Mitt Romney disses the London Olympics: A campaign disaster?

Critics pounce after the Republican questions whether England is prepared for the games, and many are quick to declare his big foreign trip a total bust

Mitt Romney leaves 10 Downing Street after meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron July 26
(Image credit: Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Mitt Romney's foreign tour got off to an awfully rocky start in London, as he questioned whether the British were ready to be hosting the Olympic Games, which kick off on Friday. Romney, who ran the successful Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002, said he had seen "disconcerting" signs in London's preparations for the games, and worried whether the security and immigration staffing was up to snuff. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron slapped Romney down, saying that it is easier to host games "in the middle of nowhere" — a dig at Romney's Olympic experience in Utah — than in a "bustling" city like London. Romney quickly backpedaled, saying he was certain the games would be successful. But did he turn what was supposed to a charm offensive into a diplomatic disaster?

Romney embarrassed himself: Insulting your host is a "strange way to build bridges," says Alex Spillius in Britain's The Telegraph, particularly when you're visiting a country that you supposedly see as "the umbilical ally of the United States." It's also an awfully "strange way to demonstrate the persuasive qualities needed as leader of the free world," which was what Romney's overseas adventure was supposed to be all about. Why go on a charm offensive if you're going to be more offensive than charming?

"If Mitt Romney doesn’t like us, we shouldn't care"

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This trip is a bust already: "Come home, Mitt," says Carter Eskew at The Washington Post. First, a London newspaper reports that one of your advisers made "dumb comments about Anglo-Saxons," and now this? Insulting the U.K.'s Olympic preparedness on the eve of the games is "the like telling the father of the bride that his daughter is ugly on her wedding day." Romney always seemed like a smooth operator, "but this is amateur hour."

"Come home, Romney"

Hold on. Romney was right: This was "not as bad as the British press is making it out to be," says Rick Moran at PJ Media, although it was something of a "rookie mistake." Romney wasn't incorrect — he was merely repeating criticism the Brits have been leveling for months. And give the Republican credit. "He recovered gracefully so there will be no lasting damage." In the end, this was likely just a good lesson for Mitt: Even when you're telling the truth, it's important to choose "one's words with greater care."

"Romney's rookie mistake in London"

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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