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Romney Stands By Gaffe

Romney Campaign Tries To Pick-Up The Pieces From Gaffe-Strewn London Trip
2012-07-27 14:42:07 (218 weeks ago)
Posted By: Intellpuke
Mitt Romney's campaign is scrambling to limit the damage from his gaffe-strewn visit to London – which has drawn mocking put-downs from the city's mayor and the British prime minister, and "Mitt the twit" headlines in the U.K. – by saying that Americans don't care what the foreign press prints.

But the attempt to downplay the debacle made little headway in the face of a barrage of critical coverage in the US, which portrayed the Republican presidential candidate as incompetent and undiplomatic, and stinging criticism from American Olympic legend Carl Lewis, who suggested that Romney should not be allowed to travel abroad.

Senior Democrats accused Romney of embarrassing the U.S. and himself and said that press criticism wasn't limited to foreign newspapers. The New York Daily News called Romney's visit to the U.K. "flub-filled".

"At this rate, Mitt Romney may provoke an international incident with the United Kingdom by the weekend," it said.

The Democratic party swiftly put out a video advertisement compiling negative coverage of Romney's trip on U.S. news stations that played up a line from a CNN anchor: "It's a good thing the British do not vote in our elections".

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Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican who is touted as a potential Romney running-mate, told reporters that Americans don't care about events in London.

"The reality is we're not worried about overseas headlines. We're worried about voters back here in America," he said. "I think the focus needs to continue to be on what's happening here at home. That's what's important to voters."

Jindal was backed by another possible Republican vice-presidential candidate and Romney loyalist, Virginia governor Bob McDonnell.

A leading Democrat, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, told the Huffington Post that Romney has hurt the U.S. abroad. "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," he said.

Reid picked up on Romney's questioning of whether London was prepared for the Olympic Games and if Britons would support them.

The Republican candidate's skepticism drew derisory responses from London Mayor Boris Johnson and British Prime Minister David Cameron, who seemed to put down Romney's stewardship of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

Reid said Romney got the tone wrong. "I would go there and I would say: they have done a remarkably good job. I know how they have been hurt with the economy. But they have done this. I have done it myself. It's so hard to do, and they have done a remarkably good job," he said. "That's what [Romney] should have done. He would have been cheered and not have the mayor, before 60,000 people, belittle one of our major party nominees. And that's what the mayor did."

Romney's supporters have noted that he was not saying anything the British have not been concerned about in recent weeks including the security shambles at the Olympic site and questions over Londoners' enthusiasm for the Games amid much moaning about the impact on their daily lives.

He sought to defuse some of the criticism in an interview with NBC on Friday in which he said he was sure London will carry off the Games, although he avoided acknowledging he made a mistake with his earlier comments. "I'm absolutely convinced that the people here are ready for the Games," he said. "In just a few moments all the things politicians say will get swept away because the athletes finally take the stage. The games are about the athletes. That's why the games, virtually anywhere they've been, have been highly successful."

Romney also avoided the risk of further gaffes by declining to make any public comments when he met the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, in London.

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, said that the Romney campaign is right that Americans care more about the economy than they do about what is happening in London. But he said the near farce of Romney's trip will reinforce doubts in the minds of some voters about his fitness for the presidency.

"The image is somewhat that he's not ready for prime time. It's London for God's sakes. You have to try to mess up a foreign debut in Great Britain if you're an American candidate for president. It looks terrible. He was a gaffe machine. It wasn't just a single gaffe. Every time he opened his mouth he created another gaffe," he said. "It's late July. The memory of it will be wiped out by the Olympics, the vice-presidential choice and the [Republican] convention. But does it play into the dilemma Americans have in this election? Yes. They're very dissatisfied with President Obama's economic performance but they're not at all sure that Romney's the kind of president that they want or need."

Romney's difficulties provided a welcome distraction for Obama from the latest poor economic figures which showed that U.S. economic growth has slowed to 1.5% over the last quarter. A growth rate of 2% is necessary to start bringing down unemployment which rose to 8.2% last month.

Sabato said that in those circumstances, Romney should have a clear lead in the polls. Yet, Obama is pulling ahead in the most recent opinion polls. "If Obama wins re-election he's literally going to smash into bits the rule book about where unemployment has to be, where GDP has to be. The numbers are miserable," he said.

Intellpuke: You can read this article by Guardian Washington, D.C., Correspondent Chris McGreal in context here:

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