You probably remember at least the highlight reel of Barack Obama’s Grand Tour overseas four years ago, when the then-candidate visited the UK, France, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, and wrapped the whole thing up with a brilliant speech to nearly a quarter-million people in Berlin. It was a triumph of statesmanship, politics and marketing, and proved beyond a doubt that the supposed political neophyte had presidential chops to burn.
I mention this because Mitt Romney recently returned from his Bland Tour, which was mercifully restricted to only three countries (had it been eight, we’d likely be in the early stages of World War III already). As with the Obama trip in 2008, Romney’s sojourn was intended to demonstrate the candidate’s gravitas and comfort on the world stage; quite unlike the Obama trip, Romney accomplished neither.
If Romney and/or his campaign operatives were hoping to follow in the President’s footsteps, they were doomed from the start by Romney himself, a candidate with all the gravitas of a KFC Double Down, a guy who probably starts feeling uncomfortable the moment he steps out of the bathroom in the morning, hair immaculately coiffed, forced smile firmly affixed to his face, wondering if today might just be the day, at long last, when he meets someone who actually likes him.
First stop, the United Kingdom. The engines of Romney’s plane hadn’t even cooled down when two anonymous campaign advisers unpacked their dog whistles for an interview with The Telegraph:
“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.”
“Obama is a Left-winger,” said another. “He doesn’t value the NATO alliance as much, he’s very comfortable with American decline and the traditional alliances don’t mean as much to him. He wouldn’t like singing ‘Land of Hope and Glory’.”
Yet Romney had no intention of letting his staff monopolize the stupid remarks. He kicked things off with public doubts about British preparedness for the Olympics:
Elevating his tendency for gaffes to the international stage, Mr Romney said that because of concerns about security, it was “hard to know just how well it will turn out.”
Mr Romney told NBC News he saw “a few things that were disconcerting” about London’s preparations. “The stories about the private security firm not having enough people, supposed strike of immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging,” he said.
And he was just getting started:
He… appeared to breach protocol by disclosing that he had received an unusual briefing from Sir John Sawers, the chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), on the situation in Syria. An adviser boasted to The Daily Telegraph that Mr Romney had also previously met the head of the Security Service (MI5).
He also raised eyebrows by referring to Ed Miliband with the American-style honorific “Mr Leader” and saying that he had enjoyed viewing Olympic volleyball courts from “the backside of Downing Street.”
Not content with insulting his hosts, Romney decided to stick it to his wife and her fancy dancing horse/tax break/”therapy” gimmick Rafalca, as well:
Mitt Romney tried to distance himself from the elite horse-dancing sport of dressage… telling NBC’s Brian Williams that he doesn’t know anything about it – and 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.”
Well, of course, he couldn’t watch the event, because he was too busy insulting Palestinians on the next leg of his trip:
A top Palestinian aide accused Mitt Romney today of making a “racist statement” when comparing the economic vitality of the Israelis and the Palestinians…
“It is a racist statement and this man doesn’t realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation,” Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told the Associated Press.
“It seems to me this man (Romney) lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people,” Erekat said.
What Mr. Erekat apparently doesn’t know is that Romney lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of the United States and its people, too.
Poland was Romney’s final stop, and the weary traveler decided at that point to delegate the stupid remarks back to his staff:
Traveling press secretary Rick Gorka lost his cool after reporters shouted questions at Romney as he walked to his car from Pilsudski Square in Poland. Romney had just laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier…
“Show some respect,” Gorka snapped at the traveling press, according to a CNN transcript.
When a reporter protested that the press hadn’t been allowed to ask Romney a question, Gorka lost it.
“Kiss my ass. This is a holy site for the Polish people,” he barked. “Show some respect.”
He then told another reporter to “shove it.”
The timing of Romney’s Bland Tour was mostly dictated by the Olympics, of course, despite his pretending not to know when Ann’s hobby horse was competing, but it fortuitously provided an opportunity for the Romney campaign to get their man the hell out of the country as even some prominent members of his own party started clamoring for his tax returns. Sadly for Romney, his time on the other side of the pond was plainly insufficient to exhaust even the typical American attention span, and the tax return brouhaha has grown even louder since he slunk home. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid even kicked it up a notch – bam! – by insisting that a Bain Capital investor told him Romney has paid no income taxes in a decade. If true, devastating for Romney; if not true, still devastating for Romney, since he refuses to provide the returns which (hypothetically, anyway) could disprove the allegation.
With the Republican Convention a mere three weeks away, what happens next? Watch for any or all of the following:
- A desperate Hail Mary veep announcement (Clint Eastwood? Donald Trump? Jenna Jameson? Rafalca?)
- To great fanfare, Romney releases his tax returns in Manchester, New York, but etched on gold plates and translated into “reformed Egyptian”
- Romney wakes up one day, realizes he has no policy ideas whatsoever, remembers that he’s a stinking rich 65-year-old who ought to be spending his time spoiling his 18 grandchildren or yelling at the contractor responsible for installing his car elevator, and delivers a soon-to-be-immortal “sorry, America, what the heck was I thinking?” speech
In the alternative, and with a much greater degree of probability:
- Romney picks a running mate who couldn’t induce an erection from Reince Priebus, stubbornly sits on his tax returns until even Grover Norquist starts to squeal like a pig, and continues to insist – empirical evidence, common sense and all generally accepted tenets of natural law to the contrary – that he should replace Barack Obama in the Oval Office