Mitt Romney quickly ran into problems, all self-inflicted, on his overseas trip to demonstrate his foreign policy chops. His intention was to show he is ready to become a leader on the world stage, but after his London debut he left many wondering whether he is ready for prime time. He's now in Israel, the focus of the GOP effort to make support for the Jewish state a wedge issue in this year's campaign, trying to resurrect his troubled trip.
Expected to join him are several of his wealthiest Jewish supporters, notably billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who has said he intends to spend $100 million to defeat Barack Obama and to bring more Jews into the GOP.
Romney is assured of a friendly reception from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an old colleague from their post-graduate days in the Boston finance world. Romney's visit has been getting an enthusiastic build-up and welcome from Israel's largest paper, Israel Hayom, which, by sheer coincidence, of course, is owned by Adelson.
The GOP's "We love Israel more" campaign has run into some problems in recent days. For starters, after much delay Romney finally came around to calling for a moment of silence at the Olympics in memory of the Israeli athletes murdered at the Munich games 40 years ago, something he failed to do when he ran the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics on the 30th anniversary.
Romney had hoped his attendance at Friday's opening ceremonies in would by a PR triumph but he managed to turn it into a PR disaster all on his own with a series of gaffes that the London organizers, the prime minister and the mayor of London took as insults.
Also adding to his tzoris, House Republicans blocked a bipartisan resolution urging the Olympic organizers to observe a moment of silence on the 40th anniversary of the Munich massacre.
It's not as though this were some highly partisan bill. The measure, H. Res. 663, had Republican cosponsors and unanimously passed the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; and the Senate earlier passed its version 100-0. But House GOP leaders said it violated their rule against most commemorative resolutions, one they had already violated – rightfully — earlier in the week when they memorialized the victims of the Aurora, Colorado, tragedy.
House Republicans didn't intend to upstage Romney – it just worked out that way – but Barack Obama did. Hours before the opening ceremonies in London, the President held an Oval Office signing for the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Act of 2012. The legislation provides an additional $70 million funding for Iron Dome, the short-range anti-missile shield that proved its value again this week in response to rockets fired from Gaza into southern Israel.
Flanked by the leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee as well as the bill's two Democratic sponsors, Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Howard Berman, Obama repeated his administration's mantra about "our unshakeable commitment to Israel."
He also announced that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is making another trip to Israel next week as party of Obama's policy to " deepen cooperation with Israel across the whole spectrum of security issues — intelligence, military, technology." Panetta is the latest in a steady stream of top officials – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was just there– coming to discuss the Iranian nuclear program, the Syrian civil war, the Bulgarian terror attack, developments in Egypt and relations with the Palestinians.
Romney's meetings will include a private dinner with Netanyahu's and a $50,000-a-head fundraiser with wealthy American Jewish ex-pats and visitors. The GOP candidate can be expected to touch on many of these subjects and he can be expected to repeat his promises of strong support. But after his London fiasco, his supporters are hoping that the gaffe-prone candidate with Reaganite delusions doesn't go to Jerusalem and declare, "Mr. Netanyahu, tear down this wall."