In his first trip abroad as a presidential candidate, Mitt Romney had hoped to show off his skills as a statesman. Instead, he managed to step into a series of seemingly endless gaffs beginning before his plane could even hit the ground on British soil.
The problems started Wednesday prior to Romney’s arrival when The Daily Telegraph reported that a Romney campaign advisor accused President Obama of not understanding the shared “Anglo-Saxon heritage” of Britain and the United States quoting him as saying:
“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special. The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.”
The Daily Telegraph itself noted that the adviser’s remarks “may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity.”
Next, in an obviously unguarded moment in an NBC News interview with Brian Williams, Romney questioned London’s commitment and ability to stage the Olympic Games, just two days before the opening ceremonies stating that he noticed “disconcerting” signs that Team London was not ready stating:
“It’s hard to know just how well [the 2012 London Olympics] will turn out. There are a few things that were disconcerting. The stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging.”
Following Mitt Romney’s critique of security at the London Olympics, British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters Thursday that obstacles are inevitable when such an event is held in a busy city rather than “the middle of nowhere,” presumably a swipe at Romney, who helped organize the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
During an Olympics eve rally in Hyde Park on Thursday, London Mayor Boris Johnson slammed Mitt Romney’s remark that he found security at the games “disconcerting,” asking the crowd to an eruption of applause, “Are we ready? Yes we are!”
“The Geiger counter of Olympo-mania is going to go zoink! off the scale! People are coming from around the world, and they’re seeing us, and they’re seeing the greatest country on Earth, aren’t they? There are some people who are coming from around the world who don’t yet know about all the preparations we’ve done to get London ready in the last seven years. I hear there’s a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we’re ready. Are we ready?”
Later in the day, in a meeting with Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, Romney called Milliband “Mr. Leader” seeming to have forgotten his name.
Then to top off the day, Romney confirmed a secret meeting with the head of Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency, something he clearly should have kept to himself.
“I can only say that I appreciated the insights and perspectives of the leaders of the government here and opposition here as well as the head of MI6. [W]e discussed Syria and the hope for a more peaceful future for that country.”
When asked for comment, Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which handles press for MI6, wouldn’t acknowledge the meeting:
“Sir John Sawers meets many people, but we don’t give a running commentary on any of these private meetings.”
The British press noted that Romney slipped up in referring to the meeting, suggesting that intelligence-related meetings are usually not discussed publicly.
With all this on the first day of his trip, it will be interesting to see what tomorrow brings.