Political Animal


July 29, 2012 9:49 AM Romney Bungles through Israel

By Ryan Cooper

Fresh on the heels of the epic Romneyshambles disaster that was his trip to London, Romney proceeded to Israel, where he decided to break his word and ban the press from a fundraiser in a public hotel:

Some of Romney’s Jewish donors are flying here from the United States to attend the Jerusalem fundraiser on Monday morning, including Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who has pledged to personally give tens of millions of dollars to a pro-Romney super PAC.
But Romney’s campaign announced Saturday that it would block the news media from covering the event, which will be held at the King David Hotel. The campaign’s decision to close the fundraiser to the press violates the ground rules it negotiated with news organizations in April, when Romney wrapped up the Republican nomination and began opening some of his finance events to the news media.

Reporters were, understandably, rather irritated. So in what is developing into the signature Romney move, he folded like a wet newspaper and let the press in.

Moments later, Romney adviser Dan Senor made an alarmingly vague statement about Israel and potential war with Iran:

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney would “respect” a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran unilaterally should the Islamic republic develop nuclear weapons, Romney’s foreign policy adviser told reporters Sunday.
“If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability the governor would respect that decision,” Dan Senor said at the morning briefing.

Huh?? What in God’s name does he mean by “respect?” Oh wait, nevermind. Didn’t happen:

The campaign then issued a far less ominous clarification from Senor.
“Gov. Romney believes we should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course, and it is his fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so. In the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded. Gov. Romney recognizes Israel’s right to defend itself, and that it is right for America to stand with it,” he said.

Has any presidential candidate ever made such a mess of a simple overseas trip? These should be about the easiest things to do. You go, meet with foreign heads of state, wave, smile, say nice things about the country, see some landmarks, and participate awkwardly in some kitschy local culture. I suppose if you’re visiting Israel you have to swear fealty and all that, but given the longstanding bipartisan consensus there it shouldn’t be big news. Instead, political news is aflame with Romney’s repeated “gaffe —> total retreat” cycle.

It’s bizarre how such a buttoned-down, calculating guy can’t seem to get his mouth under control. Zeke Miller and Tim Noah have more.

Follow Ryan on Twitter and his website.

Ryan Cooper is a National Correspondent at The Week, and a former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @ryanlcooper


  • Charlie on July 29, 2012 10:56 AM:

    Dan Señor was an idiot, know nothing dick when he worked for Bush in Afghanistan and obviously remains so working for Romney. Similar to Bemmer, why anyone would listen to these idiots about anything regarding foreign policy is a mystery.

  • Ken on July 29, 2012 11:00 AM:

    I think it's because the only thing that Romney's career has prepared him for is being surrounded by yes-men. He doesn't know how to react when someone disagrees with him. (That his reaction is to fold is more puzzling.)

  • exlibra on July 29, 2012 11:05 AM:

    Just wait till he gets to Poland. We have never, ever, trusted people who don't drink, because it usually meant the teetotaler was a government secret agent sent to spy out seditious talk.

    The "you don't drink, we don't talk" tradition goes way back to mid 18th century and the beginning of the Partitions and only began to subside after '89. By now, Warsaw has become a bit more civilised -- if you say "can't drink, I'm driving", you might be allowed to escape with just one toast to friendship. But Gdansk, where he, apparently is also planning to go?

  • SteveT on July 29, 2012 11:15 AM:

    I think John McCain traveling to the Middle East in 2008 and proceeding to shatter his reputation for foreign policy "expertise" by repeatedly demonstrating that he didn't even understand the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims was worse.

    Only the fawning, slobbering, donuts-with-sprinkles-gifting Washington press corps spinning the story to tell us what McCain "meant to say" saved McCain's campaign from ending right there.

  • 14All on July 29, 2012 11:16 AM:

    I'm starting to join the crowd who believes he doesn't really want the job. It is, after all, more profitable and less stressful to be a post-presidential-candidate than to be a president.

  • majii on July 29, 2012 11:17 AM:

    Romney's campaign reeks of incompetence. It would seem that with all of the funds flowing into his campaign coffers, he could at least hire competent individuals.

  • AK Liberal on July 29, 2012 11:25 AM:

    Golly, the Nice Polite Republicans on my radio this morning made it sound as if the trip to Israel was going along swimmingly! How badly can it be going if no one hears about it?

  • Ken on July 29, 2012 11:33 AM:

    @exlibra: But Gdansk, where he, apparently is also planning to go?

    My gaffe prediction: he calls it Danzig.

  • Joe Friday on July 29, 2012 11:40 AM:


    If we get a Romney administration, the only thing that would save us would be an alien invasion.

  • bdop4 on July 29, 2012 11:52 AM:

    Unfortunately, given Romney's failure to grasp the complexity of foreign policy issues, I believe that he would take extreme advice such as that offered by Dan Senor. I mean, when you have John Bolton as your primary go-to guy, anything could happen.

  • c u n d gulag on July 29, 2012 11:57 AM:

    Britain, Israel, and Poland, ARE ALLIES!

    And Mitt feck's THAT up?!?!?!

    And he folds to the already sycophantic MSM?
    What were they going to do that their corporate bosses didn't want them to do?

    What's Mitt going to do when he's facing China, Russia, or some of the other worlds nations, who aren't our best pals?

    I can see Putin right now, rubbing his hands in glee, at the very thought of meeting Mitt.

    THAT boy don't play, Mittens!

    If you're not careful, Ol' Vlad will have your wife living as his mistress in his dacha outside of Moscow, your 5 useless kids breaking ice into cubes in some Siberian GULag, your prancing pony in a glue factory, and your fortune in HIS OWN off-shore bank accounts.

  • jjm on July 29, 2012 12:06 PM:

    I think that @Ken is right: Romney is accustomed to be surrounded by 'yes men,' and I doubt anyone is unafraid in his presence: no one is going to buck him and his whims. In the past, kings had courtiers who were specifically 'flatterers' and when they listened exclusively to them, as some did, they failed miserably. (I'm thinking of Bushy, Bagot and Green in Shakespeare's Richard II as an fictional example.)

    To me, the enormous money spent by Romney in this campaign sounds like what Meg Whitman did, outspending Jerry Brown by almost three times, because her million dollar consultants kept telling her that she had a good chance.

    So lots of money buys you lots of 'flatterers' but if you are a fool you are wasting your money.

  • mellowjohn on July 29, 2012 12:07 PM:

    the Irgun – forerunner to today's Likud Party – blew up the King David Hotel in 1946 to because of the "special relationship" they had with Britain back then. wonder if mittens will mention that.

    btw, yiddish has a wonderfully descriptive word for sheldon adelson: MEESKITE – a person ugly both inside and out.

  • leopoldvonranke on July 29, 2012 12:17 PM:

    It appears that, like Rafalka, Mr. Romney is a one trick pony. Knows how to make lots of money. Doesn't know how to make friends and influnce people. If he and the Rs win total control over the federal government and maintain their state dominance, in the immortal words of Margo Channing, "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night."

  • cwolf on July 29, 2012 12:25 PM:

    Hay Mittens,,,
    Just smile real cute and
    Stand there mute.

  • N.Wells on July 29, 2012 12:32 PM:

    Are the Israelis going to pass up to the golden opportunity of complaining to an ex-bishop of a religion that has been posthumously baptizing holocaust victims into a non-Jewish religion?

    Probably. Perhaps some inquisitive reporter could ask him whether or not he approves of the practice.

  • bluestatedon on July 29, 2012 1:14 PM:

    Romney's dick-stepping continues apace in Israel; he backed out of a long-planned meeting with Israeli opposition leader Yacimovich, apparently at the request of Mitt's BF Netanhayhu.


  • burro on July 29, 2012 1:18 PM:

    14All @ 11:16 AM:

    "I'm starting to join the crowd who believes he doesn't really want the job."

    I don't think he wants it for himself near as much as he wants, and feels obligated, to put the mormon church in the White House.

  • bluestatedon on July 29, 2012 1:33 PM:

    "...to put the mormon church in the White House."

    Considering that Mormons believe the Garden of Eden was in Missouri, and that after his resurrection Jesus Christ appeared in North America, it's perhaps not surprising that Mormons might place such importance on gaining the highest office in the country.

  • steve on July 29, 2012 1:41 PM:

    Haven't people seen enough of Mitt to know that the private equity king image is a myth. There is no way this fool was a mover and shaker in that industry. Does it seem even remotely possible that this guy was a hard nosed negotitor. BS. More likely the Church annointed him as the chosen one to lead Mormens over the final hurdle into the mainstream of power. Boy it must pain them that a black made that journey first.

  • burro on July 29, 2012 2:15 PM:

    bluestatedon @ 1:33 PM:

    "...it's perhaps not surprising that Mormons might place such importance on gaining the highest office in the country."

    If FUBARomney wins, the lds will have "arrived" on the world stage. It is a legitimacy they crave and which they know is as powerful a stepping stone as they could ask for on the path to becoming a global pandemic religion such as the ones already in place, which they envy no end.

    Mitt's taxes would show aspects of his relationship to the lds that would demonstrate that his allegiance is far greater to his church than the country he lives in. His reluctance is well warranted. He cannot show his taxes, and will quit before he does, because there are insights there that shine a disturbing light on more than just FUBARomney's personl finances.

    FUBARomney is not a Manchurian Candidate, he's a mormon candidate. He is as close as any mormon has ever come to attaining this very, very, very useful position. He is on the most important mission that he has ever had for his church, and he is going to do whatever he feels its within his power to do, (like lie his ass off perpetually and pathologically), to get himself in a position to provide the church with the power of this position while protecting the church to the nth degree.

  • Diane Rodriguez on July 29, 2012 2:19 PM:

    N.Wells @12:32pm. Great point! Let's hope somebody grows a pair and asks that very question.

  • bluestatedon on July 29, 2012 3:01 PM:

    "Let's hope somebody grows a pair and asks that very question."

    Don't be looking for that from Sheldon Adelson. Romney's allegiance to Greater Israel transcends any quibbles about after-death baptism of Jews.

  • Kathryn on July 29, 2012 7:50 PM:

    I hope the Newsweek cover calling Romney a wimp catches on like Al Gore's earth tones and internet invention did. In Romney case, it's the truth. By the way, why do we only hear about liberal media bias in reporting and not conservative media bias too?

    Romney had to fold on the press availability so they don't turn on him as they did on Gore. Of course, it's world class stupid to try and renege on his deal with them before he had to fold, which seems to define Romney and his campaign.

    Apropos of nothing in particular, have you noticed how Mitt walks, sort of like a toy soldier, straight arms at side, frozen smile, tiny steps?

  • Texas Aggie on July 29, 2012 8:50 PM:

    One reason that he really didn't want to open anything to the Israeli press is that some of them are actual news people, and don't just do stenography. There is a tradition in some of the Israeli press of being fact oriented and less than obsequious when dealing with the authorities. This is not an environment that Romney wants to be immersed in, so you can understand his reluctance.

    He probably made the calculation that keeping them out wasn't going to work and would just make a bad situation worse. This is the same calculation that he has made about releasing his tax returns, that if he did it, it would make a bad situation worse.

  • Patango on July 29, 2012 10:47 PM:


    "Has any presidential candidate ever made such a mess of a simple overseas trip? These should be about the easiest things to do. You go, meet with foreign heads of state, wave, smile,"

    Well , that is how the msm evening news press is presenting it of course , all fuzzy and warm , with no mention of the back stabbing of the u s presidential policies in place at the moment , and all the falsehoods

  • RUsz on July 29, 2012 11:35 PM:

    Charlie Pierce: Mitt Romney on foreign policy is a "blindfolded man in a yard full of rakes."

  • jpeckjr on July 30, 2012 6:32 AM:

    The clarifying statement -- “Gov. Romney believes we should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course . . . etc." is essentially the same policy President Obama has articulated in more diplomatic language and with more caution about a unilateral airstrike by Israel.

    Perhaps this is Mr. Romney's way of not undermining a sitting President while on foreign soil -- allow a staffer to issue a statement contradicting current policy, then issue a clarifying statement that conforms to it.

    Either way, it is an approach that is making Mr. Romney look seriously inept not only in policy but in the interpersonal aspects of foreign affairs.

  • james on July 30, 2012 6:52 AM:

    Will anyone recall that Solidarity emerged from the Polish unions, that Lech Walesa was a union leader, that Gdansk was a union town? Does this mean Mr. Romney is pro-unions?

    I'm sure he is looking at his Poland trip as an opportunity to be anti-communist and pro-Catholic. But he may very well look pro-union as well and that won't go over positively with the Republican industrial complex.

  • bob h on July 30, 2012 7:26 AM:

    According to NPR this morning, Romney told his donors that their culture made them more "financially successful" than the Palestinians. His understanding of Jews in fact doesn't go beyond the stereotypes.

  • jim filyaw on July 30, 2012 8:52 AM:

    willard makes dubya seem like a polymath. unbelievable!