Here’s some unsolicited advice for Mitt Romney for the remainder of his overseas swing: Have some kind words ready for your host countries’ leaders when you meet with them in Poland and Israel in the coming days and try sour cream with your blintzes and mustard on your kielbasa.
Doing and saying anything more may be tempting fate in light of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s masterpiece of an unforced error in London on Thursday. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and head of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, should be reveling in the pageantry and excitement of the opening of the Summer Olympics.
Instead, he and his aides are trying to clean up the diplomatic mess he made yesterday after his gratuitous remarks to NBC News anchor Brian Williams casting doubt on London’s readiness for the Games, saying that the preparations and security he had seen were “disconcerting” and that it is “hard to know just how well it will turn out."
"There are a few things that were disconcerting -- the stories about the private security firm not having enough people, supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials; that obviously is not something which is encouraging," Romney said.
The comments clearly irked Prime Minister David Cameron and London’s feisty mayor, Boris Johnson, who by day’s end gave Romney a public tongue lashing as the Olympic torch arrived in Hyde Park: “I hear there’s a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we’re ready. Are we ready/ Are we ready/ yes, we are.”
Romney worked to douse the controversy today, scheduling an interview at Olympic Park to quell the storm of criticism over his comment that the city appeared to be unprepared to host the games. “After being here a couple of days, it looks to me like London’s ready,” he told NBC’s “Today” program. “What they’ve done that I find so impressive is they took the venues and put them right in the city.”
But the episode provided more grist for the narrative that the former Bain Capital executive is inept and gaffe prone, and has trouble capitalizing on even the most benign of events. And it invites harsh, unfavorable comparisons to President Obama’s July 2008 trip to Europe and the Middle East – when Obama was the Democratic presidential nominee -- including his speech at the Victory Column in Berlin before a crowd estimated at 200,000 people.
Of course it’s not that Obama has been gaffe free. This is the president, of course, who said recently that the private sector is doing “fine” in the midst of the economic slowdown; who boasted in 2008 campaign that he had campaigned in “57 states” and still had one to go, and who said that “People get bitter and cling to guns and religion” during a 2008 West Coast fundraiser.
But it is hard to top Romney’s growing library of gaffes and regrettable statements that have haunted his campaign and provided bountiful fodder for his Democratic critics. The list is long, but here are ten of the most often cited statements as compiled by About.com:
1. "Corporations are people, my friend… of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to the people. Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People's pockets. Human beings, my friend." — Romney said to a heckler at the Iowa State Fair who suggested that taxes should be raised on corporations as part of balancing the budget (August 2011)
2. "I like being able to fire people who provide services to me." – Romney said while advocating for consumer choice in health insurance plans (January 2012)
3. "I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there." — Romney said during a Republican debate (January 2012)
4. "He [Obama] says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It's time for us to cut back on government and help the American people." — Romney at a campaign event in Council Bluffs, Iowa,. ( June 8, 2012)
5. "I'll take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry's come back." – Romney said about the American auto industry, despite having written a New York Times op-ed in 2008 titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt," in which he said if GM, Ford and Chrysler got a government bailout "you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye"
6. "I'll tell you what, ten-thousand bucks? $10,000 bet?" – Romney, attempting to make a wager with Rick Perry during a Republican presidential debate to settle a disagreement about health care (December 2011)
7. "I should tell my story. I'm also unemployed." —Mitt Romney, speaking in 2011 to unemployed people in Florida. Romney's net worth is over $200 million.
8. "[My wife] drives a couple of Cadillacs." – Romney, campaigning for president in Michigan (February 2012)
9. "I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that's the America millions of Americans believe in. That's the America I love." – Romney (January 2012)
10. "PETA is not happy that my dog likes fresh air." — Romney in 2007, responding to criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals following revelations that he had once put the family dog in a carrier and strapped it to the roof of his car during a 12-hour road trip.