Romney's 'No Apologies' Diplomacy in Action as U.K. Trip Turns to Public Spat

Mitt Romney has criticized Obama's diplomacy as "apologizing for America" and urged more backbone abroad, but so far that's not working great in London.

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Mitt Romney meets with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron (Reuters)

In March 2010, Mitt Romney published one of those profile-raising books that American politicians often put out before a presidential run: No Apology: The Case for American Greatness. The implication, made more explicit in the text, was that President Obama was traveling the world shamefully apologizing for America, and that if only someone would lead America with more pride and backbone, then the dream of American greatness would once again be realized. Romney's "no apology" line continued a "no more apologies" campaign that Fox News host Sean Hannity led through much of 2009, decrying Obama's foreign trips as "apology tours" (Hannity said of Obama's "apology tour" stop in Cairo, "it might do him good to remember that apologizing didn't get the allied forces anywhere in World War II").

Romney, who has a strong executive record as a governor and business leader but little foreign policy experience, got a chance to try out his "no apologies" diplomacy with a week-long tour of American allies. He is visiting three of the most consistently pro-American countries in the world -- the U.K., Israel, and Poland -- all of which also happen to be popular among American conservatives (the U.K. for Churchill, Poland for its anti-Soviet resistance, and Israel for Israel). So it would seem to be a low-pressure trip.

But it hasn't gone well. Before meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron and other U.K. officials, Romney told U.S. reporters that he had doubts about his host country's readiness for the London Olympics. "It is hard to know just how well it will turn out," he said, calling the government's efforts "disconcerting" and questioning whether the British people would "come together and celebrate the Olympic moment."

It all kind of blew up from there. Cameron hit back publicly, adding that he would raise it with Romney when they met in person today. The famously vicious British press is taking it from there, with every major paper running a story playing up Cameron's rebuttal. The Daily Mail ran the headline, "Who invited him? US presidential hopeful Mitt Romney questions British public's appetite for the Games during visit to London." The Guardian is running a liveblog of the "gaffe" and its fallout on their site, trouncing on every public rebuke and even noting what they call "another blunder" with Romney's comment that he had met with the head of the MI6 spy agency, the existence of which is not supposed to be publicly acknowledged.

The American press is picking up as well, and it looks like what was supposed to be a rubber-stamp trip demonstrating the candidate's familiarity with important allies has, on just its second day, turned into a story about a "test [of] his skills on foreign diplomacy," as the New York Times put it, "terrain in which he is not necessarily as comfortable as when dealing with economic issues." Romney isn't apologizing, but he has grown significantly more diplomatic in the past 24 hours, publicly praising the London games and the U.K.'s hosting effort. "What I've seen shows imagination and forethought and a lot of organization and expect the games to be highly successful," he said.

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Max Fisher is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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