Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s recent trip abroad was meant to demonstrate foreign policy expertise and diplomatic skills.
Instead it showed Romney as bumbling and offending the British and the Palestinians.
It started in London the host of the 2012 Olympic Games, where Romney insulted his host by saying there were some “disconcerting “problems associated with the organizing of the Olympics.
His unwelcome comments unleashed a media firestorm in Britain and a stinging rebuke from British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Cameron, said that “it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere,” a clear reference to Salt Lake City, where Romney ran the 2002 Winter Games.
The Daily Mail newspaper quoted anonymous British officials as saying the presumptive Republican nominee trip was a disaster and that he was “worse than Sarah Palin.”
In Israel, Romney’s insults were far more serious and dangerous.
Romney created controversy by dismissing Palestinians claims to Jerusalem and implying that their culture — and not Israeli military occupation — was responsible for the economic gap between Israelis and Palestinians.
By agreeing with Israel’s position that Jerusalem is its capital Romney is accepting a view that is not internationally recognized.
Romney said that the reason Israelis are so much more economically successful than the Palestinians is that “culture makes all the difference.” He said he came by this expert understanding of the region by recently reading a book on the subject on how neighboring nations can have vastly different economic success.
The authors say Romney misinterpreted their book.
Palestinian officials denounced Romney’s simplistic assertions of a complex region.
“Yesterday, he destroyed negotiations by saying Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and today he is saying Israeli culture is more advanced that Palestinian culture,” said Saeb Erekat, a top Palestinian official. “Isn’t this racism?”
As the Associated Press accurately pointed out “ He (Romney) made no mention of the fact that Israel has controlled the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem since capturing them in the 1967 war, a presence that the World Banks and International Monetary Fund both say limits the economy’s potential for growth there.”
The language of cultural superiority has long been used against oppressed people everywhere. There are numerous reasons for the economic success of nations including military occupation, colonization, geopolitics, laws and governance.
In his trip abroad Romney expressed a worldview that demonstrated political insensitivity and historical ignorance.