Romney Bungles through Israel

Fresh on the heels of the epic Romneyshambles disaster that was his trip to London, Romney proceeded to Israel, where he decided to break his word and ban the press from a fundraiser in a public hotel:

Some of Romney’s Jewish donors are flying here from the United States to attend the Jerusalem fundraiser on Monday morning, including Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who has pledged to personally give tens of millions of dollars to a pro-Romney super PAC.

But Romney’s campaign announced Saturday that it would block the news media from covering the event, which will be held at the King David Hotel. The campaign’s decision to close the fundraiser to the press violates the ground rules it negotiated with news organizations in April, when Romney wrapped up the Republican nomination and began opening some of his finance events to the news media.

Reporters were, understandably, rather irritated. So in what is developing into the signature Romney move, he folded like a wet newspaper and let the press in.

Moments later, Romney adviser Dan Senor made an alarmingly vague statement about Israel and potential war with Iran:

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney would “respect” a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran unilaterally should the Islamic republic develop nuclear weapons, Romney’s foreign policy adviser told reporters Sunday.

“If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability the governor would respect that decision,” Dan Senor said at the morning briefing.

Huh?? What in God’s name does he mean by “respect?” Oh wait, nevermind. Didn’t happen:

The campaign then issued a far less ominous clarification from Senor.

“Gov. Romney believes we should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course, and it is his fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so. In the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded. Gov. Romney recognizes Israel’s right to defend itself, and that it is right for America to stand with it,” he said.

Has any presidential candidate ever made such a mess of a simple overseas trip? These should be about the easiest things to do. You go, meet with foreign heads of state, wave, smile, say nice things about the country, see some landmarks, and participate awkwardly in some kitschy local culture. I suppose if you’re visiting Israel you have to swear fealty and all that, but given the longstanding bipartisan consensus there it shouldn’t be big news. Instead, political news is aflame with Romney’s repeated “gaffe –> total retreat” cycle.

It’s bizarre how such a buttoned-down, calculating guy can’t seem to get his mouth under control. Zeke Miller and Tim Noah have more.

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Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper, a contributing editor of the Washington Monthly, is currently the Washington correspondent for The Week.