Mitt Romney hadn’t yet played the first gig on his world tour, and already his campaign was in damage control mode. It all began with a story yesterday morning in The Telegraph, a London newspaper long considered friendly to conservatives. In a page one story, an unnamed Romney foreign policy adviser contended that Romney, unlike President Obama, would be a great friend to Great Britain. The money quote: “We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special. The (Obama) White House doesn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.”The reporter deadpanned that the adviser’s remark “may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity.” Which was a decorous British way of saying that the remark was a racist dog whistle, given the fact that Anglo-Saxon is a term that typically connotes white, whereas the White House is occupied a black guy whose dad was from Africa and who thus cannot “fully appreciate” that shared Anglo-Saxon history.So much for Romney’s vow to honor the adage that domestic politics ends at the water’s edge. So much for his promise not to attack the president on foreign soil – but wait, let me amend that. Romney himself intends to keep that promise (he said in London last night, ” I don’t want to be in any way critical of the president…while I’m on foreign soil”), but apparently it’s fine if his unnamed campaign minions to the dirty work, complete with racist coding.Still, on day one of his global trot, Team Romney had to scramble to distance itself from that “Anglo-Saxon” remark. It didn’t specifically deny that the remark had been made, nor did it claim that whoever said it was not tied somehow to the Romney camp. Instead, this was the official line from HQ: “If anyone said that, they weren’t reflecting the views of Governor Romney or anyone inside the campaign.”Oh please. The “Anglo-Saxon” remark was merely a cruder manifestation of the toxic message that Romney has long sought to convey – that Obama is too different, too exotic, and too foreign to be a real American. Just last week, one of Romney’s top surrogates said, “I wish this president would learn how to be an American.” Also last week, Romney himself that of Obama, “His course is extraordinarily foreign” because he “doesn’t understand America.”It doesn’t take a genius to decode the real message behind the subliminal message. The adviser quoted in The Telegraph screwed up only because he lacked the requisite verbal finesse.Whether the Brits will be impressed by the paean to Anglo-Saxon bonding is anyone’s guess; when Anglo-Saxon George W. Bush was in the White House, his idea of a “special relationship” was to treat Prime Minister Tony Blair as his faithful doggy, dragging Blair into his disastrous Iraq invasion and ultimately destroying Blair’s political career.More broadly, it’s debatable whether Romney can leverage his six-day global tour to buttress his non-existent foreign policy creds with the voters back home; according to the latest bipartisan NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll, Obama tops Romney by 15 percentage points when Americans are asked which guy would be better on the world stage. Indeed, the “Anglo-Saxon” quote wasn’t even the most telling item in the Telegraph story. Farther down, the reporter wrote this:”The advisers could not give detailed examples of how policy towards Britain would differ under Mr. Romney. One conceded that on the European crisis, ‘I’m not sure what our policy response is.'” That’s brilliant. The Eurozone is in crisis, to the point where it threatens the American recovery, and Britain’s economic austerity policies are threatening to worsen its domestic recession, yet the Romney advisers had nothing to say. And if that’s not embarrassing, consider the incident that occurred yesterday in Washington, where Romney foreign policy maven Rich Williamson warned that we need to be careful about Syria because that nation is “strategically important to the Soviet Union.”Thus making him the third person in the Romney camp (including Romney) to make specific reference to a country that has not existed since 1991. If these Anglo-Saxons really wish to be viewed as superior to the Other in the White House, perhaps they can start by leaving their Cold War mindset in the previous century.
It’s clear that Romney can’t dodge the tax return issue simply by flying to distant shores. Another bellwether conservative organ, the New Hampshire Union Leader, declared today on its editorial page that Mitt has to open up and show us the money, in multiple years:
“Maintaining the secrecy creates the impression, justly or not, that there is something there to hide. No escaping that reality. The impression is there. And it will cost Romney votes he cannot afford to lose. Those voters might not cast their ballots for Obama, but not voting can be just as damaging. And yes, for using the tax dodges and loopholes legally available to him, he might lose votes as well.”
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