Mitt Romney wrapped up his first foreign tour as presidential candidate today in Poland.
The Republican presidential contender had a chance to shine in his swing through London for the Olympics, as well as Israel and Poland. His appearances in cities of three key U.S. allies should have been a breeze and enhanced his standing as potential commander in chief. Not only did he blow it, he left a trail of controversy behind him, with his hosts feeling obliged to contradict his message on every single stop.
He upset the Palestinians in remarks in which he unfavorably compared the economic performance of Israelis with that of Arabs in the occupied territories, putting the discrepancy down to “culture.”
Then finally, in Poland, where he was welcomed with open arms by former Solidarity leader and ex-President Lech Walesa, the current Solidarity leadership distanced itself from the former Massachusetts governor. The Polish movement made it clear it had no role in organizing the Romney visit, and criticized him for his hostility to unions.
By the end of the trip, Romney aides were showing signs of stress. Asked why he had taken just three questions from American reporters, traveling press secretary Rick Gorka retorted, "Shove it."
Those very words could sum up the attitude of the foreigners he has insulted on his tour. It is incredible that host governments and parties felt the need to speak out against the visiting candidate. Contrast this with the adulation that greeted candidate Obama in 2008 on his own foreign tour.
Will it matter on the campaign trail? Probably not. The election is not going to be won or lost on foreign policy, although some Arab Americans and Polish Americans might think twice before voting. But by exposing himself to ridicule and criticism on his gaffe-laden foreign tour — including a #Romneyshambles hashtag on Twitter — Romney has raised serious questions about his readiness to be president.