Photo: Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Mitt Romney’s overseas trip got off to a spectacularly terrible start yesterday, after he insulted his British hosts by suggesting that London was not ready to host the Olympic games. The remarks ruined what should have been a soft-focus, photo-op for Romney, setting off a downward spiral of gaffes that delighted the notoriously unforgiving British press and humiliated the Republican presidential candidate. Romney has spent the better part of the last 24 hours trying to walk back his remarks, but the damage has been done.
So what could have possibly compelled Romney to break the cardinal rule of diplomacy — don’t offend your hosts — within hours of setting foot in London?
We revisited the interview where Romney made his first comments about the London Olympics to see if we could find any insight into the candidate’s meltdown.
The interview, with NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, starts off with a question about Ann Romney’s horse, Rafalca, who is competing in the Olympic event “dressage,” a sport more commonly known as “horse ballet.”
“You got to run the games and now you actually have a horse in the race. What’s that going to be like?” Williams asks, probing Romney for more information about dressage, “for those of us that don’t follow the sport.”
For once, however, Romney doesn’t fall for the trap. Pleading husbandly ignorance, he effectively cuts off any more talk of fancy dancing horses.
“I have to tell you, this is Ann’s sport,” Romney says. “I’m not even sure which day the sport goes on. She will get the chance to see it, I will not be watching the event. I hope her horse does well.”
There are a lot of reasons to question this answer — does he really expect us to believe that, after wearing matching sweaters for the past 40 years, he and his wife are not going to talk about how their horse is doing in the Olympics? — but that is beside the point.
Williams then asks Romney how the London Olympics preparation looks “to his experienced eye.” The question was a softball, setting the candidate up to butter up his British hosts with praise for their Olympic moment.
But Romney is apparently so relieved to be off the subject of dressage, he doesn’t even realise when he gets himself into much more trouble than Rafalca ever could.
“It’s hard to know just how well it will turn out,” Romney says. “There were a few things that were disconcerting — the stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not encouraging.”
He continues, lecturing Williams on what makes an Olympic Games successful:
“There are three parts,” Romney says. “No. 1, of course, are the athletes, that’s what, overwhelmingly, the games are about. No. 2 are the volunteers, and they’ll have great volunteers here. But No. 3 are the people of the country — do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment? That’s something we’ll only find out once the games actually begin.”
Watch the video below, courtesy of MSNBC:
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