Gaffees Inc. has just supplied former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — its best customer on the campaign trial — a new supply of gaffes, and Romney rolled one out this morning for all and sundry to admire. Romney has announced that Russia is America’s biggest foe.
So: breathe easy China…breatehe Iran….breathe easy North Korea.
Mitt Romney said today that Russia — not Iran or North Korea — is the United States’ “number one geopolitical foe,” adding that Russia “always stands up for the world’s worst actors.”
Romney’s remarks came during an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, during which he spoke about the comments made by President Obama early today that were caught by an open microphone. During a conversation about missile defense, Obama told Russian President Dmitri Medvedev that he’d have more “flexibility” after the election.
Romney said he was “very concerned” about the president’s remarks, especially because they were made to a Russian leader.
“Russia is not a friendly character on the world stage and for this president to be looking for greater flexibility where he doesn’t have to answer to the American people in his relations with Russia is very, very troubling, very alarming,” he said. “I am very, very concerned.
“This is to Russia,” Romney said. “This is without question our number one geopolitical foe.
“They fight every cause for the world’s worst actors. The idea that he has more flexibility in mind for Russia is very, very troubling indeed,” he said.
When pressed by Blitzer as to whether he truly believed Russia was a bigger foe than Iran or China, Romney sought to clarify his remarks, but did not back away from his argument.
“As to ideological cliches, I have already spoken on the subject. I always get very cautious when I see a country resort to phrasings such as “number one enemy.” It is very reminiscent of Hollywood and certain period of history. I would advise two things to all US presidential candidates, including the person you just mentioned. My first advice is to listen to reason when they formulate their positions. Reason never harmed a presidential candidate. My other advice is to check their clocks from time to time: it is 2012, not the mid-1970s. No matter what party a candidate represents, he has to take the current state of affairs into account. That is the only he could count on winning.”
The central issue for Republicans running for other offices and GOP campaign professionals is this: unless he is totally scripted Romney is proving to be the world’s biggest distributor of gaffes. When former House Speaker Newt Gingrich inevitably vanishes from the national campaign scene the news media will sorely miss their best quote machine. But the gaffe prone Romney may make Gingrich’s loss almost unnoticeable. Gaffes will invariably a)throw Romney off message b)add to the narrative that he is a bit of a madcap candidate c)provide an endless source for TV and cable comedians whose jokes help mold a conventional wisdom narrative about a politician.
Here is what Obama said when he thought his mike was off:
Obama later tried to negate his gaffe with humor:
CBS News report puts it into perspective:
President Obama swears he’s not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.
A day after being caught on an open microphone telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev he’ll have “flexibility” on a missile deal after he wins reelection, President Obama is insisting he has no secret agenda.
“This is not a matter of hiding the ball,” Obama told reporters at a nuclear security summit in Seoul on Tuesday, adding his views on the U.S. plans for a defense shield are already “on record.”
“The only way I get this stuff done is if I’m consulting with the Pentagon, with Congress, if I’ve got bipartisan support, and frankly, the current environment is not conducive to those kinds of thoughtful consultations,” he acknowledged.
The right immediately pounced on Obama after a live microphone picked up his private conversation with Medvedev following a 90-minute meeting on Monday.
Romney’s remark — which suggests perhaps he watched the Game Change scenes featuring Sarah Palin and learned the wrong lessons — will step on the story of Obama having to do damage control.
And in the days to come Romney will have to do some damage control.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.