Editor’s Pick
JULY 31, 2012 9:02AM

Romney bombs in Poland

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Faint praise and public profanity at a "holy site" leave blot on candidate's last foreign campaign stop 

 Obama in Berlin

Even if Obama's presidency has been a no-hitter in many ways, he sure scored at Berlin's Victory Column in 2008

I ALWAYS ENJOY A funny story, and yet I’m really glad that Mitt Romney wasn’t given permission to speak at the Brandenburg Gate (I wrote about it HERE) and subsequently decided to give those ungrateful Germans a miss altogether. The rest of his foreign campaign tour has been such a catastrophe that I can’t begin to imagine the collateral damage the man would have caused if he had been allowed to self-destruct in such a historically volatile venue. I wonder if “German-American friendship” could have survived the experience. I mean, just look what he has done to himself in Britain, Israel, and now Poland. It hasn’t done the rest of us any good, either.

It doesn't always have to be this way. Candidate Barack Obama’s visit to Berlin on July 24, 2008 was an inspiring experience. While he too was denied a podium at the Gate, he instead spoke in front of the nearby Victory Column to a crowd of 200,000, electrifying an entire nation like no other American politician since John F. Kennedy. The fact that most people here, yours truly included, now regard him as a disappointment of historic proportions is neither here nor there. The stunt paid off.

You can say all you want about Romney, but one thing is certain: When it comes to running a presidential campaign, he is no Obama. Romney’s downward spiral began in Britain last week. As Michael Tomsky of the Daily Beast writes,

It should be the easiest thing in the world for a presidential nominee: a trip to England. The mother country, the shared tongue, our firmest ally. And it should have been easiest of all last week, happening as it did on the eve of the Olympics. Just praise everything you see. Limn London as one of the world’s great cities, invoke the spirit of the British people that lives on from the glorious days of the blitz. Praise the bangers and mash and the pasties if you have to. Nothing to it.

Instead, Romney arrogantly insulted the UK’s preparations for the Olympic Games – which he was attending as a guest – and effortlessly managed to insult an entire nation, earning the nickname “Mitt the Twit” in a headline in the right-wing Sun.

In another bizarre incident, an adviser managed to flub praise for the "special relationship" and shared cultural heritage between the US and Britain with an anachronistic reference to Romney's "Anglo-Saxon" racial stock as opposed to that of Mr. You-Know-Who. While that might not have been the deliberate intention, the rhetoric was too close to the old language of scientific racism for comfort. The British sure understood the dog whistle, even if Romney's American supporters tried to play innocent.

In Israel he pandered to the Likud hard right – as well as American conservatives and fundamentalist Christians – by glibly trashing decades of US foreign policy and calling occupied Jerusalem the capital of the Jewish State and essentially giving Prime Minister “Bibi” Netanyahu a green light to nuke Iran, while bizarrely praising Israel's socialistic state care system. He also offended the entire Palestinian people, claiming that their underdevelopment was caused by “culture” and not by generations of war and occupation. He even said their standard of living was half that of Israelis, whereas it is in reality a mere twentieth of what Israelis get. He was preaching to the peanut gallery, of course, but his remarks hardly indicated an instinct for diplomacy.

 Mitt the Twit

Romney won't be getting the British vote

So after being chastened by these gaffes and provocations, you might think Poland would be a cinch. All he had to do was to keep his mouth shut and smile a lot, as he should have done in Britain.

Actually, things started off well enough, with a visit to the Lenin Shipyards in Gdansk and a meeting with former Solidarnosc union leader and ex-president Lech Walesa, an Obama critic, who gave him a courteous welcome. In a speech in Warsaw today, Romney said, “I think we must be faithful to those who are loyal to America,” referring to Poland’s participation in the disastrously unpopular Afghan War. “Solidarity was a great movement that triggered the nations. Solidarity is what will help Poland and the United States to meet the challenges of the future.” 

But whatever enthusiasm the Poles might ever have felt for Obama’s contender had cooled long before his plane’s tires hit the runway. The Solidarnosc trade union, which once faced down the Soviet colossus, disassociated itself from the business-friendly Republican with his message of “freedom”: “In relation to Lech Walesa’s meeting with Mitt Romney, a candidate for President of the USA, I wish to inform that NSZZ ‘Solidarnosc’ is in no way involved in the organization of this meeting nor had the initiative to invite Mitt Romney to Poland,” wrote Andrzej Adamczyk, head of the union’s International Department.

Regretfully, we have learned from our friends in the American trade union central AFL-CIO, representing over 12 million workers, about Mitt Romney’s support for the attacks against trade unions and labor rights. In this respect, I wish to express, on behalf of the President of NSZZ ‘Solidarnosc’ Piotr Duda, our solidarity with American workers and trade unions. NSZZ ‘Solidarnosc’ will always support the AFL-CIO in their struggle for the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively.

But it’s not just Polish lefties who are skeptical. Even his supporters, who are many, are more polite than passionate about him. I’ve spent the morning perusing editorials in Poland’s top five daily papers and found not a single genuinely warm word for the candidate. Most dwell on his previous gaffes and remind readers that despite his pro-Polish and anti-Russian rhetoric ("without question our number one geopolitical foe"), a Romney presidency would be a bit of a non-starter for Poles. “A visit to Poland on Romney's part is certainly a nice gesture, but we should not give it too much importance,” is the best that Marek Magierowski of Rzeczpospolita could muster.

Well, so what? Romney isn’t expecting any votes in Warsaw and Poznan, but rather in Chicago and Buffalo, where - his advisers imagine - there are Polish-Americans waiting to be weaned away from the Democratic Party, and Catholics everywhere who were undoubtedly tickled by the confessing Mormon's genuflection before the memory of Pope John Paul II. But that might be a little harder now that Romney’s press secretary Rick Gorka told pushy American journalists to “kiss my ass” after a visit by Romney to the war memorial on Warsaw’s Pilsudski Square. “This is a holy site for the Polish people.” Gorka told another journalist to “shove it.” What a delightful way to show respect at “a holy site for the Polish people”! Not that any of his supporters will mind, of course.

It’s understandable why the journalists were demanding answers: After his London debacle, Romney abruptly stopped taking impromptu questions. But why should he bother when his staff is eager to commit gaffes all by itself?

At least he didn’t come to Berlin. If his European tour is any indication of what kind of President he would be, maybe he should give Washington a miss too.




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" I’ve spent the morning perusing editorials in Poland’s top five daily papers and found not a single warm word for the candidate. "

Coverage we just don't get elsewhere. Thanks, Alan.
Thanks for teh reporting Alan. Romney's UK trip bred an avalanche of mocking tweets, among them:

Mitt Romney retroactively cancels visit to London.
MI6 refuses to confirm #Romney meeting, fueling speculation he may have been fooled by an Austin Powers impersonator
Mitt Romney loves to say that Obama goes around apologizing for America. The irony is that America is now apologizing for Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney isn't even qualified to represent the U.S. as a tourist.
"Anti business legislation?" I wonder if places like U.K., Israel, Poland, France, or Venezuela for that matter have businesses which manage to plan for the long term. I'm thinking, yes.

The press about Romney has been so one sided during his European trip that I have seriously begun to wonder about bias in the coverage. I have never seen such heavy disapproval all the way around. Granted, it is less on outlets like FOX, but it is there too. Even Palin was received better. What I settled on is, it is not the coverage. It's the man. The man is a colossal dolt. Vote for him at your peril.
this whole tour has the feel of a jet set "let's do Milan tonight" - this should have been easy, smarter than a third grader easy: enjoy one of the finest cities on earth, praise our good friends and allies then off to the center of three religions, speak of faith in the future of mankind, give staunch support without scaring everyone like the second coming of the neocons but listen to what the wise graybeards have learned in that region; then off to Poland, picture opportunity at the Reagan statue, relive the glory days and come home.

what has this rich man shown- that he's a business man? it takes quite a bit more than that. Our age of greatest prosperity and stature featured Glass-Steagle, a moderately higher tax rate for the wealthiest, and support for the middle class and poor, investment in infrastructure and stewardship of the environment, these are just historical facts. So we throw what worked out and take right up with the policies which caused the collapse? Is this whole country Glenn Beck crazy (and what he did for the drugs in his Philly years- anyone would be crazy)
Thanks, everyone. Romney's visit is a trainwreck. As Bill Beck points out above, the fault lies with the man himself, who exudes arrogance and privilege. Hardly anyone in Europe has anything good to say about him (I guess he made a lot of new friends in Israel, where he actually held a political fundraiser, which sounds faintly treasonous to me). The headlines across the continent are all about his gaffes and ignorance, not about his charm and competence, which one would hope. Obama literally won hearts and minds in 2008 (only to throw them away again over the past four years). I really do see bad times ahead if Romney gets elected President. As the Good Book says, by their fruits ye shall know them, and this summer Romney is all rotten apples.
as long as the real americans in the heartland know their guy is willing to be rude to foreigners, the tour is a success where it counts, at the ballot box.

but carl lewis was right, some americans should stay home. in fact all, except rich tourists willing to travel with a gag.
Is there a country he can tour and not upset the entire country? Could this be turned into a type of betting pool?
meanwhile, in the real world, romney opens up a 20 point lead over obama among "white voters"

which of course someone will assert is racist. whites switching their votes in 2012, and not sticking with who they supported in 2008.

i was actually encouraged that iranian president/terrorist in chief ahmadinejad took time out of his busy schedule to criticize mitt too.

any candidate who can get a condemnation from adhmadinejad can't be all bad.
This post is yet another effort to force facts into a wished for, as opposed to a realistic scenario. Is a visit's success or failure to be judged by rabid presspersons whose livelihood depends on lurid headlines or rather by the persons in high places who are visited.

The latter group was relieved to meet with a deft and graceful adult who knows how to behave in august company. He didn't arrive loaded with inappropriate and vainglorious gifts, a wife who pawed the Queen, and a mastery of facts that caused him to sign the wrong date in a guest registry.

Romney greatest gift to our all-important allies was a demonstration of the values he holds in the face of the threats that put civilized life in jeopardy--values that have been severely compromised under Obama.

Cameron, Perez, and Walesa (the people that count) were relieved to view a return to the kind of candidate associated with America's past glories, not a collectivist narcissist who spins a flimsy fabric from the twin threads of incompetence and arrogance.

Having been fed a steady diet of double-talk, mushy prevarications, and real gaffes--57 states anyone?--the leaders visited will be savoring some refreshing straight talk about the efficiency of moral standards. This will be the lasting legacy of the Romney trip long after the tabloid headlines which have apparently inspired this post are finished wrapping fish.
I realize that this thread is all about chimeras rather than facts, but would it be too much to ask for a single example of a leader of the U.K., Israel, or Poland expressing anything close to the negative evaluations expressed above?
These leaders would obviously never make such a statement, since 1) they are diplomatic, 2) they wouldn't want to appear to be intervening in an American election campaign, and 3) they will have to live with Romney if he is elected President.

As a matter of fact, you and I both pretty much agree on Obama's suitability as President (although probably for different reasons), and I'm the first to admit that his "hope and change" message, as delivered here in Berlin four years ago, was phoney and kitschy. Still, he pulled it off, whereas Romney has been uninspiring to say the least. Some Polish official was quoted as saying Romney would have been lucky to attract a crowd of 500 in Warsaw, whereas Obama pulled in 200,000 in Berlin.

Now I wasn't invited along on Romney's trip this time around, so I'm basing all this on my perusal of major European newspapers. I was struck that the Polish papers I looked at never got beyond faint praise for him (and they all mentioned the "kiss my ass" incident), whereas the German and Swedish ones that I read consistently depicted him as a sort of walking joke and embodiment of "the ugly American." This bad start overseas (where Romney is going to be negotiating his trade agreements and fighting his wars) seriously gives me pause.

In the last few days I've been reminded of an interpreting job I did four years ago at a conference on German-American relations somewhere in the Berlin government district, where a German politician and USA-expert opined that Obama's face and demeanor alone would instantly alter global perceptions of the USA, which were in pretty bad shape in the latter Bush years. But unlike candidate Obama, Romney exudes arrogance and entitlement. It's not his fault - he's a decent-looking guy, I suppose - but he isn't winning any hearts, let alone minds. I imagine that's why no one in Europe seems to be cutting him any slack. At least in the US he has the benefit of serving as the "un-Obama." Over here, no one really sees the need for such a figure. Hence the cool reaction.
"any candidate who can get a condemnation from adhmadinejad can't be all bad."
Isn't that setting the bar pretty darn low? In any case, I don't see Obama getting Ahmadinejad's vote, considering that he and Hillary keep threatening sanctions and war against Iran every week or so.
@baltimore "which of course someone will assert is racist. whites switching their votes in 2012, and not sticking with who they supported in 2008."

Hate to burst your bubble, but Obama only got 43% of the white vote in 2008. At any rate, we don't elect the President by Nationwide popular vote but by the Electoral College, and Obama leads that by any measure, from the conservative realclearpolitcs, which last I looked had Obama leading 247 to 191, to the left leaning Huffington Post which gives Obama the lead by 290. The rest of your comment is so clearly delusional that a rational person hardly knows how to respond.

Which brings me to Gordon's "Romney greatest gift to our all-important allies was a demonstration of the values he holds in the face of the threats that put civilized life in jeopardy--values that have been severely compromised under Obama." Values that have been compromised under Obama? Really? What values would those be exactly?

Personally I was embrassed for Mr Romney who demonstrated that he clearly knows little to nothing about foreign policy, and even less about common good manners. The man is a dangerous idiot who must be rejected on Nov.6.
Romney's ability to put his foot in his mouth, utterly unprovoked, is hard to believe, except when you consider his provincialism, which is what he has displayed.

Most incredulously, he seems to have even topped Bush in ineptness, and that, my friends, ain't easy.
Very good points. Berlin would have been a catastrophe.

You know, I hear it repeatedly in the media, "But he is a very smart man, obviously." And I think to self: why do they assume he's a smart man because he's been successful at business? Plus he's also had a lot handed to him early on. Why does that translate to intelligence?

Truthfully, I'D do better at events mentioned above because I've had more hands-on, real world experience adapting to a wide array of situations and people. I've HAD to adapt, at times, for my survival. We all learn to make adjustments and fit in because we have to. When you don't have to because of a rarefied existence, you're a walking, bumbling gaffe. When you don't have any of that natural resistance in life, you're a bull in a china shop.

Oy...and was he ever...what was he thinking?
Another excellent post, Alan. So you also read Polish? A man of many talents there!

If gaffes or a lack of international experience were an obstacle on the way to presidency, Mr. Bush Jr. would never have been elected. Perhaps the blunders will even give a "natural" side to Mr. Romney, who seems quite stiff lately.

Probably we witnessed somebody who is already a prisoner of the more extreme of his voters. He could have come over on his record as the Governor of Massachussetts (health care etc.). That might have made him a hero in Europe from where American politics seem growingly unreal and disconnected. Instead, Mr. Romney 2.0, who was born into wealth, protection, big business and ordering people around, still seems a bit overstrained by the combined task of making his first steps in the unfamiliar environment of international affairs and making his own core voters forget how much of a Democrat he has been in the past. He might sort it out someday and find a style.

Bill Beck may be right: At the end, at last after the third gaffe, everybody was only waiting for the next one and counting and probably did not really listen anymore.
"Values that have been compromised under Obama? Really? What values would those be exactly?"

Well, let's see. For starters, how about rule of law, private property, and separation of powers? You may not have heard of them, but they've served us well in the past.

For the gaffe obsessed, why settle for imaginary ones when Obama's very real ones are so plentifully in evidence?
Thanks Alan for that wonderful on the ground report on Mitt's Marvelous European Adventure!
Before he went they portrayed this as a way to build up his foreign policy experience; I knew there is no way that would work however they could repeat it often and make it seem as if it ads to his foreign policy experience.

This could be effective propaganda and this is what I thought they had in mind and assumed it might work like a charm.

Then he went to Europe and....
My gut feeling about Romney is that he's not really terrible at heart and, in a more enlightened era, he could theoretically have made an at least semi-decent President, rather like his father might have been. But his party has lurched so far to the edge that he has to twist himself like a pretzel to be accepted by the bosses and the base (but not the voters). No wonder he comes off the way he does - if he had acted reasonably in Europe and Israel, the Republicans would have crucified him. I almost feel sorry for the man. (The key word in that sentence is "almost.")