Politics may stop at the water’s edge, but being a jerk can be global.
LONDON — Thursday was supposed to be the easy day, when Mitt Romney would audition as a world leader here by talking about his shared values with the heads of the United States’ friendliest ally.
Instead, the Republican presidential candidate insulted Britain as it welcomed the world for the Olympics by casting doubt on London’s readiness for the Games, which open Friday, saying that the preparations he had seen were “disconcerting” and that it is “hard to know just how well it will turn out.”
The comments drew a swift rebuke from Prime Minister David Cameron and, by day’s end, a public tongue-lashing by the city’s mayor 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,” Mayor Boris Johnson cried out to a crowd of at least 60,000. “He wants to know whether we’re ready. Are we ready? Are we ready? Yes, we are.”
Cameron, responding to the candidate with a note of irritation, said that “of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere,” an apparent reference to Salt Lake City. That city held the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, which Romney organized. The prime minister and the mayor are conservatives, making their scolding all the more embarrassing for the candidate, an otherwise sympathetic ideological ally.
It was a difficult start to Romney’s first foray on the international stage as the presumptive Republican nominee, one that was supposed to present him to U.S. voters as a potential commander in chief. Beyond his Olympics remarks, Romney had a series of uncomfortable moments — some of them seemingly minor, but distractions nonetheless.
It didn’t get any easier when the candidate was heard to say, “Hey, how come you all drive on the wrong side of the road, and when do I get to meet this Voldemort fellow I’ve heard so much about?”
Can’t wait to see what happens when he gets to Poland. I’m sure he’s got a lot of hilarious jokes to share with his hosts: “Did you hear about the two Polacks…”