Rarely does any politician travel overseas for truly international aims. Most of the rationale is that the trip will play well back at home.
Take Romney’s short foreign adventure just completed. Romney has no legitimate business being on a foreign trip. The intention was to present him to voters back home as a man who could be an international leader.
The intention is that the association with foreign places, foreign politicians, and foreign people, gives credibility to the traveling politician. You can normally swing the meetings because those you’re meeting hope (vainly) that; 1) the meeting will help them in the future 2) a bit of the stature will rub off on their own hometown ambitions and prestige.
I doubt we’ll ever learn of the tough work that went on behind the scenes to secure the itinerary for Romney’s international tour. That’s a shame, because the effort was largely wasted.
His trip was deliberately designed to compensate for his perceived lack of foreign policy credentials. Thus, every step was planned. And that’s what’s so appalling about the klutzy performance. They had planned to critique the UK, and to mimic the exact same position as others on the Middle East.
A lot is made internationally about the blunders and ordinariness. But, since foreign trips are not for the international work, we should ask did it matter? Would prospective US voters see him overseas and like him more?
For Americans who dislike him, his criticism of the UK Olympic preparations, and ham-fisted references to the Labour’s “Mr Leader” showed he was a cultural blunderer.
For Americans who like him, the images of his visit to Israel safely placed him in the steps of previous Presidents on an ‘international’ issue.
US voters are so polarised, they’re likely to perceive the trip in the narrative of their choice.
What Romney did with this trip is embarrass himself. Voters don’t like to feel embarrassed by their politicians. Politicians, like products and issues, help define who you are. And if our politicians of choice are embarrassed, that reflects on us. WE feel embarrassed. We blame them.
Politicians lose when their supporters cringe.