Romney's camp says trip successful, getting good reviews
But GOP candidate troubled by gaffes, controversy in Europe and Mideast
Tensions between campaign, press overheat during last stop in Poland
In the estimation of Mitt Romney and his top campaign aides, there were no gaffes, no mistakes, no ill-advised statements on the Republican candidate’s overseas trip.
The poorly timed comments at the Olympics? No big deal. The remarks in Israel that inflamed the Palestinians? Overblown. The off-color words to the press by a Romney aide Tuesday? In the heat of the moment.
A trip that was supposed to show off the former governor’s foreign policy expertise during an election year has been plagued with distractions as well as marked by substantive highlights.
Still, as the candidate wrapped up his last leg in Poland, a senior Romney adviser said the campaign will land back in the U.S. late Tuesday, supremely confident of the results on the ground.
“I think it was a great success,” Romney adviser Stuart Stevens said after the GOP contender’s foreign policy speech in Warsaw, the last leg of the campaign’s three-country tour.
“The idea is that, can people get a good sense of who he is? Can people listen and see that this is a person speaking from the heart about Israel and about Poland? And he is,” Stevens added.
In a speech at Poland’s national library, Romney offered an emotional tribute to the former Soviet bloc country’s journey from the Iron Curtain to the economic envy of Europe.
“I, and my fellow Americans, are inspired by the path of freedom tread by the people of Poland,” Romney said.
In its final hours in Poland, the Romney campaign talked of its “great success” while being bombarded by criticism over moments that did not go so well.
For Romney, the trouble began in Britain, when he publicly questioned whether London was ready to host the Summer Olympic Games.
British Prime Minister David Cameron retorted that it was far more difficult to organize the Olympics in a world capital than in the “middle of nowhere,” a not-so-subtle dig at Romney’s Games in Salt Lake City. London tabloids dubbed Romney “Mitt the Twit.”
But on the campaign’s chartered flight from London to the next leg of the trip, Israel, Romney’s policy advisers declined to comment on the candidate’s comments.
Israel brought more controversy. In one of the great stage-crafting moments of his campaign, Romney delivered a stout defense of Israel’s right to exist. He warned Iranian leaders that weaponizing the country’s nuclear program would lead to war.
However, Romney also outraged Palestinians leaders with his talk of Jerusalem as the undisputed capital of Israel. He commented at a fundraiser in the same city that “culture” can partly explain the economic disparity between Israelis and Palestinians, inflaming the already raw feelings in the region.
Romney was in no mood to answer questions from his traveling press corps about his “from the heart” straight talk. He took only three questions from the journalists after his overseas trip.
After Romney paid tribute at the Polish Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, members of the traveling press attempted to ask about some of his perceived gaffes, only to be shouted down by the campaign’s traveling press secretary.
“Kiss my ass. This is a holy site,” Rick Gorka barked at one reporter. “Shove it,” he said to another. Gorka later called two reporters and apologized.
After Romney’s speech, Stevens noted, the candidate did sit down for a number of interview with U.S. television networks, including CNN.
“The reports that we get back are very positive,” Stevens said of reviews the campaign’s trip is receiving from supporters.
Before the campaign aide’s verbal assault on the press, conservative bloggers were protesting that Romney’s overseas trip was being judged unfairly in the media.
“By any reasonable standard, Romney’s trip has been successful. Yet press coverage has been unrelentingly negative,” Powerline blog writer John Hinderaker wrote.
Greta Van Susteren, an anchor on the Fox News Channel, Romney’s go-to network for interviews, had a different assessment of the coverage.
“There has been no press access to Governor Romney since we landed in Poland. We (press) are in a holding pattern (I can’t help but feel a bit like the press is a modified petting zoo since we are trapped in a bus while Polish citizens take pictures of us.),” Van Susteren wrote on her blog.
When Romney returns to the states, he will be greeted by a slew of new ads from his campaign and from super PACs supporting him, as well as a new iPhone and Android mobile app called “Mitt’s VP,” about his VP selection process.
Even while away, the campaign never stops.
Who should Romney pick for his VP? Let us know your choice on CNN iReport.