US Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney has concluded a foreign tour, visiting the United Kingdom, Israel and Poland. But his trip has drawn a series of negative headlines, including some criticisms from his own party. The controversy may have overshadowed the expected benefit Mr. Romney wanted from his trip.
UK and the Olympics
Ahead of his trip to London, Mr. Romney suggested in a television interview that London was not ready to host the games. "It's hard to know just how well it will turn out," Mr. Romney told NBC, commenting on issues such as security preparation and the threat of strikes from border officials. "There are a few things that were disconcerting."
Mr. Romney's comments provoked anger in the British media, and a sarcastic response from British officials. UK Prime Minister David Cameron said: "We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course, it is easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere."
Mr. Cameron's remark has been interpreted as a jab at Mr. Romney, who was an organiser for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002.
"I hear there's a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we're ready," said London Mayor Boris Johnson to a cheering crowd in Hyde Park, "He wants to know whether we're ready. Are we ready? Are we ready? Yes, we are."
While in Israel, Mr. Romney referred to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, provoking anger from Palestinians.
He also talked tough on Iran. A spokesperson for Mr. Romney said the candidate would “respect” any Israeli decision to “take action on its own” against Iran. This would represent a break with US policy, adopted by the last Republican administration under President George W. Bush.
Europe and Home
Mr. Romney concluded his tour with a visit to Poland. The last stop of his tour was not marked by particular controversy. Commentators say the visit was in part aimed as a jab against President Barack Obama. In 2009, Mr. Obama scrapped the Bush-era plan to build a missile defence system in Poland, replacing it with a different plan to be completed by 2020. Mr. Romney has criticised this move as trying to appease the Russians.
The visit to Poland is also being seen as an attempt by Mr. Romney to court Polish-American and Roman Catholic voters back in the US.
Democrats said the trip showed that Romney was ill-prepared to represent the United States on the international stage.
"He both offended our closest ally and triggered a troubling reaction in the most sensitive region of the world," said senior Obama advisor Robert Gibbs. "He certainly didn't prove to anyone that he passed the commander-in-chief test."
But Mr. Romney's campaign has insisted that the trip was a success and that voters at home would not be concerned by any missteps.
Analysis: Romney trip may not matter much to voters in November [CNN, 1 Aug 2012]
Analysis: Mitt Romney’s foreign trip didn’t go well. Does it matter? [Washington Post, 31 July 2012]
Analysis: The Romney Foreign Tour [Wall Street Journal, 31 July 2012]