Democrats — including Vice President Joe Biden — pounced Wednesday on an anonymously-sourced report in which an adviser to the Romney campaign suggested the Republican hopeful was better able to navigate the “special relationship” between the United States and England because of his understanding of “Anglo-Saxon heritage.”
The report, appearing in the Daily Telegraph, was a gift for allies of President Obama looking to depict Romney as overstepping his bounds during his six-day foreign trip.
And while members of the Romney campaign insisted the quote was “false” and did not represent the campaign, the candidate himself did not expressly deny the quote in an interview Wednesday with NBC News. He merely said he was “unenthusiastic” about anonymous quotes.
“I’m generally not enthusiastic about adopting the comments made by people who are unnamed. I have a lot of advisers,” Romney said. “I’m not sure who this person is … So, I don’t agree with whoever that advisor might be.”
The story came out as Romney arrived in London, where he’ll spend the next two days meeting with current and former British leaders and attending the opening ceremony for the Olympics. His tour also includes stops in Israel and Poland.
Democrats, eager to protect their edge on foreign policy, have been looking to frame the trip throughout the week by suggesting that Romney needed to both avoid undermining the president and prove his foreign policy bona fides. The Telegraph support provided the opportunity for the Obama team to begin hammering Romney for a diplomatic misstep.
“Despite his promises that politics stops at the water’s edge, Gov. Romney’s wheels hadn’t even touched down in London before his advisers were reportedly playing politics with international diplomacy, attempting to create daylight between the United States and the United Kingdom where none exists,” he said.
Romney’s campaign fired back.
“Today, the race for the highest office in our land was diminished to a sad level when the vice president of the United States used an anonymous and false quote from a foreign newspaper to prop up their flailing campaign. The president’s own press secretary has repeatedly discredited anonymous sources, yet his political advisers saw fit to advance a falsehood,” said Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams in a statement Wednesday. “We have more faith in American voters, and know they will see this latest desperate ploy for what it is.”
And Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod weighed in, blasting the remark via Twitter as “stunningly offensive.”
He wrote, “Mitt’s trip off to flying start, even before he lands, with stunningly offensive quotes from his team in British press.”
Biden also addressed critiques of the president’s foreign policy found within the Telegraph story, which quotes Romney advisers anonymously criticizing Obama as a “left-winger.”
“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,” one adviser said.
But Biden argued in his statement that the “special relationship with the British is stronger than ever.”
“On every major issue — from Afghanistan to missile defense, from the fight against international terrorism to our success in isolating countries like Iran whose nuclear programs threaten peace and stability — we’ve never been more in sync,” Biden said. “The comments reported this morning are a disturbing start to a trip designed to demonstrate Gov. Romney’s readiness to represent the United States on the world’s stage. Not surprisingly, this is just another feeble attempt by the Romney campaign to score political points at the expense of this critical partnership. This assertion is beneath a presidential campaign.”
The Telegraph did not respond to a request for comment regarding the Romney camp’s refutation, but in the story said “the advisers spoke on the condition of anonymity because Mr. Romney’s campaign requested that they not criticise the president to foreign media.”