With the Olympic Games launching, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney decided this would be a good time to fly across the pond and tell the United Kingdom what a hot mess their games actually are.
How bad were his gaffes — yes, plural?
#AmericanBorat is trending on Twitter, as is #RomneyShambles, after he called preparations in London “disconcerting.” He also mused that it is “hard to know just how well it will turn out,” and wondered whether Brits would “come together and celebrate the moment.”
As an added bonus, Romney called a big-time politician “Mister Leader,” which is kind of like calling David Beckham “Mister Soccer” because you cannot remember his name.
Romney needs to shut his piehole on all things Olympic. Ditto for you, Mr. President and your Super PAC attack ads featuring the Olympic rings.
Leave the games alone.
Pols dominate September and October with snarky political-ad warfare, spending more than 60 days interrupting TV time with half-truths, flat-out lies and accusations of everything from not being born in America to being wealthy.
Can’t we just have two weeks of sport without ugly American politics interfering?
Why, of course not.
I am all for patriotism and totally agree with not dipping the American flag when passing by the Queen of England when the US delegation passed in the opening ceremonies. As I have noted again and again, we handled that question in the Revolutionary War. We do not bow to their Queen.
Nor do I believe the Olympics is this sacrosanct place that International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge pretends it is. If you’re an athlete, go ahead, thrust fists into the night sky for civil rights. Have a moment for silence the Munich Massacre. Stand up for animal rights, pay for Olympic play, gay marriage, anti-abortion or whatever is your flavor of activism. This is your moment in the spotlight.
Obama and Romney get plenty of spotlight — and besides, they weren’t supporting anyone’s rights. They were hitching a ride on the games for personal and political gain.
There is just no reason to start a slap fight with our good friends and allies, the Brits, about whether they are excited enough about trampoline coming to a venue near them — a venue likely unreachable by car thanks to Olympic lanes, or by Tube because of crowds, or in general because of price tag.
They get to criticize the Olympics if they want without Romney jumping them. And I am not so sure he correctly read this vibe, because every single Londoner I have met in pubs and on the tubes and in parks seems really excited.
What is most crazy about this is that Romney arrived in Britain, friendliest of friendly starting points for his look-I-can-do-foreign-policy whistle-stop tour, to show his deftness with international relations. This was supposed to be his I’m-better-than-that-guy moment, and he botched it royally.
How badly did this play across the pond?
Prime Minister David Cameron, normally a model of British stoicism, responded by saying, “Of course, it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere,” an obvious reference to Romney’s Games in Salt Lake City in 2002.
English newspapers on Friday morning were even less friendly, calling him “Nowhere man Romney” and “party-pooper Romney,” and labeling the incident “Romneyshambles” and “omnishambles.” And the final indignity was The Times quoting a British diplomat as saying Romney’s gaffes were “worse than Palin.”
This is terribly unfair to Palin, by the way.
And while the president’s gaffe was not quite as bad and did not technically come out of his mouth, it is not a good day when the United States Olympic Committee issues a politely worded verbal cease-and-desist order about him using the rings in his political attack ads on Romney.
I never saw one, but the gist apparently was that the flag bearers went marching by from places like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, and the PAC implied Romney had money buried there. They have since taken it down, but it makes you wonder why pols have to pull everything into their silliness.
It is not simply that athletes like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt and double-amputee and South African Olympian, Oscar Pistorius, deserve a couple of weeks where we focus on them.
This is about the bigger issue of the corrosive nature of our politics. We are so used to the nasty ways in which the blues and reds talk to each other about big issues and non-issues and everything in between that it has stopped shocking us. It is only when it happens abroad that it dawns on us how ugly our discourse is.
Would it have been so hard for Romney to say “London is lovely. Enjoy the games?" Of course not, but our politicians thrive in a climate where if you did not think of it, if you did not run on it and if you are not in favor of it, then you yell incredibly loud and talk incredibly mean even if it is working.
And this may be how we idiotically have agreed to treat one another, but it is not how you treat your friends.