Did you know that Mitt Romney is also an anagram of “My, I’m rotten?” That little anagram is thanks to the creative musings of a British nation who took great offense when the presidential candidate asked if London were ready for the 2012 Olympics. Mitt Romney had an embarrassing few days in London in the run-up to the 2012 Games.
Romney’s comments provoked outrage from the nation, the prime minister, and the mayor of London who publicly jabbed him at an Olympic rally in Hyde Park. He even had sparked his own hashtag that trended for a whole day (#romneyshambles). Team Romney may contend that this is unfair, and perhaps the Brits are just overestimating their importance in America. But what it has exposed is a lack of diplomatic tact, that raises concerns over Romney’s ability to connect with American allies.
For years the Anglo-American relationship (the so-called “special relationship”) has been an obsession for British political academics. Observers are always eager to compare the Anglo-American relationship over the years from Thatcher-Reagan to Blair-Bush, and for years the general assumption has been that the U.K. is nothing more than a poodle bowing down to the diplomatic beck and call of its American “pal” across the pond.
The whole Romney debacle started with a mini press conference with the Labour Party’s Ed Miliband where the presidential hopeful showed bad diplomatic form after he ostensibly forgot Miliband's name and called him “Mr. Leader.” Some have been quick to point out that it is perfectly normal to call someone “Mr. Leader” in the United States.
For the uninitiated, Ed Miliband is the leader of the opposition, and recent opinion polls have put him in the lead ahead of current Prime Minister David Cameron. He was elected leader of the Labour Party following the party’s election defeat in 2010, which saw a tense leadership battle that pitted him against his older brother for the job.
Romney also said that he was better placed in the transatlantic relationship because of a shared “Anglo-Saxon heritage,” which has led to accusations that the comment was racially tinged.
Romney even revealed that he had meetings with the head of the British secret service (which isn’t a typical British practice).
But it didn’t stop there. Journalists were just as quick to point out that in his book No Apology he said: "England (sic) is just a small island. Its roads and houses are small. With few exceptions, it doesn't make things that people in the rest of the world want to buy. And if it hadn't been separated from the continent by water, it almost certainly would have been lost to Hitler's ambitions."
And in Kristen Stewart fashion he issued a close to grovelling apology for his comments insisting that he has Welsh ancestry insisting it was an “honest mistake.” Well cheating is an honest mistake, it doesn’t mean that you should still do it.
In all fairness to Romney, he was basically asking the same questions that the entire British nation had been asking for the last few weeks following the string of security disasters. But contrary to his opinion, yes England may be just a small island, but we do make things that people want to buy (Harry Potter for instance?). His trip to British soil, intended to earn Romney some votes, has backfired.
BBC’s Mark Mardell pointed out that Romney criticized Obama for being too cautious when it came to his diplomatic relations. Indeed Romney seems eager to put his own mark on how he handles dialogue with his international partners; but, offending the host nation of the biggest sporting event in the world isn’t exactly the most tactful way of winning friends across the pond in any country, let alone the U.K.
In the U.K., the Anglo-American relationship seems to have an aura of ethereal importance, and journalists spend ample page space analyzing the chemistry between the American and British leaders. A Romney-Cameron dialogue (and indeed a Romney-Miliband dialogue) is not likely to be a hotbed of diplomatic coziness should Romney win the presidency. Should Romney win, David Cameron is not likely to be the first person to give him a congratulatory call.