Clearly Mitt Romney is trying to enhance his almost non-existing foreign affairs credentials through an orchestrated trip overseas. If his performance is any indication of what a “President Romney” has to offer, we have seen and heard plenty to know that he will fail miserably. That’s not to say he might not be elected president come November. Everything is possible and the U.S. has a history of being swayed, even overtaken, by the conservative propaganda machine. Just look at George W. Bush’s election in 2000 (even if the jury is still out as to whether it was a “stolen” election or not) and more shocking, his re-election in 2004.
It is not a secret that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has no real foreign affairs experience. Being of the Mormon faith, he suffers from a credibility crisis especially with the powerful evangelicals, major players in the battle for the next president of the United States. Romney was not the GOP’s first choice to run for the presidency. He simply survived all the assaults his own party and fellow party members launched on him and beat the odds to become the official Republican candidate facing incumbent President Barack Obama.
Another vote that can make or break a candidate in a swing state such as Florida is the Jewish vote. Romney’s old friend and colleague is Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. So, it was natural for Romney to plan this trip to Israel to boost his credentials with both the Jewish American and Evangelical voters. It is not clear how many previously undecided ballots this stunt would bring him in November. What we do know now, is that Romney’s true intentions and his missteps were not overlooked by the Israeli press. He was hammered for snubbing Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich, as many believe she poses a serious political threat to Netanyahu. He was also sharply criticized for not meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and for focusing solely on stopping Iran at any cost from attaining nuclear capability without anything substantial to say about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Then there was a fundraiser at the King David Hotel in which he criticized President Obama, promised war on Iran, reportedly collected about a million dollars and sealed his trip pro-Netanyahu not necessarily pro-Israel or its interests as seen by all players.
Unfortunately for Romney, even within the Jewish population in the U.S. and Israel, Netanhyahu is not the popular politician he wishes himself to be or Romney and others hope he is. He’s hawkish and supported by the right wing but Jews are divided in their support for the current government and their views of Netanyahu and other Likud leaders. Plus, all polls indicate that the majority of the Jewish American votes remain on the Democratic side and that is not likely to change any time soon despite all the dramatics and promises Mr. Romney and other Republicans are willing to put forth.
So, during what was supposed to be a short and sweet credential-building diplomatic trip, the presidential hopeful has managed to offend nations and people. In Britain he created a controversy by questioning the country’s “disconcerting” preparedness to host the Olympics. In Israel, instead of acting presidential and engaging all sides, he played internal politics and alienated significant Jewish and Arab leaders, then he offended and angered many by suggesting that the Palestinian culture is inferior to the Jewish culture during his East Jerusalem fundraiser.
As Mitt Romney goes through the last leg of his trip, his aides should start giving him the ultimate advice to speak less as a novice in foreign policy and international affairs. It will be no surprise and a bit of a reprieve if he toned things down or simply remained silent.