Mitt Romney is considered by most survey respondents so far to be very weak in foreign affairs relative to incumbent President Barack Obama.
He decided to do something about it by travelling to the United Kingdom and Israel; the United Kingdom being the Americans’ closest ally in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Israel, the most reliable friend in the volatile Middle East.
Did the visits help? Based on reports, it looks like they did not.
When he met British Prime Minister David Cameron, he pointedly asked if London had the capacity to host the 2012 Summer Olympics.
What was he thinking? That he can do a better job, having managed the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah?
For Mitt’s information, the Summer games are bigger with more events and athletes than the Winter edition.
Some Brits rightfully complained: Hey Mitt, isn’t your plate full enough? You are already standing for the presidency; you still want to run OUR Olympics?
You think that’s the end of it?
Mitt is just beginning!
When he met Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, Mitt called the latter “Mr. Leader”. Technically, Mitt was correct because Milliband led the Labour Party. I am sure however that Milliband want to be called by his Christian, rather than generic, name.
Perhaps, Mitt’s aides heaved a sigh of relief as their jet left Heathrow for Tel Aviv.
Mitt was just warming up.
In Israel, Mitt espoused the thesis that cultural difference was the reason why Israeli GDP was twice that of Palestinian GDP.
Sub-text: Palestinian culture is inferior to Israeli culture. Since culture defines a people, then Palestinians are inferior to Israelis.
Of course, he won a lot of brownie points with the Israelis but obviously not with the Palestinians.
A survey commissioned by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA), the Bar-Ilan University Center for International Communication and the Anti-Defamation League revealed that Israelis generally trust Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney more than current US President Barack Obama, according to the Jerusalem Post.
But Mitt’s remarks might not be a mistake after all because Jewish-Americans and the so-called Israel lobby are formidable political forces in the United States.
The liberal press back home pilloried Mitt as a racist and a bigot and for failing to recognize that continued Israeli occupation of Palestine had adverse effects on Palestinian productivity. The conservative press, meanwhile, praised him for supposedly telling the truth.
Later, Romney recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in a round-about manner. The Jewish state has long maintained that Jerusalem is its capital city, a claim that is contested by Palestinians and the international community. The claim also runs counter to U.S. policy. Most nations, including the United States, have their embassies in Tel Aviv.
Romney made Jerusalem a campaign issue. In his latest ad, the voice-over intoned: “[A]s President, Barack Obama has never visited Israel and refuses to recognize Jerusalem as its capital, Mitt Romney will be a different kind of president, a strong leader who stands by our allies. He knows America holds a deep and cherished relationship with Israel”.
Contemporary Republicans are either prone to gaffes or have strong convictions.
My personal favorite remains the party’s 2008 candidate for vice president Sarah Palin, who was governor of Alaska.
When asked about her foreign affairs acumen, she proudly declared that she had a lot.
Asked to elaborate, she explained that Alaska is separated only from the Russian Federation by the narrow Bering Strait.
The state capital of Alaska is the city of Juneau where Governor Palin held offices, is tucked near the eastern pocket of the Gulf of Alaska and is adjacent to northern British Columbia. Juneau is hundreds of miles from the Bering Strait.
Her house in Wasilla, Alaska is further inland and does not give one a regular glimpse of the Russian homeland, a requirement she apparently allows one to claim a respectable foreign affairs resume. If she stayed and held offices in Nome, then perhaps that would do the trick. Crossing the Bering strait into Russia might also exercise immigration officials on both sides.
And that, folks, may be the sum of Palin’s foreign affairs expertise!