National candidate’s European vacation: Why Mitt should’ve stayed home

By Ian Bremmer
August 7, 2012

Poor Mitt. Despite the listless U.S. economy, the aftermath of the Arab Spring and the abyss the euro zone still faces, his campaign is showing the world that it’s hard to go up against an incumbent, even one who is as potentially vulnerable as President Obama. Team Romney had to hope that the jobs report that came out on Friday would be very bad, so it could continue to pin the country’s economic malaise on Obama’s policies. Instead it got a mixed report – good hiring, but an uptick in the unemployment rate – that made it hard for Republicans to present a clear message to the American people.

Of course, what we’re seeing in this campaign is that Romney hardly needs the Department of Labor’s help when it comes to presenting mixed messages. If Romney were a smarter candidate, or had a smarter team around him, he’d absolutely hammer Obama on the economy, to the exclusion of any other issue. That’s right – no talk about healthcare, immigration, gay marriage, contraception in Catholic hospitals or Osama bin Laden. Romney’s campaign, if he wants to win, should be all economy, all the time.

Any college kid getting a poli sci degree could tell Romney that. So why on earth did his campaign just waste a week in the UK, Israel and Poland? Those three countries are American allies, to be sure, but they also don’t matter nearly as much as they used to. As such, leaving aside his constant stream of gaffes while on his tour, he didn’t get much out of his trip. Sure, Poland and the UK were happy to flatter him (to the extent that they could, given the foot he had in his mouth about the London Olympics and his shutting out of the press throughout the trip, especially in Warsaw). His stop in Warsaw may have had some impact on Polish-American swing-state voters, while Israel was important to large chunks of his American constituency, especially super PAC funder and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

For Romney to have taken an international trip that would matter, there’s one place he might’ve considered going: Japan. Between Japan’s economic efforts and its rebuilding after the tsunami and Fukushima disasters, it’s an extremely relevant country to U.S. interests that would’ve welcomed him with open arms. Unfortunately, it would also have required him to buy into the Obama administration’s pivot toward Asia. For someone who doesn’t have a ton of foreign policy credibility yet, it could also have made for even more disastrous gaffes than did the trio of countries he ended up visiting. So, in the end, why take the trip at all? Romney should’ve stayed home.

Instead of visiting the most important countries to U.S. interests, he picked a safe trio of “Avis” countries. As second-tier allies, “they try harder” to compete for U.S. attention, but there’s little to gain for a U.S. politician in rewarding them with it. As Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton do a very good job (most analysts believe) in meeting the challenges facing the world in the 21st century, Romney visited a trio of countries that epitomized the challenges of the last century. As icing on the cake, the press couldn’t stop making comparisons with then-candidate Obama’s 2008 trip to Iraq and Afghanistan. Where Obama casually drained a 3-point shot in a military gym, Romney had to vehemently deny he would stick around to watch his wife’s horse compete in Olympic dressage, otherwise known as “horse ballet.”

Romney’s visit exposed a number of awkward truths about the candidate: his fantastic wealth, his catering to the wishes of his super PAC benefactor with his trip to Israel, and his peculiar temperament, as shown by his skepticism about the ability of London to have successful Olympic games and his press secretary’s outburst at a Polish war memorial. If Romney wants to win the presidency, his best bet is to run a 21st-century version of a “front porch” campaign: Stay close to home, and hammer away at the idea that Obama has mismanaged the U.S. economy. Romney must become a single-issue candidate to win the election. Any other use of his time will likely mean he’ll wind up with plenty of spare time – and a permanent vacation come November.

This essay is based on a transcribed interview with Bremmer.

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is pictured before delivering foreign policy remarks at Mishkenot Sha’ananim in Jerusalem, July 29, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed

25 comments

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Really??
Maybe you Ian Bremmer should have stayed home. Stop wasting readers’ time by putting out biased views all the time. Reuters is supposed to be a news place not Obama’s personal advertising service.

Posted by js2012 | Report as abusive

Um, reading this, I sense disappointment, JS. Pretty sure Ian’s a Republican at heart. The tone would be more gloating if he was opposed to Romney. It’s more “WHy did Romney screw up like this?” instead of “Hope Romney keeps misstepping like this.”

Posted by REDruin | Report as abusive

JS you dont read much do you. Ian’s pretty conservative.

Posted by John2244 | Report as abusive

Jeez … I only had the simple wish that Mr. Romney spend his vacation dollars where they would do the most good for the USA; in the USA.

Posted by SanPa | Report as abusive

I know — tell Mitt to visit Walley World with his family and his mother-in-law strapped to the hood of his car. Just an average Joe trying to do the right thing for his family. I think there could be a movie here.

Posted by IntoTheTardis | Report as abusive

js2012, maybe you should spend more time over at the FAUX (Fake) News a.k.a. “Fox” website and less time here. if you’re looking for pro-Republican falsehoods and propaganda, this isn’t the place for it.

Reuters is a European-based news service. You remember Europe, right? It’s the place filled with about 400 million anti-Republicans, people who largely don’t see any “threat” from the Russians, who don’t particularly need or want to be “defended” by America, who avidly love socialized medicine and unions and who wouldn’t vote for an American-style right-wing conservative if their lives depended on it.

As most Europeans already know (but about which, you apparently haven’t a clue), Mitt Romney’s first trip to the Big, Bad, Un-Baptized, Un-Saved, Secular Commie-Land WOrld Outside Noble America didn’t go all that well. Most of the people in the UK already regard Romney as less intelligent and less knowledgable than… Sarah Palin. Which says a lot right there.

Pretty much every media outlet (“the dang lib’rul lamestream media”.. which people in the UK actually read and actually do trust) ripped Romney to shreds and ridiculed him. Nobody takes him seriously.

Compared to Obama, he’s a 5-year-old and Obama is the only grownup in the room.

Posted by WillyWonka787 | Report as abusive

A blogger out of London wrote:

“It has been widely reported already in the US that Mitt Romney’s first foreign trip as a US Presidential candidate… did not go well.”

“But my suspicion is that a lot of my friends in America who are accustomed to “he said, she said” news coverage might suspect that this disaster is being blown out of proportion by the schadenfreude of delighted Obama supporters.”

“As your woman on the ground here in the UK, I want to assure you: IT REALLY IS THAT BAD.”

“Here below are the Romney headlines in every British Newspaper this morning.”

http://motleynews.net/2012/07/27/british -newspapers-field-day-with-romneys-gaffe s-the-sun-mitt-the-twit/

Perhaps the only thing more embarassing than Romney’s gaffes and blunders abroad, is the lame insistence by the Romney campaign that none of it matters because (supposedly)… “Americans don’t care what non-Americans or the foreign press say about their President anyway”.

http://2012.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/0 7/romney-olympics-london-bobby-jindal-bo b-mcdonnell.php

Posted by WillyWonka787 | Report as abusive

Consider that Romney was well received by Lech Walensa, who refused to meet Barry? You have done your best to paint this trip in the worst possible light. Everyone is/was nervous about the Olympics due to the failure of G4S. Why can’t Mitt answer the question honestly without it being labled a “gaffe”. Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot (WTF): I think not.

Posted by nosocialism | Report as abusive

I suspect that to Romney supporters his trip abroad was a resounding success. He was able to highlight his willingness, if elected, to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities, which is exactly what most Republicans think is the best way to ensure peace. He was able to bring up, without coming right out and saying it, that by virtue of the color of his skin and his ancestry, he is a member of a certain ‘culture’ that sees itself as the creator of all that is good in the world today, with God-given rights to the supremacy of the world. This is a direct appeal to all of those and there plenty of them, who would vote against the current President based on the color of his skin. And last, but not least, he was able to proclaim with regard to the Olympic games, that Americans could do it better, which is a leftover from the old WWII mentality of the US and which is a staunch tenet of the Republicans, that the US saved the world from Hitler when Europe laid down their guns and gave up. I suspect that Romney’s trip abroad left many Republicans with a feeling of having hit them hard right in the gut and was just what they had been waiting for.

Posted by lhathaway | Report as abusive

Let’s see…how much money did he raise on that trip? Lots? Well, there’s your answer. Who said he was going there for any reason other than a cash withdrawal?

Posted by DwDunphy | Report as abusive

Does the GOP have any plans regarding the real economy (jobs) or do they just want to look after those with the money, the 17 trillion dollars on off shore accounts?

Posted by Checksbalances2 | Report as abusive

It’s not exactly necessary to have to work at it to point Romney’s National Lampoon European Vacation “in the worst possible light.” Every time he opened his mouth, he managed to achieve that on his own.

As for Lech Walesa, he’s a noble figure to the Poles. But he would do well to remember that not even the USA can wave a magic wand and change geography or move Poland to somewhere where it isn’t directly hard-up alongside Russia. He should also realize that it isn’t exactly a good idea to deliberately go out of your way to tick off your neighbors, serene in the (mkistaken) belief that the U.S, is going to rush in and save you from a fight which you yourself provoked and possibly could have avoided.

Posted by WillyWonka787 | Report as abusive

RE: “Everyone is/was nervous about the Olympics due to the failure of G4S”

“Everyone”? Who is “everyone”? The British themselves were not particularly nervous. And G4S did not “fail” at all in the first place. They provided the number of security workers which they had promised the British government they would. There was no “failure” whatsoever.

It can be interesting (and challenging), pulling off the massive undertaking of an Olympics in the heart of one of the world’s oldest, most populous and truly legendary cities while simultaneously not ruining everything that visitors love about that city. The British seem to have pulled it off quite admirably.

Of course, it’s probably a bit easier to accomplish logistically if you stage the Olympics in some remote, isolated backwater in the middle of what most people consider “flyover country”, such as Salt Lake City.

Posted by WillyWonka787 | Report as abusive

I love the comments from WillyWonka! :-) :-) How else could anyone describe Mitt Romney? Good grief! The guy is so not average, so not middle class, so not working class, so not anything normal except rich, boring, and arrogant.

Posted by hapibeli | Report as abusive

“Virtue Politics” sounds like a frustrated ex-Bush Adminstration / Tea Bagger busily inventing fictional and nonexistent “threats to America” in order to fraudulently justify even more immoral and unnecessary wars.

Yes, “Israel and the UK remain just about America’s most loyal allies”. That’s why it was not necessary for Romney to travel there – there was nothing to prove.

Actually, Canada is America’s most generally loyal ally and one thta Americans consistently overlook and ignore. Perhaps Romney did not want to travel to Canada because he knew at the outset that he had nothing good to say for that country’s national health insurance system, which consistently delivers better, fairer, less-costly results than America’s horrific and failed health insurance system. The Canadian health insurance system is also wildly popular with Canadians, who would react with fury to any public criticism or assault on their health-insurance values.

In labeling Russia as the so-called “Eurasian Union” it seems Jonathan Saxty has a desperate need, like most conservatives, to invent another nonexistent “enemy of America” to justify his own paranoia. If the Europeans feel no “threat” from Russia, why should we “create” one where none exists? The Europeans clearly do not want the Berlin Wall back up or for there to be another potential clash between superpowers, least of all on territory which they live on.

As for China’s rising success, perhaps Mr. Saxty should look at where American consumers are spending their money and ask himself why Americans are spending the very same money on Chinese goods which eventually finds its way into paying for China’s military buildup. This in itself guarantees that American corporations (who will figure big-time in any Republican candidate’s world) stoutly oppose any disruption of relations between America and China. What company wants to bomb its best (or only) supplier?!?!?

Saxty’s article oozes fear – fear of a Russia becoming wealthy on predatory capitalism (which America taught the, and supported); fears of a China becoming wealthy on the proceeds of state capitalism (which, again, America pushed for – and achieved); even fears of a Latin American trade pact. If Latin American countries are willing to trade with each other and establish free-trade zones with each other, why is that any concern of Uncle Sam? Didn’t America spend decades pushing the idea of free trade? Or was that only “free trade, but only with us”?

Saxty even ruminates darkly on the idea that “Mestizo Hispanic begin to comprise a plurality, if not a majority, in parts of the country” of America — an alarmist, and potentially racist, outlook if ever I saw one.

Yes, America can come back from its crushing debt load – by reducing its trade deficit with China and other countries, by possibly enacting protectionist legislation, by requiring corporations to care about patriotism and their country of origina nd not merely their bottom line profits from Third World outsourcing, by raising taxes on the wealthy, by foregoing more criminally immoral and unfunded wars abroad.

None of those things will happen under a Republican presidency, however. And that in a nutshell is why a Romney presidency would be merely another way station on the timeline of America’s meltdown.

Posted by WillyWonka787 | Report as abusive

Funny Obama will win again the elections with a socialist agenda. Education and Health for all by more taxation of the rich. Where have i heard that before? Say hi to the class struggle America, we had it in Europe 100 years ago and will never go away. Only way for conservatives to stay in power is by making big concessions to socialism. Its not a way, its the only way, working already in Europe and will instal silently in the US as well.

Btw, stop writing about Romney, it is useless, the guy has no chance just by looking at his face. This election will be so easy for Obama he wont even sweat.

Posted by Qeds | Report as abusive

hapibeli
What modern day President has been average, middle class, working class, or considered normal by most standards? Obama??? NOT!!
Obama is extremely arrogant but oh so charming that most shrug off his arrogance. Maybe if he keeps signing more Marvin Gaye songs voters will swoon over him.

Posted by Crash866 | Report as abusive

“as shown by his skepticism about the ability of London to have successful Olympic games”

He was asked by NBC(go figure)to have his discerning eye, as a former head of an Olympic committee, give his thoughts on what possible issues there might be with the London Olympics. He gave an honest answer and did no bashing.Sure he could have just answered “it will all be sushine and puppy dog tails” but he answered the QUESTION that was asked with no sugar coating. If they would have asked him how wonderful he thought it was all going to be I am sure he would have given that answer. Let’s bash him for being honest!!

Posted by Crash866 | Report as abusive

What is it with conservatives, that they seem to regard tactfulness as something akin to “dishonesty”?

Have they never heard the expression “If you can’t say aanything good, don’t say anything at all”?

Romney could have kept his mouth shut or at least waited until he was back in the U.S. before opening his mouth. As difficult as this is for some to grasp, honesty actually really ISN’T always the best policy.

Instead, he popped off with an off-the-cuff remark that appeared to criticize and undercut his own British hosts and embarassed a sitting British leader who is one of America’s strongest supporters.

NEWS FLASH, sometimes it REALLY IS better to answer with “it will all be sushine and puppy dog tails”.

Especially, since that is pretty much exactly how it has turned out. It really has turned out wonderfully, with few problems or incidents to speak of.

Posted by WillyWonka787 | Report as abusive

WillyWonka787
It’s called Honest. He was asked a question which he answered HONESTLY. More politcians should have this candor instead of avoiding or dodging the question or telling us what we wan to hear.

“If you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all”. Yeah my mom taught me that but it really should be applied to poltics. If it was you could hear a pin drop and nothing would get done because no one would disagree.
Nutshell…tell me what I think you should tell me…if not don’t make a comment…spineless

Posted by Crash866 | Report as abusive

WillyWonka787
Too much time on your hands. Try to keep your ramblings to 1 or 2 paragraphs or at least shorter than the article you are commenting about. Go find a pro Obama article and fawn over him there. Bremmer already got enough Romney bashing in on this page.

Posted by Crash866 | Report as abusive

If you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all”. Yeah my mom taught me that but it really should NOT be applied to politics.

Posted by Crash866 | Report as abusive

Crash866 – Yeah, actually it SHOULD be applied to politics, and has been for centuries. That’s what something called “diplomacy” is all about. It’s the art of being delicate in ones’ comments while conveying the information and attitude you wish to communicate.

Otherwise, you risk behaving like a bull in a china shop, upsetting and alarming your friends and riling up and enraging or emboldening your enemies.

As an example of the difference between “honesty” and “tact” (which you appear not to understand), I’m sure you would be quite alright with my casually telling you to your (and your Significant Other’s) face that she has a bucket-butt the size of New Jersey, that it’s referred to “Fat Tuesday” and not “Fat February” and that she should put the damn cupcake down and march her thunder-buns down to the nearest gym.

When your Significant Other’s face erupted in outrage, I’m sure you would be easily calmed by my telling you, “Hey, no reason to get mad at me. Every word I said was absolutely true. I’m just being HONEST.”

Posted by WillyWonka787 | Report as abusive

Crash866 – Actually, no, I’m going to stay right here and keep supporting Obama, and if you have a “problem” with that then you can go find somewhere else to post. I’ll be staying, you’ll be leaving. Capiche?

Posted by WillyWonka787 | Report as abusive