Mitt Romney's unpleasant trip to the U.K. last week quickly became the stuff of legend. No one can even remember the last time a prominent American politician traveled abroad, visited with officials from a close ally, and bungled an excursion this badly.
Perhaps the Republican presidential hopeful would have more luck in Israel? Not really.
Initially, Romney's team said it would bar U.S. reporters from covering an Israeli fundraiser, but in the face of criticism, the campaign reversed course. Worse, Romney's top foreign policy aide, Dan Senor, suggested to reporters that Romney is prepared to support a unilateral Israeli military strike on Iran, and the campaign spent the next few hours scrambling, trying to carefully "clarify" Senor's comments, without actually rejecting his underlying point.
Perhaps the most notable embarrassment came shortly before Romney arrived. The Republican has spent months boasting about his close, personal friendship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, only to have Vanity Fair publish this item over the weekend:
"I remember him for sure, but I don't think we had any particular connections," [Netanyahu] tells me. "I knew him and he knew me, I suppose."
Making matters slightly worse, Romney scheduled a meeting with the leaders of Israel's Labor Party, only to make a "last-minute cancellation."
This was supposed to be Romney's first real audition on the international stage, intended to prove that he can command respect and admiration. The U.S. reputation around the globe, Romney argued, would improve under his bold leadership.
That, at least, was the thinking a week ago. Now, every fear that Romney was not quite ready to sit at the big kids' table has been confirmed, and his foreign excursion is increasingly looking like a fiasco. Jamelle Bouie noted yesterday, "If Mitt Romney were a Democrat, his behavior on this foreign trip would all but disqualify him from the presidency."
Agreed. The question at this point is whether the former one-term governor, the least experienced major-party nominee in more than 70 years, who apparently can't even make brief foreign visits to allies without embarrassing himself, is actually prepared to lead.
"We cannot stand silent as those who seek to undermine Israel voice their criticisms. And we certainly should not join in that criticism. Diplomatic distance in our public between our nations emboldens Israel's adversaries."
It certainly seems as if Romney is making the case that the United States shouldn't disagree in public with Israel -- ever.
Romney really would have hated Ronald Reagan.