On a trip to Israel 100 days before the US elections, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney warmed Israeli hearts by stating positions that leave very little daylight between Washington and Jerusalem, the latter, as he clearly stated, being Israel’s capital [as opposed to Obama White House press secretary James Carney who would not commit to that.]
There would be no public disagreements between Israel and a Romney administration, stopping Iran’s nuclear program should be THE top US national security issue, and as President he would “stand by Israel” if and when it chooses to exercise its legitimate right to self-defense.
Those were the salient points, and the main message, of the Republican candidate. This is the important stuff. While perhaps less important in substance, the following gaffes by Romney’s team here in Israel point to, simply put, bad management on his part. Within 24 hours of his visit, Romney’s camp has made some egregious errors:
1. Closes fundraiser to media, gets blasted by media, and then opens it to the media again. What was the point of closing the event to the media in the first place? Everything would have leaked out anyway. This is Israel folks…
2. Has his foreign policy advisor say he “would respect” unilateral Israeli strike on Iran; has to backtrack on that, sending out a clarification and rolling the comment back on CBS. Romney either didn’t know what Dan Senor was going to say on his behalf [which is bad] and Senor is not coordinating his positions with his boss, or Romney did know, let it happen, and then got spooked [which is also very bad].
3. Cancels meeting at the last minute with Shelly Yechimovich, head of the Labor party, even though he knew full well that she was no longer Leader of the Opposition when the meeting was scheduled. His advisors don’t give a satisfactory reason for the cancellation, two hours before it was scheduled to take place. Now the Labor party is using this as a stick to hit Netanyahu over the head with, accusing the Prime Minister’s Office of being behind the cancellation, as the message came straight out of the PMO. Instead of staying above the political fray, Romney let himself become a pawn in intra-Israeli politics. Romney could have called Shelly and postponed, apologized, cancelled, explained, or whatever. You don’t keep a lady waiting. And you certainly don’t stand her up and not send flowers.
4. Due to overbooking, miscalculation and miscommunication, aides are forced to cancel dozens of invitations sent out for people to attend his speech in Jerusalem. Some are only told of their cancellations after waiting in line to get into the venue. Some invitees leave in dejection.
5. Creates confusion, panic and uproar amongst Israeli media when they find out that only two news organizations are invited to his speech at the Jerusalem Foundation. Just hours before the speech, it is made known that all media are now invited.
6. And lastly, in a speech to Jewish donors in Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, Romney said that the difference between the GDP of Israeli and Palestinians was down to the latter’s culture. Now he may not have meant it in a racist way, but that’s how it played to many, and again forced his campaign to issue a clarification.
All in just 24 hours.
So while Romney seems to have a firm grasp on his central message to Israel, he definitely needs to tighten his hold on his employees and associates. Romney must be hoping that his message of support for Israel drowns out the shenanigans of his minions.