Sure, Blame the Hired Help

Emily Heil wonders whether Mitt Romney’s overseas trip isn’t generating as many high-fives as Barack Obama’s 2008 tour because Romney didn’t staff up.

[T]he Obama campaign loaded up on staff firepower while the Romney camp had a relative ghost crew. Our colleague Philip Rucker noted the disparity in his story on Friday … “When Barack Obama traveled overseas as a candidate in 2008, it was an all-hands-on-deck event… By contrast, Romney’s top political advisers stayed home,” Rucker reported.

But what damaging foreign policy gaffes did Romney actually make? The diss of Palestinian “culture”? That’s not the sort of statement that’ll hurt Romney with donors and voters, is it? The praise of Israel’s health care system won’t get more coverage because Democrats don’t want to feed the bellows. The Olympic gaffe, as Tim Noah pointed out, was pure Romney braggadocio in an answer to a Brian Williams question that really didn’t need to be a stumper. When Barack Obama visited France and Germany in 2008, he was amongst politicos and citizens and media who despised George W. Bush’s presidency and had cooled on the United States. In Poland and in the U.K., Romney was amongst people who still generally like Obama and the States.

Obama played up his Change-iness. “I know that I don’t look like the Americans who’ve previously spoken in this great city,” he said in Germany. “In Europe, the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help make it right, has become all too common. In America, there are voices that deride and deny the importance of Europe’s role in our security and our future.”

Romney was less future, more tribute. “Your nation has moved from a state monopoly over the economy, price controls, and severe trade restrictions,” he said in Poland, “to a culture of entrepreneurship, greater fiscal responsibility, and international trade. As a result, your economy has experienced positive growth in each of the last twenty years. In that time, you have doubled the size of your economy. The private sector has gone from a mere 15 percent of the economy to 65 percent. And while other nations fell into recession in recent years, you weathered the storm and continued to flourish.” And so on. Obama was a conquering hero; Romney was introducing himself as the guy who could fell the hero. You could have given him 10 presidential cabinets and his reception wouldn’t have been dramatically warmer.