The Best of #romneyshambles

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Mitt Romney's serial gaffes in London incite mockery from the vicious British press and on Twitter.

Some Obama supporters have argued that the president is lucky: Although the bad economy seems to hurt him, he has the benefit of facing off against a weak opponent. But maybe the really lucky one is Mitt Romney -- because if he had to face off against London Mayor Boris Johnson, he'd be getting whipped, as the clip above demonstrates.

In fact, it's not just the amusing Boris. All of Britain seems to have its knives out for Romney (this is something of a problem there). First, he called the preparations for the Olympics "disconcerting," earning a sharp rebuke from Prime Minister David Cameron. Then he mentioned meeting MI6, a big no-no. Furthermore, Josh Rogin notes that his 2007 book No Apologies calls Britain:

just a small island. Its roads and houses are small. With few exceptions, it doesn't make things that people in the rest of the world want to buy. And if it hadn't been separated from the continent by water, it almost certainly would have been lost to Hitler's ambitions.

Presumably he won't be apologizing for that.

Romney's missteps inspired a hashtag that was trending on Twitter Thursday afternoon: #romneyshambles. It's a pun on "omnishambles," a term first uttered by Malcolm Tucker, a fictional profane British government consigliere on the TV show The Thick of It. (The show's creator, Armando Iannucci, is probably better known in the U.S. as creator of Veep, the newish Julia Louise Dreyfuss vehicle). The phrase went mainstream when UK Labour Party leader Ed Milliband used it in April. There are far too many tweets to process, but here's a few of the more amusing ones from Thursday afternoon:

Perhaps Romney should just embrace the phrase. Though Malcolm Tucker was based on Tony Blair confidant Alastair Campbell, the hard-charging, occasionally profane adviser is a role that Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom fits neatly.

The question that hangs over this whole flap is, Who cares? Romney supporters have reasonably pointed out that Britons can't vote. But he can't be too cavalier. First, and most banal, a sideshow such as this steals away whatever momentum he'd built up by criticizing Obama's "you didn't build that" quote.

Second, and more importantly, Romney set out on his three-nation overseas tour to prove that he would handle foreign policy better than the current president; he's also complained that Obama has alienated longstanding allies like Britain and Israel. But within a day of landing on British shores, he managed to irritate both the prime minister and the mayor of London. Neither one, it must be noted, is an example of the Western European socialist we've been told to fear. In fact, both are well-educated, well-heeled members of their country's conservative party -- not unlike Romney. It's better to make a laughingstock of one's self while abroad than at home. But it's far better to avoid making a laughingstock of one's self in the first place.

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David A. Graham

David Graham is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Politics Channel. He previously reported for Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and The National.

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