International Buffoon’s Summer Vacation [Updated]
Mitt Romney’s long-planned summer fundraising bashes in England and Israel made the itinerary for his getmetheh-e-doublehockeysticksoutofhere vacation look a little bare and blatant, so he told his staff to spin that Rolodex and figure out some more stops to pad it out. France was out of the question—too much of a reminder of the two years he spent on mission there in his youth, when he managed to convert two people before nearly taking out a bunch more in a car crash, plus it’s now run by socialists who’re being mean to banksters, so the optics wouldn’t be good and the reception likely less than warm. A visit to Germany was mooted, but didn’t pan out, and in any case would have invited too many unfavorable comparisions with President Obama’s barnstorming visit in 2008. Switzerland and the Cayman Islands were also off limits, for reasons that should be obvious. Then Lech Walesa came to the rescue with an invite, so the final leg ends up being a two-day stay in sunny Poland.
Even before he flees American soil, Mitt’s managed to cause a diplomatic incident. He can largely get away with spinning his own web of reality from others’ words in America, but the rest of the world can sometimes set more exacting standards. The leaders he’ll be meeting may be considerably more guarded in what they say to him for fear he’ll end up citing them publicly and “reinterpreting” their words to fit what he wants them to imply after his run-in with Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr:
“I met today with the foreign minister of Australia. He said something, and I said ‘Can I quote you?’ and he said yes,” Romney told fundraiser attendees, according to the pool report. “He said ‘America is just one budget deal away from ending all talk of America being in decline.’”
Romney offered his own assessment of what Carr meant:
What he meant by that is that if we get serious about taking steps to make sure that America will finally get to a balanced budget, and if we make sure these unfunded liabilities don’t crush us, if we show the world that we come together to get that job done, if we have real leadership that will get Congress to work together and actually reach that conclusion, that agreement, than the world will recognize America’s going to come roaring back.
“This idea of America in decline, it was interesting he said that, he led the talk of America being in decline,” Romney said. “See that’s not talk we hear about here as much as they’re hearing there. And if they’re thinking about investing in America, entrepreneurs putting their future in America, if they think America’s in decline they’re not gonna do it.”
Through the Australian embassy, Carr said that’s not what he meant at all.
“Senator Carr’s comment was in praise of American economic strengths,” the embassy said in a statement. “Reports suggesting these were a criticism of the American economy are incorrect.”
The embassy said Carr’s comments were similar to these he gave at a conference in April 2012:
This notion that I’ve been thinking of for the last few days, and that is that America could be one budget deal away — in the context of economic recovery — one budget deal away from banishing the notion of American declinism.
Think about that: one budget deal, an exercise of statesmanship up the road in the context of an economic bounceback.
And all of a sudden, with energy independence crystallising, with technological innovation, resurgence of American manufacturing, [and] people who spoke about American decline could be revising their thesis.
A sideline major impetus for the trip is the urgent need to pad out Mitt’s threadbare résumé about matters furrin. Despite the stellar foreign policy team of advisers he’s assembled, his background in this field was baldly encapsulated in a bullet point on page 66 of oppo research from his 2008 bid for the presidency as:
Romney has no foreign policy experience.
Mitt will feel quite at home in London, if a little thirsty—the Olympics’ major sponsors are McDonald’s and Coca-Cola. The trip’s timing was dictated by the start of the sportsfest, where Mitt will bask in his much-trumpeted triumph as savior of the Salt Lake City event. If the media want to cover that aspect in any detail, though, they’ll be somewhat hamstrung by gaps in official records:
More than a decade has passed since Mitt Romney presided over the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, but the archival records from those games that were donated to the University of Utah to provide an unprecedented level of transparency about the historic event, remain off limits to the public. And some of the documents that may have shed the most light on Romney’s stewardship of the Games were likely destroyed by Salt Lake Olympic officials, ABC News has learned.
“We don’t have that stuff,” said Elizabeth Rogers, the manuscript curator at the University’s Marriott Library. The decisions about what records to donate to the library were made by Olympics officials before they were shipped in 1,100 boxes to the university, she said. “That was done before we got it. I just know it wasn’t a decision we made. Everything we have will be available.”
If all this sounds familiar when it comes to information about Mitt’s past in a number of fields, don’t risk another tantrum by pointing the finger at him. As ever, Mitt was out of there, didn’t do anything anyway, and how dare you?
The Romney campaign said it has made no effort to prevent the archive from being made public.
“Mitt Romney resigned from SLOC [the Salt Lake Organizing Committee] in early 2002 to run for governor of Massachusetts and was not involved in the decision-making regarding the final disposition of records,” said Andrea Saul, a Romney spokesperson, in response to questions.
Mitt—who opens cupboard doors in his mansions with trepidation in case Ann’s stashed yet another horse in there—is going to the Olympics opening ceremony, but will make himself scarce before he gets a chance to see what his money’s been paying for as his wife’s major investment Rafalca competes in the dressage competition on August 2nd. He’ll also take the opportunity to meet with leaders of the UK’s three main political parties, who’ll probably be mercifully stoned out of their gourds and somewhat tightlipped in view of Bob Carr’s experience, and then hobnob with those who’re really in charge when he frisks his backers in the City of London’s banking and finance industries for campaign dosh at two fundraising events—a reception where Mitt will schmooze you like you’ve never been schmoozed before for $2,500 a pop, and a dinner where he’ll be offering lapdances for $25,000—75,000.
The prospect of screw-ups at Mitt’s get-togethers with London’s banking elite might seem less promising, but wait:
MPs have called on Barclays executives to stop donating to American Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, following the “destructive” role played by the London bank in the Libor rate-fixing scandal.
A parliamentary motion tabled on Tuesday calls on Barclays executives to “cease fundraising for political candidates immediately” and to concentrate entirely on “repairing confidence and trust in the banking system instead”.
The MPs say that at least 15 of Barclays Capital’s most senior bankers based in the US have donated the maximum allowable individual donation per election to the Romney campaign and that Barclays’ Head of Government Policy and Finance group has already raised $927,000.
The hapless Mitt had an uncharacteristic stroke of luck this time. Had his fundraiser been timed earlier in the month, it would have been co-hosted by disgraced Barclays ex-CEO Bob Diamond at the time when the Libor rate-fixing scandal first broke and Diamond was toughing it out before public outcry forced him to quit. As it is, he’s not out of the woods, though:
The hosts of Romney’s high-dollar reception and dinner on July 26 overwhelmingly represent banks, hedge funds and other financial institutions, some of which are embroiled in the Libor rate-fixing scandal.
By appearing at the fundraisers on the eve of the Olympics’ Opening Ceremonies, Romney risks associating his campaign with the unfolding scandal, which focuses on banks that manipulated the London interbank offered rate, a benchmark for mortgages, auto loans and other financial contracts.
One of the event’s co-chairs is Patrick Durkin, a Washington-based lobbyist for Barclays, which agreed last month to pay $450 million to settle allegations that it manipulated Libor before and after the financial crisis. Durkin has helped raise $1.1 million for the Romney campaign, according to U.S. disclosure records.
Executives of at least three other banks under investigation in the Libor scandal — Eric Varvel, chief executive of Credit Suisse; Raj Bhattacharyya, a managing director at Deutsche Bank; and Whitfield Hines, a managing director at HSBC — are co-chairs, according to copies of invitations obtained by The Washington Post.
According to the invitations, the hosts of Romney’s events overwhelmingly come from the finance industry, including such major firms as Goldman Sachs, Blackstone, Wells Fargo and Cerberus. There are co-hosts from Bain Capital and Ropes & Gray, the Boston law firm with close ties to Romney.
Also hosting are Woody Johnson, owner of the New York Jets; Dan Bricken, a managing director at Wells Fargo Securities; Gregg Lemkau, head of European mergers and acquisitions for Goldman Sachs; Dwight Poler, a managing director for Bain Capital Europe; Anthony Diamandakis, a managing director at Credit Suisse; and Calvin Tarlton, a director at Wells Fargo Securities.
I suspect that lookouts will be posted and security on the doors will be tight—not necessarily for fear of terrorists, but an embarrassingly timed visit from the police:
U.S. prosecutors and European regulators are close to arresting individual traders and charging them with colluding to manipulate global benchmark interest rates, according to people familiar with a sweeping investigation into the rate-rigging scandal.
Federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C., have recently contacted lawyers representing some of the individuals under suspicion to notify them that criminal charges and arrests could be imminent, said two of those sources who asked not to be identified because the investigation is ongoing.
Defense lawyers, some of whom represent individuals under suspicion, said prosecutors have indicated they plan to begin making arrests and filing criminal charges in the next few weeks. In long-running financial investigations it is not uncommon for prosecutors to contact defense lawyers for individuals before filing charges to offer them a chance to cooperate or take a plea, these lawyer said.
It was probably unfair of that oppo report to claim that “Romney has no foreign policy experience.” He’s certainly been to London a few times before, when he’s shown similar impeccable taste in dinner partners whose names are nowadays legendarily prefaced by the word “disgraced.” In the 1980s, Mitt paid retail tycoon, and later convict, Jack Lyons $100,000 a year as “father figure and door-opener,” and secured a $3 million investment in Bain Capital from him and another $2 million from media magnate Robert Maxwell before his conviction for robbing his company’s employee pension scheme for his own use.
From London, Mitt will fly to Israel to visit an old pal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, from their time together at Boston Consulting. You probably know Mitt and his campaign staff well enough by now to anticipate that even planning a visit that on the face of it looks like an easy option is beyond their abilities. It takes a special attention to detail to plan a fundraising dinner during a national holiday of mourning and fasting:
Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign has been forced to scrap a $50,000 per plate fundraiser scheduled to take place during his visit to Jerusalem because the date coincided with a solemn Jewish day of mourning.
The fundraiser, which was supposed to be a “a small meeting, but a big fund-raiser,” according to a source quoted in the Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, was set to take place on July 29, amid the Romney campaign’s first foreign policy tour.
But July 29 is also Tisha B’Av, a Jewish day of fasting in some traditions of the religion, in which catastrophic events like the destruction of the First and Second Temples and the Holocaust are mourned.
Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for the Romney campaign, pointed to a tweet by Natasha Mosgovaya, a political correspondent for the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, that stated on Thursday morning that the campaign would in fact not be holding the fundraiser. The tweet quoted a Romney official saying the campaign was “aware of the sensitivity of that date.” Saul declined to comment on whether the fundraiser had been canceled or would be rescheduled.
Jonny Daniels, a leading Republican political strategist in Israel, told The Huffington Post that the campaign had been aware of the date of the holiday when it scheduled the fundraiser. The campaign thought it could hold the event in a way that would not offend, he said, but was taken by surprise at the ferocity of the public outcry over the timing.
But Mitt needn’t fear. Bill Kristol and Bibi now have his ass hastily covered:
At the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol confirms new details of Mitt Romney’s upcoming visit to Israel:
During discussions about the trip over the last month, advisers to Romney and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the appropriateness of a Romney visit to Israel on this date [Tisha B’Av]. But Netanyahu, the Weekly Standard has confirmed from top aides in Jerusalem and Boston, encouraged Romney to be in Jerusalem on this solemn day, one that recalls the tragedies of Jewish history and calls to mind current threats to the Jewish people.
Indeed, the Weekly Standard can report that Prime Minister and Mrs. Netanyahu have invited the Romneys to join them for the traditional meal breaking the fast following sundown after Tisha B’Av. This gesture suggests that what may have started out as a routine candidate touchdown in Israel has become a more serious and significant moment for both Netanyahu and Romney.
“Mitt Romney will visit Poland at the special invitation that president Lech Walesa sent the governor at the beginning of the month,” the Lech Walesa Institute said in a statement.
“Poland and Poles are paying close attention to the election campaign in the United States, focused on choosing a leader for the American nation for the next four years,” Walesa wrote in the invitation dated July 4.
“Their choice will influence the fate of America and the world.”
Walesa is nothing if not evenhanded in his treatment of the two presidential contenders:
In May 2011, the icon of Poland’s 1980s anti-communist freedom drive snubbed fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate President Barack Obama, Romney’s Democratic party rival ahead of the November poll.
“I expect this meeting would only amount to a photo opportunity,” Walesa told AFP at the time, explaining why he declined to meet Obama.
Walesa may have been an anti-Communist hero in his time, but since then his domestic stock has fallen somewhat. President Obama’s canceling of a planned missile defense shield that would have placated lingering fears of neighboring Russia, while no doubt bringing useful employment to some in an economy still struggling to find its footing in the economically troubled European Union, has incensed many on the Polish right.
Some in Poland have few illusions about the purpose of Mitt’s visit:
Romney is coming to Poland in order to prepare the attacks on Obama that he plans to unleash in the fall. Poland’s inclusion in Romney’s European tour gives a hint as to how those foreign policy-based attacks will look.
But spin as he no doubt will, Romney may not be able to capitalize on all this so easily:
Mitt Romney’s hopes of meeting with former Polish leader Lech Walesa mark a signal to Americans his respect for the Solidarity hero, who has had a rough relationship with President Obama, and his continuing hostility to Russia.
But for Romney’s allies in Poland — the political end economic conservatives who have controlled the government for much of the last decade — Walesa represents something totally different: A soft line on Communists and ex-Communists.
“The right in Poland hates Walesa as much as left hates Limbaugh in the US,” said Michal Kolanko, the co-founder of the Polish political site 300polityka , who traced the dislike to Walesa’s decision, during his time as president in the 1990s, to stop the process of opening the archives of Communist-era secret police agents and collaborators.
After Politico broke the news of Romney’s hopes of meeting with Walesa, Polish conservatives — allies of the late President Lech Kaczynski and his brother Jaroslaw, who now leads the opposition, and drawn largely from Catholic and nationalist circles — erupted on Twitter. They demanded to know “what kind of advisers Romney has,” derided Walesa as “Bolek” — allegedly his name as a secret police informant as a young man, and referred to an infamous Walesa line encouraging police to beat protesters.
Polish conservatives “think that the meeting with Walesa will backfire in regard to Poles in the US — who are rightwing tilted as well,” said Kolanko.
Coupled with this, President Obama has made recent inroads in cementing economic ties with Poland:
Top US and Polish businesspeople and political leaders vowed to increase ties between the two countries at a summit held in Warsaw in June. The summit witnessed the signing of a $350 million dollar contract between Sikorsky Aircraft and Polish aircraft manufacturer PZL Mielec for the production of parts for the Black Hawk helicopter.
The Sikorsky Aircraft-PZL Mielec contract, which will span five years and is dependent on Sikorsky Aircraft orders, was the biggest agreement inked on the day. Polish Deputy PM and Economy Minister Waldemar Pawlak and Acting US Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank were there for the signing.
The summit was first mooted by US President Barack Obama, who during his visit to Poland in May 2011 promised to initiate a meeting between top US and Polish business leaders.
Jonathan Martin has some interesting details on Romney’s trip to Poland, but he gets some things wrong towards the end:
Romney’s decision to go to Poland, where he’s also expected to deliver a speech, is in it of itself implicit swipe at Obama. After having a warm relationship with President George W. Bush, who highlighted the Polish commitment in Iraq and Afghanistan, a series of snafus have chilled the relationship between Washington and Warsaw. More broadly, Romney’s tough talk about Russia is closer to the prevailing view in Poland on how to handle Putin [bold mine-DL].
There’s no doubt that Romney intends his trip to Poland to be viewed as a swipe against Obama, but as I’ve said before the decision doesn’t make much sense. Romney’s “tough talk about Russia” goes against the improvement in relations between Poland and Russia in recent years. Poland’s relationship with the U.S. has changed in the last decade mostly because of the bad experience under the previous Kaczynski government in which Poland provided steadfast support for harmful Bush-era policies and received nothing in exchange (except the offer of a missile defense installation that most Poles opposed). ...
On the most prominent security issues involving Poland and Russia, Romney is out of step with Poland. Romney has opposed an arms reduction treaty that the Polish government wanted ratified, and he has condemned the 2009 missile defense decision that less than one-third of Poles opposed. Meeting with Walesa will make for a good photo-op that will please conservatives back home, but he is going to a country where approval of U.S. leadership has slightly increased since 2007 and where approval of Obama’s handling of international affairs recently stood at 65%. Most Poles aren’t interested in what Romney has to offer, and most Americans aren’t interested in Romney’s old complaints about missile defense.
Amid all this, don’t expect Mitt to deliberately fire off salvoes at President Obama and criticize the administration’s policies during his public addresses—his campaign promises Mitt’ll be on his best behavior and eschew the habitual badmouthing while abroad. It’s the inevitable cockups and gaffes I’m looking forward to.
Besides, before all this he’s no doubt going to have a chance to do a whole week’s worth of badmouthing when he addresses the Veterans of Foreign Wars later today.
UPDATE: OK, I’ll skip Mitt’s ridiculous speech to the VFW Conference and just point you to Joe Biden’s takedown of it, but Mitt’s brains trust has done it yet again.
Angry Black Lady at Balloon Juice points us to a Telegraph article, “Mitt Romney would restore ‘Anglo-Saxon’ relations between Britain and America.”
The only people in the UK who are wedded to the identity “Anglo-Saxon” nowadays are hardline racists like the British National Party and their associates. Your wife is supposedly joyously celebratory of her Welsh roots, so get her to check with her relatives when she’s visiting them how they feel about that whole “Anglo-Saxon” thing.
Meanwhile, if you want to get some idea how fucking ludicrously out of touch and tonedeaf you just proved yourself prior to your upcoming visit to the UK, check out the derision that’s being heaped on your failful pandering in the comments to the Telegraph article. I’ll leave one of them to deal with the unseemly Churchill adulation expressed by your obsession with that bust of him:
Mr Romney himself might be unaware that the first order of business of the British people as World War II drew to a close, was voting Winston Churchill out of Number 10 Downing Street.
His staff’s extraordinary statement might be based on the Republican candidate’s resignation to the fact that that he won’t get much of the black and hispanic American vote come November, and some smidgen of unexamined hope that in some way, stalwart Britain can step up and give him his majority. He’s certainly unaware that if what he wants racial commonality, he should seek it with Germany. Demographers claim that more Americans are descended from Germans than from British and Irish together.
I hope some representative of the prime minister will reward this American for his offence against decency, patronising to Britain and insulting to his own nation, by putting a signed Cameron portrait together with a cheery note of good wishes, and slip it out, beneath the door of Number 10, for Mr Romney to pick up at his leisure.