Romney trip had one gaffe, many successes

August 4, 2012


— At the outset of his recent foreign trip, Mitt Romney committed a gaffe. In answer to a question about the Olympics, he expressed skepticism about London’s preparations. The response confounded and agitated Romney supporters because it was such an unforced error. The question invited a simple paean to Olympic spirit and British grit, not the critical analysis of a former Olympic organizer.

Soon that initial stumble was transmuted into a metaphor for everything that followed. The mainstream media decided with near unanimity that the rest of the trip amounted to a gaffe-prone disaster.

Really? The Warsaw leg was a triumph. Romney’s speech warmly embraced Poland’s post-communist experiment as a stirring example of a nation committed to limited government at home and a close alliance with America abroad, even unto such godforsaken war zones as Afghanistan and Iraq, at great cost to itself and with little thanks.

Especially little from the Obama administration, which unilaterally canceled a Bush(43)-era missile-defense agreement with Poland to appease Russia. Without any overt criticism of the current president, Romney set out a foreign policy of radically greater appreciation of and fidelity to American allies.

Yet all we hear about Warsaw is the “gaffe”: two phrases uttered by an aide, both best described as microscopically rude. At The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a pack of reporters hurled questions of such journalistic sophistication as, “What about your gaffes?” To which Rick Gorka suggested that the reporters kiss his posterior, a rather charming invitation that would have made a superb photo op.

The other offense against human decency was Gorka’s correlative directive to “shove it.”

The horror! On the eve of the 2004 Democratic Convention, Teresa Heinz Kerry offered precisely that anatomically risky suggestion to an insistent Pittsburgh journalist. Not only did she later express no regret, but Hillary Clinton reacted with: “Good for you, you go girl.”

So where’s the Romney gaffe? Is what’s good for the Heinz not good for the Gorka?

And at his previous stop in Jerusalem, Romney’s speech was a masterpiece of nuance and restraint. Without directly criticizing Obama, Romney drew pointed distinctions deftly expressed in the code words and curlicued diction of Middle East diplomacy.

He declared flatly that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. The official Obama position is that Israel’s capital is to be determined in negotiations with the Palestinians. On Iran, Romney asserted that Israel has the right to defend itself. Obama says this as boilerplate. Romney made clear he means it — that if Israel has to attack, the U.S. won’t flash the red light before nor punish Israel afterward.

What about the alleged gaffe that dominated reporting from Israel? Romney averred that Israeli and Palestinian economic development might be related to culture. A Palestinian Authority spokesman obligingly jumped forth to accuse Romney of racism, among other thought crimes.

The American media bought it whole, despite the fact that Romney’s assertion was a direct echo of the U.N. Arab Human Development Report, written by Arab intellectuals and commissioned by the U.N. It unambiguously asserted that “culture and values are the soul of development.” And went on to report how existing cultural norms — “including traditional Arab culture and values” — are among the major impediments to Arab economic progress.

The report deplores the rampant corruption, repressive governance and lack of women’s (and human) rights as major contributors to backwardness in the Arab world. (In the Palestinian case, it faults Israeli “occupation,” but a U.N. document that doesn’t blame Israel for every Palestinian sorrow, if not the world’s, has yet to be written. Moreover, that excuse doesn’t work for today’s occupation-free, Palestinian-run Gaza.)

Is there any question about Romney’s assertion? PLO/PA corruption is a legend. Palestinians are repelled by it. Why do you think the PA lost the 2006 (and last) free election?

Romney’s point about “culture” was to highlight the improbable emergence of Israel from resourceless semi-desert to First World “startup nation,” a tribute to its freedom and openness.

Look at how Romney was received. In Israel, its popular prime minister lavished on him a welcome so warm as to be a near-endorsement. In Poland, Romney received an actual endorsement from Lech Walesa, former dissident, former president, Cold War giant, Polish hero. Yet the headlines were “shove it” and “culture.”

Scorecard? Romney’s trip was a major substantive success: one gaffe (Britain), two triumphs (Israel and Poland) and a fine demonstration of foreign policy fluency and command — wrapped, however, in a media narrative of surpassing triviality.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


pace 1 year, 8 months ago

Does anyone recognize this as gaffe?

"doesn’t plan to watch his wife’s horse compete in the upcoming Olympics".

“It’s a big, exciting experience for my wife. I have to tell you, this is Ann’s sport,” Romney said. “I’m not even sure which day the sport goes on. She will get the chance to see it, I will not be watching the event. I hope her horse does well.”


Mike Ford 1 year, 8 months ago

americans recognizing sacred ground.....really???? heck they don't even do that here in Lawrence, KS......


FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 8 months ago

Speaking of "Gaffes"

Why doesn't Flex want 'the' Military to vote in Ohio?


FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 8 months ago

Speaking of "gaffes".

Why doesn't Flex want the Military to vote?


pace 1 year, 8 months ago

My favorite is the guy yelling Kiss my a, you are on sacred ground, show some respect.


beatrice 1 year, 8 months ago

I like that Chuck is reminding everyone about Romney's gaffes, even if he doesn't see them as such. Chuck should write frequently about Romney's gaffes. Should he by chance become president, lord knows others will be.

I just don't understand why Romney didn't stick around long enough to watch his wife play with her fancy horse. Is it because he is waiting until the Republican convention to unveil his tax breaks for all fancy horse owners platform?


camper 1 year, 8 months ago

This is a pretty big gaffe in my opinion. He looks like a goofball talking about GDP per Capita in a political visit. In my opinion it looks like he is pretending.


Mike Ford 1 year, 8 months ago

nothing like looking in the toilet and watching something spin......right chuck????


Alyosha 1 year, 8 months ago

Curious that the writer never once mentions how the military occupation of Palestine influences economic development / growth there. No one but a partisan hack would leave that out of the discussion, as both Romney and the writer here do. To blame an amorphous "culture," and leave out a decades-long military occupation that burdens economic development and liberty of the population (in a way no American, including the Romney supporters on this web site, would tolerate for themselves), is simply shoddy thinking and worthy of zero respect.

K is not interested in any kind of truth, but rather in advancing his own political interests, which disqualifies him from any serious consideration or respect.

One wonders why the LJW continues to run his pieces.


jayhawklawrence 1 year, 8 months ago

I would not consider putting nuclear warhead tipped missiles in Poland and trying to restart the cold war a gaffe.

A gaffe is something that you can laugh about and forgive.

I can come up with a long list.

Romney also wants to dramatically increase our military spending when we already outspend all the military budgets of all the nations on the Earth.

We don't seem to be interested in Peace as much as we used to be. We seem more interested in conquest. Or am I just imagining this?


observant 1 year, 8 months ago

The "kraut" has real problem explaining, and he never has, his racist hatred of Obama and anything Obama attempts to do.


voevoda 1 year, 8 months ago

Krauthammer missed Romney's biggest gaffe in Israel: He endorsed their health care system, which is set up quite like "Obamacare."


Cait McKnelly 1 year, 8 months ago

Hahahahaha! How did I know this was going to be a Krauthammer piece?

So is that why the London Sun newspaper called him "Mitt the Twit"?


tange 1 year, 8 months ago

Charlie tripe had one giraffe, many excesses

/ really stuck his neck out on this one


yourworstnightmare 1 year, 8 months ago

Romney alienated the British, kow towed to the extreme right in Israel (might as well have bowed), and muddled around Poland for no apparent reason.

Good trip.


FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 8 months ago

Willard should have 'bowed' like profound complex Flex, "The First Gay President" does to show how "Flexible" he is. "Flexible" is important in re-elections. Then his 'trip' would have been "top".


chootspa 1 year, 8 months ago

"On the eve of the 2004 Democratic Convention, Teresa Heinz Kerry offered precisely that anatomically risky suggestion to an insistent Pittsburgh journalist."

Refresh my memory again, Kraut. How did that election work out for Kerry?


BornAgainAmerican 1 year, 8 months ago

Everyone knows that the Liberal Lamestream Media is in the tank for Obama. Unfortunately, many voters will go to the polls armed with only the misinformation gleaned from headlines created by unethical, ideologically pre-disposed Journalists (and I use the term loosely). Thanks for the truth Charles.


grammaddy 1 year, 8 months ago

One gaffe? Go back to school and learn how to count.


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