Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr
There's a standard paragraph towards the end of every stump speech Mitt Romney delivers. Though the candidate's spiel generally ignores international affairs, he wraps up by saying he talked to an unnamed British official who told him, "The one thing we all fear the most is a weak America."
There's certainly nothing wrong with the sentiment. The United States is the global superpower, so it stands to reason many of our allies do not hope for American decline. But this gets trickier when Romney starts attributing related sentiments to actual people.
As Mitt Romney prepares to travel to Europe and Israel to make his case to past and current world leaders this week, he leaves behind a public disagreement with one of America's strongest allies.
At a fundraiser Sunday night in San Francisco, Romney recounted his version of a conversation he had earlier in the day with Bob Carr, the Australian foreign minister. Romney claimed that Carr had told him in their private meeting that America was "in decline," but that the situation could be turned around if an appropriate budget deal is reached.
The problem, as the Australian foreign minister was quick to point out, is that Carr didn't say what Romney claims he said. In fact, according to a statement released by the Embassy of Australia, Carr was actually praising America's economic strengths. But Romney suggested to his donors that Carr is some kind of political ally, as if the Australian foreign minister supports the GOP budget plan and believes it will help end American decline.
It's worth noting that those seeking the U.S. presidency shouldn't run around talking about the United States being in "decline," especially with foreign officials. For that matter, Carr is a Labor Party official, and by U.S. standards, quite liberal. The notion that he's secretly on Romney's side is deeply silly.
But perhaps more importantly, as Romney prepares to go abroad, it'd be nice if he avoided international incidents. Indeed, to borrow a suggestion from March, if the inexperienced candidate who's struggled badly with the basics of international affairs is going to meet with foreign officials, perhaps he should release transcripts of the meetings to the public, so voters can know what kind of other mistakes he's making on the global stage.