When Barack Obama traveled to Europe during the 2008 presidential campaign, he drew unprecedented crowds for someone with relatively little political experience, especially for someone with almost no foreign policy exposure. But it was his message that was attractive: use the resources America has to make informed decisions, not use the power of America for whatever ends we desire.
The contrast between Obama and Bush couldn’t be clearer, and to international populations Bush represented everything that was wrong with America: arrogance, aggression, stupidity. Obama was change, he was hope, he was international by background, and worldly by vision.
Mitt Romney, trying hard to beef up his foreign policy credentials which he does not have (unless you count knowledge of which countries are best to stash earnings in) from his time as a one-term governor of Massachusetts. Now he has hopped the pond to visit British leaders, before the obligatory trip to Israel and a random stop in Poland. There are no crowds of cheering people to meet him, and in usual Romney style, he is rubbing everyone the wrong way.
Romney’s comments about the Olympics and London’s ability to pull them off were horribly timed and poorly presented. Romney is actually one of the few people who have organized an Olympic games, so his opinion is valuable. The problem is his manner of delivery. London is probably the world’s most international city, a frequent target for terrorists, and already packed to the chips with people. It is not, as Britain’s PM David Cameron pointed out, in the middle of nowhere.
Specifics aside, whatever happened to being a gracious guest? Someone who praises and thanks and doesn’t criticize their hosts while they are there unless they are asked? This was precisely the arrogance that the world hated in Bush, and in Romney’s first trip on semi official business, before he is even the confirmed nominee, he exhibits the same traits.
The Olympics bundle is only the biggest example of his gaffes, such as letting slip about secret meetings with intelligence services. Foreign policy is first and foremost tact, then strategy. If Romney can’t even get the first part right, how are we to believe that he can steward America through an increasingly globalised world?