Jul 31, 2012.
Well, what can he possibly say in Poland? Maybe he'll tell a joke. No, wait ...
Mitt Romney headed to Europe last week as a wannabe statesman, ready to prove his stuff on the world stage. So far, though, his tryout as leader of the free world looks like a YouTube spoof scripted by the Obama campaign.
What would Mitt Romney do on Day One?
He showed us. On Day One in London, he torqued off the Brits by calling them unprepared to put on the Olympics, earning him a new nickname in the U.K.: "Mitt the Twit."
He then went on to question whether the British people, who worried openly that having gobs of foreign tourists gumming up transit in one of the busiest cities in the world might really be a royal pain in the Tube, would get in the proper Olympic spirit.
Then he went to Israel -- and not just to raise a gazillion bucks from the friends of the Las Vegas casino owner who seems intent on single-handedly buying the White House for any Republican who passes by with a hand out. He did that, too, of course. Why not? But this was a diplomatic mission, of sorts. So Mitt showed off that silver tongue yet again.
He told the assembled group of donors that the Palestinians are culturally inferior. That's why their economic situation is so bad.
His exact comment:
"If you could learn anything from the economic history of the world, it's this: Culture makes all the difference," Romney said. "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."
Of course, Mitt is nothing if not an equal opportunity offender. He may be half a globe away, but that doesn't mean he can’t take a poke at the "inferior" folks of Latin America while he's dishing out slurs.
"As you come here and you see the G.D.P. per capita, for instance, in Israel, which is about $21,000, and compare that with the G.D.P. per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality. And that is also between other countries that are near or next to each other. Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and the United States."
Somehow, Mitt's comments about the Palestinians got a strong reaction.
"It is a racist statement and this man doesn't realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation," Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, told the Associated Press. "It seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people."
When the Mitt hit the fan, again, his campaign folks rushed into disaster cleanup mode. They said Romney's comments were taken out of context.
"This was not in any way an attempt to slight the Palestinians and everyone knows that," Stuart Stevens, a senior strategist, told the New York Times.
For folks who don't speak politico, that translates roughly to: "Holy @#$%! He said WHAT?!! ... Quick, um, blame the ears! They heard it wrong! ... No? ... OK. Tell them it was out of context. He said a whole lot more, just not out loud -- in his head."
You gotta feel sorry for them. What was he thinking? Maybe it's OK to get your facts wrong (and not just some of them -- ALL of them). Who's going to know Palestinians, who live in a society dominated by Israel, make only about $2,000 a year, not $10,000 like Romney said? Who's going to second-guess you when you say the per capita GDP for Israelis is $21,000 instead of the $32,282 it really is? Or ignore the fact that the World Bank declared that Israel's security restrictions "stymie investment" in the Palestinian territories?
Those are just details. The point was: "Culture makes all the difference."
How could anyone be offended by that? Just because it ignores the fact that Israel controls all the cargo going in and out of the Palestinian territories (except for one pedestrian crossing between Gaza and Egypt) -- that's no big thing. Who worries that a major chunk of the West Bank economy relies on international aid -- that has to come through those Israeli military checkpoints? How can it matter than some roads there are for Israelis only, or that the Israeli military can suddenly shut down the Palestinian territories at will, and block the transportation of goods for as long as Israel wants?
So what? The point is, "Culture makes all the difference."
Of course, just as he did in England, Mitt didn't stop there.
As sticky, enduring, and volatile as the Israeli- Palestinian relationship is, Romney tromped in with both boots on one of the biggest sore spots - - Jerusalem. Romney called the ancient city Israel's capital, and vowed to move the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Whoa! Red alert!
Jerusalem, and Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem after the 1967 Middle East War, is one of the snarliest points of contention in the Middle East peace process. Tossing it off as a foregone conclusion might be good fodder for a fundraiser, but it's hardly good diplomacy in a complicated political situation.
Well, that's behind him now. His staff can breathe easy. Romney's in Poland. What could go wrong?
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