrictions that Israel place upon the Palestinian Authority, which substantially restrict their economic capabilities. Furthermore Romney failed to acknowledge the amount of funding that the US gives to Israel that greatly aids their ability to increase economic prosperity. If not to add insult to injury, he further spelt out plans to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, an area that is already heavily contested by the Palestinians over its jurisdiction. More dangerously Romney announced his support for any pre-emptive military force that Israel could take to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. This would make all three countries in a row (Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan) into American backed war zones, something that is completely unnecessary, especially considering the cost of the current fighting both financially and in terms of human life. Do we need yet another war motivated by the US quest for WMDs? I know how the last one turned out for America, and unfortunately the Iraqis are still attempting to build a viable state structure in a country racked by continuing sectarian violence.
In Poland we were introduced to a new problem, the inability for Romney and his team to effectively work and cooperate with the press. It was here that frustrated journalists, who had been unexpectedly banned from Romney’s Jerusalem donor dinner attempted to question the candidate on how his trip had panned out. Instead they were ignored and later told by Romney’s aide, Rick Gorka, to “kiss my ass”. Moreover in true Republican fashion, Romney criticised Russian President Vladimir Putin for reversing democratic progress in Russia, another rivalry that hardly needs rekindling right now. Especially considering how a new cold war would produce very little democratic development in either the US or Russia.
But how much has this tour really damaged the Romney campaign, is it truly a Romneyshambles, or have his gaffes been overemphasised by the media abroad? The Obama campaign has been quick to criticise the opinions that Romney proclaimed whilst abroad, arguing that this demonstrates his inability to become the President. However, many commentators have pointed out that many Republicans enjoy Romney’s blunt, tell it how he sees it attitude. They relish leaders like Reagan and Bush who will speak their minds and protect America’s international superiority, and ability to police the world. Additionally if not international support, Romney certainly has secured a lot of international funding for his campaign from foreign donors. This will produce an effective and damaging media campaign that will definitely challenge the less funded Obama campaign. Evidence suggests that foreign policy is the 10th most important concern to Americans during this upcoming election, thus Romney’s gaffes may be less important domestically then they have been abroad. Conversely one could argue that Americans should then be concerned at the timing of Romney’s international tour and his apparent need to gain funding from international donors. Whatever the outcome, it’s evident that Romney’s international reputation has taken more of a beating than his domestic one, and that if elected; he will have to placate some rather influential and powerful world leaders if he wishes to prevent future conflicts.