x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Mitt Romney's gaffe-prone campaign falters with 'Anglo' and Games slurs

After aide's "Anglo Saxon" remark, Romney questions the UK's readiness to host Olympics.

WASHINGTON // It may have been a simple miscommunication, a well-intentioned statement to project a positive message ahead of a visit to an important ally.

But if it were, the remark attributed to an unnamed policy adviser to Mitt Romney about America's and Britain's shared "Anglo-Saxon heritage" was badly phrased and even more badly handled in its aftermath.

It will also now be added to a growing list of gaffes that should be worrying for Mr Romney, the Republican candidate for the US presidency who is seeking to defeat the country's first African-American president, Barack Obama, in November.

"We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special," the Daily Telegraph quoted Mr Romney's adviser as saying, "The White House didn't fully appreciate the shared history we have."

The newspaper said the adviser's remarks "may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity".

Mr Romney also managed to annoy British prime minister David Cameron over remarks the country might not be completely ready to host the Olympic Games even as he prepared to attend today's opening ceremony. Mr Romney also questioned whether the people of the UK would "come together" for the Games.

Mr Cameron said he would make the point when the two met that Britons "are extremely good at welcoming people".

It marks an inauspicious start for Mr Romney as he tries to burnish his foreign policy credentials. The unnamed aide's remark received the kind of coverage in the US that Mr Romney would have hoped to avoid. A cartoon in the Tucson Sentinel pulled no punches about the implication of the remark.

The cartoon depicted Mr Romney saying: "We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage … We feel that the special relationship is special." The caption says: "Vote Romney … And put the white back in White House".

Mr Romney is already toiling under an image that he is too rich and too elitist to care for middle America, said Richard Benedetto, a professor of journalism at American University and a former White House correspondent.

His "gaffes" Mr Benedetto said, "often play straight into what has become the cliché that he is this rich, out-of-touch, white guy".

Mr Romney, a multimillionaire, has made it easy for the Obama campaign to mock him.

In a country struggling with high unemployment and record levels of poverty, Mr Romney challenged a Republican rival to a US$10,000 (Dh36,730) bet live on TV. He has said he liked "being able to fire people" and called corporations "people". Campaigning in Michigan Mr Romney told autoworkers his wife drives "a couple of Cadillacs". Previously the former venture capitalist who is worth about US$200 million had told an audience of unemployed Floridians that he was now also unemployed.

Nevertheless, Mr Benedetto suggested it was too early in the campaign for such remarks to have real effect. The fact Mr Romney is rich is already now factored in to their calculations, he said.

More damaging was the way his campaign handled the aftermath of the Anglo-Saxon heritage remark, said Mr Benedetto. Reminiscent of Mr Romney's inability to bat away controversy over not releasing all his tax returns, it suggested his campaign has a hard time "getting rid of problems quickly".

okarmi@thenational.ae