A Diplomatic Nightmare
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
To be diplomatic is an ability that you either have instinctively or have learned. After his first 24 hour performance in London, it is fairly evident to most observers that Mitt Romney does not have the instinctive talent and also still has much to learn. While all presidents have staffs which are tasked with insuring that mistakes do not occur, there is little indication so far that Romney either has good staff or—what is more likely—he wants to listen to them. Good, experienced, staffs can make or break a candidate. All campaigns run into mis-speaks and mistakes, but the candidate needs to be more interested in avoiding errors and looking good. While Romney is certainly a remarkable fund-raiser for himself and his party, he repeatedly gives the impression that just does not care about what happens on the ground, because he is entitled to win the election.
The key element that was evident in London was an almost foolish lack of caring. Why would one even deem to say anything negative about the country you are visiting and their public image? He could have queried in private about Olympic security issues but not to Brian Williams or he could have asked David Cameron about the physical and financial strain of the Olympics but not in public. Romney even made it clear he did not know nor—or so it seemed—was interested, in his wife’s horse which is competing in the equestrian competition. Few people know the intimacies of their personal life, but can’t his staff make sure he does not dis his wife’s publically known pleasure. Romney knows she is not going with him to Israel and Poland because of the competition.
Going from Britain to Israel, the advantage Romney now has is that he knows that the Obama-Netanyahu relationship is not warm and fuzzy. Romney is unlikely to meet with people in Israel who will try to qualify Romney’s articulated positions on Iran and or peace negotiations. On this leg of the trip, other than his fundraiser (originally scheduled on Sunday by his ever alert staff during the religious fast day of Tisha b’Av), Romney is appealing to the over 150,000 potential voters Americans residing in Israel, as well as all American Jews; especially those in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
The only people who might be diplomatically miffed on this leg of the trip are the Palestinians and millions of Muslims. While he will be meeting with them in Jerusalem, the Palestinians have a very low expectation from Romney’s visit, even in terms of supportive rhetoric. It is clear so far, that if Romney does not fix his political and diplomatic compass in Israel, some people in the GOP had better make sure that the vice-presidential choice, the Tampa convention, and his acceptance speech are brilliant or even with a non-rebounding economy an Obama re-election will be inevitable.