Team Obama: Romney trip an 'embarrassing disaster'
July 31st, 2012
03:01 PM ET
10 years ago

Team Obama: Romney trip an 'embarrassing disaster'

(CNN) - A few hours after Mitt Romney departed Poland to return to the United States, President Barack Obama's re-election campaign piled on to its criticism of the presumptive GOP nominee's foreign trip, calling it an "embarrassing disaster."

"As he left, he set the lowest expectations imaginable for a foreign trip," said Robert Gibbs, senior Obama campaign adviser. "He certainly didn't prove to anyone that he passed the commander-in-chief test."

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In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Gibbs railed Romney over what the Obama campaign described as a gaffe-filled trip, which began Wednesday in the United Kingdom, continued this weekend in Israel and concluded Tuesday in Poland.

Romney took heat for making comments that some groups found offensive. In London, the former Massachusetts governor seemed to question the preparedness of the country for the 2012 Olympic Games, sparking a wave of negative headlines about the candidate in the British press.

"You know it's hard to know just how well it will turn out," he said in an interview with NBC News, explaining that issues with a private security contractor and labor issues were "disconcerting."

Days later, a prominent Palestinian leader labeled Romney's remarks at a Jerusalem fund-raiser "racist." Romney had made a comparison between the per capita GDPs of Israel and Palestinian-controlled areas, pointing to culture as an important factor in economic success.

Citing the book "The Wealth and Poverty of Nations," Romney detailed his interpretation of author David Landes' thesis.

"He says if you can learn anything from the economic history of the world, it's this: culture makes all the difference. Culture makes all the difference. And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things," Romney said.

Palestinian negotiator Sa'eb Erekat said Romney's "racist statements about the Israeli culture being superior to the Palestinian culture reflect someone who needs to be educated, who needs knowledge."

Romney on Tuesday staunchly argued he was not insulting Palestinian culture.

"I'm not speaking about, did not speak about, the Palestinian culture, or the decisions made in their economy," Romney clarified in an interview with Fox News. "That's an interesting topic that deserves scholarly analysis, but I actually didn't address that. I certainly don't plan to address that during my campaign. Instead, I will point out, the choices a society makes have a profound impact on the economy and the vitality of that society."

Team Obama, however, said Romney's dust-ups with the press and various groups overseas suggested the candidate was not ready for the "world stage."

They highlighted then-Sen. Barack Obama's foreign trip as a presidential candidate in the summer of 2008. While Romney was criticized for not taking questions from the traveling press on Monday, Gibbs was quick to point out that Obama held four press conferences and participated in seven network interviews.

To be fair, Romney held at least as many network interviews during his weeklong trip, meeting with CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX and ABC, and granting more than one interview to several of those networks.

Gibbs on the call, however, argued Romney failed to clearly assert his foreign policy positions during the tour, limiting many of his visits to brief photo opportunities with foreign leaders.

"It is clear that the opportunity to credential his beliefs with American voters was nothing short for Mitt Romney of an embarrassing disaster on this trip," Gibbs said.

However, Romney made headlines in Israel when his campaign asserted the candidate would "respect" a decision by Israel to attack Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program. He also talked tough on defending Israel against Iran, making foreign policy points that closely mirror those of the Obama administration.

Responding to the conference call, Romney's campaign defended the candidate and turned the spotlight on Obama, saying the president has "weakened" foreign relationships.

"Mitt Romney will be a president who unapologetically stands up for America and the enduring values of freedom," said Romney spokesman Ryan Williams. "President Obama has weakened America's position in the world and frayed relationships with our closest allies – all while earning effusive praise from the likes of Hugo Chavez. Governor Romney has laid out a foreign policy that will strengthen our interests, ensure our security, and let our friends know they have a partner in the White House."

Not only did Obama's campaign take time to criticize the trip, commentary also came from the White House on Tuesday. After first declining to answer questions about Romney's foreign trip, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney still couldn't help but wade into his own musings on the purpose of a president's overseas tour.

"What I can tell you, having been both a reporter covering foreign trips by candidates as well as incumbent presidents, and now as a staffer, I understand that these are high stakes enterprises – that pulling them off is a lot harder than it looks, that they can be very tense, especially if they are not going well," Carney said in the White House daily press briefing.

Carney avoided making direct comments about Romney's trips, saying he would leave it to Obama's re-election campaign to make a "broad assessment." But Carney continued, emphasizing the weight that these trips carry.

"I think one thing news reports remind us of is that when American presidents, American senators and congressmen and would-be leaders–what they say is placed under a magnifying glass. It carries great impact," he said.

- CNN's Kevin Liptak and Gregory Wallace contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2012 • Israel • Mitt Romney • Poland • President Obama • Robert Gibbs
soundoff (105 Responses)
  1. tykl

    Which trip? The one where he went to the countries that Obama has not been to or has insulted?

    July 31, 2012 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  2. Bill

    Maybe Mittens shoould have just stayed home. But no, he had to pretend to be a stateman and look what it got him.

    July 31, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  3. Remembers the Past

    For Obamas team to criticize anyone about foreign policy/relations is a joke. Look at Syria, and how the Obama administration has done absolutely nothing. When a foreign dictator ala Hitler can carelessly kill its own civilians and we as a nation do absolutely nothing, its a disgrace. Clinton and Obama will both go down as being the worst US foreign relations people in the history of the U.S.

    July 31, 2012 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  4. Barbara Frank

    This guy Romney is going to cause war.. over there in MiddleEast...

    His negative and aggressive posturing caused issues even for our allies like Great Britian

    July 31, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  5. Larry L


    Which trip? The one where he went to the countries that Obama has not been to or has insulted?
    Was this comment supposed to have any meaning? Romney made a fool of himself in each of the locations he visited. Read his comments! Turn off Fox News and think. He's exactly like "W" – just more spoiled, completely without any actual convictions, and lacking any measurable level of honesty. Republican fat-cats bought a really, really poor candidate and now they're simply putting lipstick on a pig.

    July 31, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  6. Rupublican supporter of President Obama

    So true and I would use harsher language to describe this fiasco.

    The man has proven yet again he is not presidential nor capable of ascending to the level of a world leader.

    July 31, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  7. souptwins

    Obama knows all about "embarrassing foreign trips", especially to Poland. He spoke the truth in GB but the Brit's were to hyper-nervous and got their nose bent. In Israel, he fulfilled a promise to visit where someone else hasn't and reaffirmed our partnership. In Poland, he got the backing from Walesa who spoke for other countries in wishing him success because the world needs him to be successful. Even if you think this was a bad trip for him, a bad trip is better than a bad presidency.

    July 31, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  8. joe

    Romney's trip reminded me of Rowan Atkinson's performance at the Olympic opening ceremony. Perhaps he is in the wrong profession.

    July 31, 2012 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  9. Toby McDooogan

    Everyone... ALL EYES OFF THE ECONOMY PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It's the only hope we have of reelecting Obama. Share this with your friends, please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 31, 2012 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    Haha. Strike the hammer while iron is hot....

    July 31, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  11. Etch-A-Sketch Mitt RobMe Out-sourcing-Jobs Outsourcing-his-Money and Outsourcing America

    mitt robme is a serial gaffe machine and sarah palin without the hair extensions and the pig lipstick...take that to the CAYMEN ISLAND, BERMUDA & SWISS BANK ACCOUNTS!!!

    July 31, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  12. Conrad Shull

    Apparently he didn't pass the normal "lie out your butt" requirement that Gibbs believes Presidents should possess.

    July 31, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  13. romneycares less

    He knows NOTHING about diplomacy! Only how to make a quick buck!

    July 31, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  14. The Real Tom Paine


    Which trip? The one where he went to the countries that Obama has not been to or has insulted?
    Which countries has he insulted? Has Obama questioned the work ethic of entire nations or cultures, like the Mormon aristocrat? Please, junior, no president has vistied Israel their first term, and I would have thought that Ehud Barak's comments about how effective the partnership has actually been would have kept the rightie spin machine happy-oh who am I kidding? The Right would complain if there was a single cloud in the sky, they are so filled with hate.

    July 31, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  15. dreucalypt

    Romney acts like someone who has never spoken to someone he didn't have power over. He never had to learn how to behave diplomatically, and he thinks he will never have to.

    July 31, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  16. Conrad Shull

    Apparently he didn't pass the normal "lie out your posterior" requirement that Gibbs believes Presidents should possess. (third time I've had to post. Two words for posterior starting with A and B and followed by asterisks are no-no's)

    July 31, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  17. ja

    thank God, we discovered this before nov 4th, it takes more than deep pockets to be president, though we have had some anomalies

    July 31, 2012 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  18. Jon

    If Romney found a gold nugget big enough to pay the national debt and donated it to the federal government to pay off the debt ... Obama and team would complain that he should have found two.

    There is nothing that Romney can do that Obama and company would not complain about or make fun of. One thing that can be said ... When Romney takes a job he finishes and show up ... you can not say taht about Obama, who started to run for President the day he got elected to the US Senate ... But no one talks about all the votes he missed while he was campaigning.

    July 31, 2012 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  19. IrvineCAvoter

    This Mitt is not what he seems. Now he is spreading Polish propaganda. He's a total loser.


    July 31, 2012 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  20. The Other Dale

    The only humor to be found here is that this was hyped by Romney's campaign as the big end-all that would show how presidential he is ... and now Romney comes back complaining about all the media attention. He wanted the attention and he got it. Say goodbye to your campaign, Romney, cause this was your last-ditch effort to change people's minds and all you did was embarrass the country. Oh, and collected a million dollars, so nice going there.

    July 31, 2012 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  21. king

    the right wingers going to go buck wild on this announcement by the president. it always amazes me how the right wing can justify seemingly unjustifiable events and somehow blame the president for their mess ups. all the repubs going to do is do like they did last time, just get the gullibles mad as hell over something they themselves are doing and blame obama. just like they held this country up for the past 4 years, and scream bloody hell the country is going to hell when they are the real purpretrators. they said its obama's fault. they are the minority yet they want 100 percent of the policies goes their way all the time. or theyll cry like a baby. i thought the majority should have the most of their way, since we are a democratic country. but dont tell that to the teabagging driven repubs, theyll get super hot if they dont get 98 percent of what they want.

    July 31, 2012 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  22. CryBabies

    Robert Gibbs??????? Has the Democratic Party put him to work again? If so, it doesn't speak well for you fact he can hardly speak at all.

    July 31, 2012 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  23. Jon

    Lastly ... why does the Media think they have a right to chase after a candidate or any famous person and hound them with questions. If a person wants to talk to the press, they have a press conference. If the press wants to report on what the person is doing ... report on it, but what gives them the right to interfer with any activity or event that the person has planned.

    What do you think Obama would do if the press followed him asking him questions just before he started his swing on his next hole of golf? Obama plays golf as part of his job ... Romney will work to create jobs as part of his job.

    July 31, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  24. John Spencer

    "Embarassing Disaster" Just what in the hell do you call Obama's idocy for the past 31/2 years?

    July 31, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  25. Etch-A-Sketch Mitt RobMe Out-sourcing-Jobs Outsourcing-his-Money and Outsourcing America

    mitt robme goes to a rich uppity neighborhood and he had his coy smile on, saying, "Why you people live so well, so graciously, with trees of the right height, car garages with elevators ... but look at them them across town in poor white thrash hood! They live in poverty and squalor! It must be the CULTURE!!!!

    July 31, 2012 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
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