Mitt Romney billed it the "no apology for America" tour. Instead, he may now have to apologise for himself. On Tuesday, the Republican presidential candidate completed his gaffe-strewn visit to the United Kingdom, Israel and Poland and flew home to a country mostly bemused by his trip, but also not persuaded that he had done what he set out to do and shown he belonged on the world stage.
Romney said he picked the three locations for representing allies who had stood for freedom, in contrast to President Barack Obama's "weak policy" of placating enemies of the United States and apologising for the country.
But the Republican made more enemies than friends in Britain. He sided with Israel over Palestinian freedom, pronouncing that Jerusalem was Israel's capital – a claim not generally recognised by the rest of the world, because it legitimises Israel's occupation of the city.
He also made what was widely seen as his biggest gaffe with a racist put-down of Arab culture. Less well noticed but more relevant to the US election was his praise of Israel's government-run universal healthcare system. Romney did achieve his goal of raising pots of money for his presidential campaign. But the Democratic Party chairperson, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, seized on his errors: "I think he's demonstrated pretty repeatedly … that he lacks the experience, he lacks the preparation and the diplomatic skills to be able to be the commander in chief, to be able to be the president of the US."
Obama's campaign spokesperson, Jen Psaki, reinforced the point. "He's been fumbling the foreign policy football from country to country," she said. "This raises some questions about his preparedness."
The Democratic Party swiftly released a video advert poking fun at Romney's gaffes in London and playing up a line from a CNN anchor: "It's a good thing the British do not vote in our elections."
But Romney hit back, telling Fox News that his mistakes were not the real issue. "I realise that there will be some in the fourth estate, or whichever estate, who are far more interested in finding something to write about that is unrelated to the economy, to geopolitics, to the threat of war, to the reality of conflict in Afghanistan today, to a nuclearisation of Iran," he said.
Romney's most contentious claim was his observation in Jerusalem that Palestinian poverty was less to do with the Israeli occupation than "cultural differences" and the "hand of providence".
It did not help his credibility that he managed to severely understate Israel's per capita income.
The Romney camp dismissed the mistakes as irrelevant, but for all the attempts to play it cool the tensions burst forth in Poland when his press secretary, Rick Gorka, lashed out at reporters asking about the gaffes.
Gorka told the journalists to "kiss my ass" and "shove it", although he later apologised. – © Guardian News & Media 2012