Americans have gone to England and been pancaked by London black cabs because they looked the wrong way before crossing the street. Americans have unluckily picked seven-day stretches of rain for their week's vacation in the sceptered isle. But Mitt Romney might be having the worst English vacation since Harald Hardråde's, and his is only two days old.
Even if you feel neutrally about Romney, it's impossible to escape the sensation that he believes Basic Competence murdered his family and that he must have his revenge against it. Things are so bad that any second now Matt Drudge might run a link claiming that Romney's VP pick will actually be a fully Weekend at Bernies'd Ronald Reagan.
That said, it's kind of nice to know that even when rich people go on vacation, it can still be a giant headache, like it is for the rest of us. Because that's what this is—a vacation.
Though his campaign bills Romney's overseas trip as a foreign policy junket, it's far less than that. Romney has pledged to honor the American tradition that politics end at the nation's borders, so that eliminates a lot substantive commentary. He also has almost nothing to say about foreign policy even when he's off the leash.
Mitt's policy is, "I'm different." He opposes Obama's withdrawal plan from Afghanistan, but he won't offer one of his own. His "alternate" plans for Libya and Syria are similar mysteries. He says he'd do "the opposite" of what Obama's done in Israel, but apart from some ineffectual shaming language about settlements, Obama's as much in the AIPAC tank as anyone else.
Much of his policy can be inferred from his book title, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, which echoes his fabricated attack that Obama is ashamed of America and constantly seeks the world's pardon for it. Obama is a mewling Carterite; Romney fears nothing. He needs no excuse. Perhaps he might like one for this, which appeared in I Don't Care, Mom: You Can Make Me Say Sorry, But I Won't Mean It:
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.
Fortunately, as of Friday morning, the English press hadn't erupted in outrage over those comments. Unfortunately, all Romney could really accomplish on this trip was look informed and presidential, and he did neither. The English press had so much to roast him with that his trip looked more like a script for The Thick of It that Armando Iannucci wadded up and threw in the trash because it seemed "too fucktarded."
It's not clear whether Romney's Baedeker is out of date or if his guide to England is The Lonely Planet: Kolob. But the highlights are hilarious. Click here to get in the right frame of mind, strap the dog to the roof, and let's hop in the Wagon Queen Family Truckster:
- In an interview with Brian Williams, Romney questioned Britons' enthusiasm for the Olympics, asking, ""Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment? [That's] something which we only find out once the Games actually begin." This led London Mayor Boris "THE ROCK" Johnson to fire up a crowd by going for cheap pops. "I hear there's a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we're ready," he said. "Are we ready?" The crowd cheered wildly. Then Johnson asked if the crowd smelled what he was cooking and urged Romney to check out of the five-star hotel where he was staying and holding fundraisers with the LIBOR-fixers who defrauded the world and instead check di-rect-ly into the Smackdown Hotel (in Penge). He then spent the rest of the speech just calling Romney "that jabroni." Everything after "Are we ready?" might be made up, but that's the price you pay for watching THE MOST ELECTRIFYING MAYOR IN BRITS' ENTERTAINMENT.
- Romney described some of Britain's preparation as "disconcerting," citing rumors of a strike and "the private security firm not having enough people." This is the sort of gaffe that, if made by a Democrat, would see Republican pundits screaming DANGER! DANGER!, because suddenly a security shortfall was being broadcast to OUR ENEMIES, THE ISLAMOFASCIST OLYMPIC BOMB-SHOTPUTTING TEAM. Instead, British PM David Cameron explained some of the inevitable planning hitches while calling Romney out on his record of running the 2002 Winter Olympics in a metro area of 12 million fewer people, unencumbered by the traffic and historical development restrictions of a city roughly 2,000 years old. "We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world," Cameron said. "Of course it's easier if you hold an Olympic games in the middle of nowhere." The zinger was almost savage, considering Cameron usually has the wit and agility of a haircut stapled to a pair of trousers.
- Romney talked about "[looking] out of the backside of 10 Downing Street." While "backside" has the same buttock connotation in the United States, in England the spacial/location aspect of the term would have taken a distant second place. Basically, the first assumption the natives would have had, upon hearing it, was to think Romney said he was staring out of Downing Street's asshole. Whether they interpreted that to refer to David Cameron depends on party affiliation.
- Lastly, Romney mentioned meeting with the head of MI6, whose schedule is very rarely reported. British overseas intelligence is far more opaque than America's, to the extent that the existence of MI6 wasn't even officially acknowledged by perfidious Albion until the 1990s. An American analogue might be Tony Blair coming to the states in 2002 and saying he had a lovely lunch with Dick Cheney at his undisclosed location. Anybody could then check Blair's schedule and see that from noon to 1:30 he was scheduled to "spend time walking around that abandoned North Dakota missile silo the Cigarette Smoking Man trapped Krycek and the black oil in."
Romney even had time to send unfavorable signals back to the United States. In the same Brian Williams interview, Mitt said that he wouldn't watch the Olympic performance of his wife's six- or seven-figure dressage horse Rafalca (one whose future earnings could net the family $77,000 in tax breaks). Perhaps owning a horse whose purchase price might have been equivalent to the median price of roughly four new American homes defines "out of touch." But turning around and showing utter disinterest in the same fabulously expensive thing seems even worse. Sure, go ahead and own something whose cost is obscene, but at least appreciate it. If you're going to own a horse worth more than many of your fellow Americans, do them a solid and act like you fucking enjoy the experience. It's like Romney bought a vintage Ferrari, decided owning a million-dollar car looked bad and said, "I don't drive it. I gave it to my dumbfuck nephew." Then you Google the nephew's name, and he looks just like Matthew Lillard.
Still, it wasn't all bad! Mitt and his bodyguard found Romney Road. One assumes it's a traffic-restricted private roadway zoned only for palanquins, but the picture is nice. And the good news for comedy fans is that Mitt could continue this Bataan Clown March so intensely that his first two days pale in comparison. Think of the possibilities (including his trips to Poland and Israel):
- Loudly complaining in the Olympic stadium that his chair is too low and he needs a Stone of Scone to sit on so he can see better.
- Cheerfully greeting every woman named "Laurie" by asking how much junk she's hauling around behind her.
- Driving on the right side of the road and mowing down gruel-stained orphans one after another after another.
- Refusing to release the forms he filed to get his VAT back on exiting the country.
- Congratulating England on being a country where every fag "gets smoked."
- Screaming at some kids in an elevator that they should just lift themselves up by their bootstraps.
- Insisting on blasting "Ride of the Valkyries" out of his helicopter as it comes in to land in Tel Aviv.
- Moving his lips and making noise even when Sheldon Adelson is drinking a glass of water.
- Flipping a coin at Polish President Bronisław Komorowski and saying, "Your country's still a little bombed-out. How about you buy yourself some vowels and a clue?"
This could be fun. There's no reason not to have these kinds of high aspirations for a man who inspired the normally loathsome John Podhoretz to tweet that he was "like Mr. Bean, only he's an American."
And, look, maybe this seems a little mean-spirited, like piling on. Mitt has these periods of wealthy-guy boobery that make you want to feel sorry for him. Sometimes it seems like the poor twit can't help it. Then, sadly, there are all those times it's unmistakable that he can.
Because it was one of Romney's advisors—someone for whom he is responsible, both as the leader of his campaign and the quadrennial high priest of the GOP Leadership Cult—who anonymously said that Obama did not appreciate the U.S. and Great Britain's shared Anglo-Saxon heritage.
Maybe you want to streeeeeeeeetch and say that the advisor referred to the neocon dream of a global-security "anglosphere" community of nations. But the Romney campaign knows full well exactly how this kind of commentary resonates and with whom, and this is how Mitt Romney relentlessly drives away sympathy. He might be bumbling around Piccadilly Circus looking for the elephant show, but his campaign is efficiently casting Obama in the role of "the other." He can be the Kenyan anti-colonialist other (who did the Kenyans rebel against?—gasp—BRITAIN!), or he can just be un-American.
Regardless, the president who doesn't share our Anglo-Saxon values also just happens to be the first black president. Sure, he's half-white, and his mother's maiden name is hardly uncommon in the land of Angles and Saxons, but whatever. Not appreciating "the shared history we have" excludes Obama beautifully. As one famous Englishman once said, "Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink."
Say no more.