For more photos of Romney's travels abroad, click here.
Welcome home, Mitt. It's time to unpack the baggage from your trip. Unfortunately for you, you came home with more than you left with. And the memories you made are not ones you'll be sharing with your friends at the club anytime soon.
While the goof you made in England was low-grade -- a classic kerfuffle over a candidate accidentally being honest in public -- it raised questions about your judgment, or the advice you were getting, or both. Had your trip to Israel gone well, it would quickly have settled into the soufflé of stories that pass for news during the summer silly season.
But the Israel trip was marked by an even bigger error. This one was not a classic "gaffe," the Washington word for a gotcha moment that political hacks try to spin to their advantage almost as hard as regular humans try to ignore it. Rather, it was something deeper, a true foreign-policy blunder that revealed both a deep misunderstanding of a critical issue and a willingness to sacrifice U.S. interests in exchange for political cash.
The statement, a suggestion that Israel had thrived while Palestinians struggled because of the innate superiority of the Israelis, was also something more. It was racist. There are two possibilities here. One is that Romney was given bad advice about what to say by his staff. The other is that he either ignored the advice he got or misunderstood it and was personally responsible for saying the stupid thing he said. (The likelihood of this latter possibility goes up, by the way, when it is noted that the language he used is similar to elements of his memoir in which he muses about the reason nations decline. In other words, he may actually believe the awful, damaging statement he made.)
Not only was the statement manifestly untrue; it showed a really deep misunderstanding of the plight of the Palestinians and, worse, a failure to grasp that the key to peace in that part of the world will be helping the Palestinians tap their extraordinary human resources and flourish economically on their own. The statement immediately produced a backlash from Palestinians, with whom the United States and Israel must work to achieve a lasting settlement. And that it was all done at a fundraiser to pander to big donors -- including Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate who once called the Palestinians an "invented people" and likened AIPAC's support for peace talks to "committing suicide" -- somehow managed to cheapen what was pretty dumb to begin with.
If Romney was following the advice of his staff when he made either his London gaffe or his Israel blunder, he should fire them. If they didn't advise him to say these things, but failed to give him useful advice about what not to say, he should fire them. And even if they did give him smart things to say and useful guidance about what not to say, he should fire them -- because he can't quit and he'd better find a team he actually trusts enough to avoid falling victim to his own bad judgment again.