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. mcskadittle

    tykl: its funny you are upset that he hasn't visted isreal but if he went then you would bi chn about the cost

    July 31, 2012 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  2. REDO Republican Primary

    Just Change for another candidate that can relate better with people. This guy Romney sucks!!

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

    He wasn't even close to politically correct or polite...imagine him in a Middle Eastern country or (shudder) Chuna! Hah!

    What an international maroon!

    July 31, 2012 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  4. Evn

    It's not surprising that a candidate out of touch with ordinary Americans is also out of touch with the rest of the world. But between not answering questions from reporters and when he does say something needing to restate, clarify, or correct what he meant, the candidate is really good at political comedy. His handlers could use a lesson in cvility too.

    July 31, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  5. Expat American

    It’s not only Team Obama that is saying this…..There are Republicans who agree too that Romney’s ‘Listen and Learn’ trip was a little less than impressive.

    July 31, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  6. RealityBites

    Of course.., this is what we expect from the team that promoted Hope and Change..., a real 'embarrassing disaster'

    July 31, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  7. Jayson

    Nothing that Romney did comes close to some other amazing misteps Obama has committed during his presidency.

    Romney unlike Obama made it clear where he stands when it comes to certain American allies that have been given the cold shoulder by this administration. Where better to visit than Poland, whom Obama pulled the rug out from underneath them with the missile shield, or Israel.....

    July 31, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  8. Gumby

    Circuit malfunction...reboot, REBOOT!

    July 31, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  9. Expat American

    The only thing Romney didn’t do was ride into Jerusalem on his dressage horse wearing a Borat-Kini.

    July 31, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  10. Wake up people

    Didn't Robmey quit governing MA to run for POTUS??? Stop your lies and focus on the truth. Mitt is a lying flip flopping, draft dodging war monger. President Obama has more intelligence and diplomacy in his pinky toe than Willard has in his entire spoiled, pathetic body.

    OBAMA 2012!

    July 31, 2012 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  11. Myviewis

    Romney did fine, Olympics have had problems, Palestinians took it personal and truthfully they can't deny their troubles in their society (everyone knows this in Europe), Romney won't apologize for America as Obama apologized for America. Bottom line, our economy is in chaoes, unemployment is very high and people just want jobs. People are tired of not having money, borrowing money and Americans are no longer positive of the future of our their lives, their kids and our country. People are tired of it.

    July 31, 2012 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  12. Jon

    What is Obama doing about Syria ... and today his announcements about Iran ... ok, what is that going to do ... Obama's reaction to Iran is like one little boy in an arguement on the play ground saying to the other ... "OK I am going to get more mad if you hit me again. I am warning you."

    July 31, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  13. vic , nashville ,tn

    @ remember the past
    World Most popular Americans politicians are

    Barack Obama , Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton

    Worst are G.W.Bush and Dick Cheney

    Stop watching FOX read the world news

    July 31, 2012 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  14. Rudy NYC

    He's a salesman, not a diplomat.

    July 31, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  15. politics as usual

    How do you spell "disaster"? O-B-A-M-A

    July 31, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  16. Meme

    These comments are coming from the joke of Foreign Diplomacy and Foreign affairs. Give me a break! Obama and his team must live in fantasy land! The embassment comes from an admistration that send drones out and kills mothers and children and let dictators kill their own people as they play political footies.

    July 31, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  17. Sniffit

    "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."

    And if he did something like he did with respect to Libya, you'd be vomitting talking opints about how awful he is for getting us involved, like you did then. What would you have suggested we do that wouldn't have involved bombing the country's infrastructure to rubble, kililng random civilians as collateral damage and spending billions and billions of dollars that you would have added to Obama's "tab" and then blamed him for spending?

    July 31, 2012 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  18. American

    Team Romney's disastrous trip:

    • Anglo Saxon – waters edge failure
    • Repeatedly insulting our British allies at the Olympics
    • Divulging a secret MI6 meeting
    • Offending Palestinians with Mitt's 'culture' nonsense
    • Exclaiming "kiss my a**" at a Polish holy site. Etc.

    As Charles Krathammer said of Romney, "Unbelievable." An epic fail & embarrassment on the world stage.

    July 31, 2012 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    Romney is like the Inspector Cloeseau of American politics. I'm almost shocked that there isn't an unintended neuclear blast in his rear view mirrior as he flys home.

    July 31, 2012 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  20. David Scottsdale, AZ

    Romney is like the Inspector Cloeseau of American politics. I'm almost shocked that there isn't an unintended nuclear blast in his rear view mirrior as he flys home.

    July 31, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  21. Myviewis

    vic , nashville ,tn

    @ remember the past
    World Most popular Americans politicians are

    Barack Obama , Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton

    Worst are G.W.Bush and Dick Cheney

    Stop watching FOX read the world news

    Better yet, stop watching TV, get on plane to Europe or Asia and find out for yourself that Clintons, Obama are not so popular among the people, okay maybe Obama but that's because they don't think of him as American but African/Indonesian (yes he was born in Hawaii but they don't see Hawaii as American either).

    July 31, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  22. Sniffit

    "Romney unlike Obama made it clear where he stands when it comes to certain American allies that have been given the cold shoulder by this administration"

    And which allies would that be? Israel? Sorry, but top Israeli officials already pooped on your talking point yesterday by stating that Obama has done more to support Israeli security than people most administrations they could remember. Do try to keep up, champ.

    July 31, 2012 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  23. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    The only success Romney had was shaking hands, putting on his clothes, combing his hair and getting his behind back on an airplane headed home. That's it, if anyone else thinks he did fine then they are out of their mind.

    July 31, 2012 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  24. Etch-A-Sketch Mitt RobMe Out-sourcing-Jobs Outsourcing-his-Money and Outsourcing America

    its the media's obama's fault....mitt robme went global to "listen & learn" but he ended up "talking too much & insulting and disrespecting" everyone!!!

    when is mitt the wimp gonna grow some spin and stand up for anything?...guess you can't constantly flip & flop and crap waffles all over the global stage like a "well lubriacted weathervane"!.....mitt the twit is a HUGE EMBARRASSMENT!!!!

    July 31, 2012 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  25. vic , nashville ,tn

    Disaster for Mitt Romney ,He told abc news that he was audited by IRS

    July 31, 2012 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
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