WASHINGTON – Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney might have chosen a
less-then-stellar moment to try to gain attention in Israel, arriving as he did
on Tisha Be’av. But even in America, where most people were not observing a day
of spiritual mourning on Sunday, his trip hit a news dead-zone that was just as
Not only did his visit coincide with the weekend’s regularly
scheduled pause in the news cycle, TV viewers were glued to the opening of
Olympic competition just hours earlier.
The combination did not make for
a considerable boost for Romney on the Israel portion of his multiday foreign
trip. Even the news talk shows that fill the airwaves on Sunday mornings and
focus on policy and politics were up against US basketball superstars in their
first Olympic match.
CNN, in assessing the Romney trip, found agreement
between analysts on the Right and Left on a major point: It was very bad
“The Olympics are going on.
Nobody’s paying attention to
this,” said Erick Erickson, editor of the conservative website
“I don’t know why he went over there,” said liberal
columnist and commentator L.Z. Granderson. “I don’t think a lot of people are
The timing even raised questions about the wisdom of
the trip – after all, the time conflict with the Olympics wasn’t exactly an
On the other hand, when everything going on in
the US is getting overshadowed by sporting competitions in the UK, maybe it is
just as good a time for a candidate to be out of the country. It wasn’t as if
Romney had to give up on fundraising, which is a major occupation of candidates
during the dog days of summer.
The former Massachusetts governor
reportedly raked in $1 million at the Jerusalem fundraiser Monday morning after
similar events in Britain.
And even if Romney didn’t get the full-court
press of photos and video from his overseas trip the way then-candidate Barack
Obama did when he addressed a sea of supporters in Germany or held a press
conference in the missile-besieged town of Sderot in 2008, that might be to the
Republican candidate’s benefit.
Most of the coverage of Romney has
focused on the unforced errors he’s made, starting with his comments about
Britain’s Olympic preparations before he even arrived in England, in which he
called early obstacles “disconcerting” and stated it was “hard to know just how
well it will turn out” during a Wednesday interview.
Those remarks earned
him a rebuke from Prime Minister David Cameron and scathing headlines in British
tabloids – and none too positive ones in the US, either.
anticipated stop in Germany was scrapped when it turned out that Chancellor
Angela Merkel would be on summer holiday, and the awkward logistical dance
continued when he abruptly canceled a meeting with Israeli Labor Party leader
Shelly Yechimovich as Israeli political considerations tangled up the American
Then, just as reporting on Romney’s tough comments regarding
Iran at his policy speech in Jerusalem on Sunday began to gather steam, he made
further comments seen as an insult by the Palestinians at the Monday morning
The Palestinians were already peeved that Romney referred to
Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (a comment that at least had the political payoff
of also pleasing many Jewish and Evangelical voters), when he chalked up
differences in the Israeli and Palestinian economies in part to
“It is a racist statement and this man doesn’t realize that the
Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli
occupation,” Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud Abbas, was quoted as telling the Associated Press.
campaign said the statement was grossly misunderstood, as it had been made in
the wider context of historical economic differences between many countries and
was not the only issue Romney was pointing to.
Either way, it looks like
Michael Phelps isn’t the only competitor not getting everything he had hoped for
on foreign soil.