It’s a good thing most Americans are focused on the Olympics this week –not that the average person gets as intertwined on politics as much as the average poli-wonk or political junkie.
But still …
Mitt Romney, along with his team, made a few gaffes overseas and are now considered culturally insensitive. But they could count their lucky stars the mistakes may not have too much of an impact on his run given the attention shift of the consuming public this week.
First, fresh off the boat, he got ahead of himself, having successfully headed an Olympics as Chief Executive of the 2002 Salt Lake City, Utah Winter Games. This apparently qualified him to openly criticize London’s attempt.
He told NBC news that after a briefing with Britain’s security chief he saw “a few things that were disconcerting” about London’s preparations including “stories about the private security firm not having enough people, supposed strike of immigration and customs officials that obviously is not something which is encouraging.”
That prompted England’s Prime Minister David Cameron to respond: “We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere.”
Before that incident, and before Romney even landed on British soil, UK-based paper The Daily Telegraph quoted an unnamed Romney advisor saying that President Obama is unfamiliar with Brits and Romney’s shared Anglo-Saxon heritage, suggestingthey should be more comfortable with Romney more so than that colored guy … oh – what’s his name again?
“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the Telegraph quoted the adviser as saying, “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.” Ouch! Romney said he had no clue who that was, but didn’t agree with him.
Then, during a series of meetings and interviews in Israel, as he tried to beef up his foreign policy creds before the November elections, he placated and played up his audience and during one address suggested that Jewish culture makes Jews successful people. Not surprisingly, the remarks angered the Israeli neighbors in Palestine, many of whom have said called the suggestion racist because it infers something about Palestinian culture has made it less successful.
“It is a racist statement, and this man doesn’t realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation,” Saeb Erekat, a senior aid to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told the AP.
“It seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people. He also lacks knowledge about the Israelis themselves. I have not heard any Israeli official speak about cultural superiority,” he added.
If he eventually, becomes the President, he will have to convince this “culturally inferior” group that he is a fair person to broker their centuries old peace. Okay. Good luck with that.
I’ve said this before in jest, but what I believe I know what good ole’ Mitt needs to curb and put an end to what seems like are endless cultural gaffes that present him as an aloof, spoiled rich, man. It’s time to do away with the stereotype that he has no clue about, connectedness to or empathy towards poor people, folks of color, and those who have not been able to find success in life – irrespective of barriers not of their doing. He needs a cultural boot camp!
That’s right. Let me borrow a reality show cultural reference if I can. Remember The Simple Life? It was a television series which ran from 2003 to 2007 and featured heiress Paris Hilton and her bestie, Lionel Richie’s daughter Nicole. Cameras followed them, ripped out of their comfortable, privileged, Beverly Hills life as they worked with, around, for and among average normal people in a variety of low-to-moderate income towns, rural villages and sleepy communities. That social experiment made for some entertaining television, which solidified Hilton’s dizzy persona much more, but also seemed to humble the girls a bit.
There was never a reunion show or follow up as to whether any of the girls learned much about the average person given they were still followed around by cameras and more likely played it up to the TV audience, totally negating the “real world” part of their ordeal.
But today, television audiences can definitely see the impact of more recent on-camera social experiments like these have on the rich men and women in the CBS reality TV show, Undercover Boss or ABC’s Secret Millionaire. In both shows, wealthy bosses or the self-made pretend to be a worker or an average working person on the street and discover real life unsung heroes who are inspiring others, providing for themselves while maintaining a strong work ethic and being leaders while working in hourly-wage jobs.
By the end of each episode, where the millionaires or bosses reveal themselves (and sometimes offer perks and privileges to those shining stars they met while pretending to be one of the little people) the bosses are in tears and totally empathetic to the trials of the underlings who helped sustain them. They reveal a new found appreciation for what the common man endures and seemingly come through better for having gone through it.
Seriously: rather than a world wind trip to foreign lands, perhaps an on the grounds, hit the pavement, visit to real folks, sans the cameras and media to see how real folks live would help Mitt “get it” more. I’ve said this of Obama as well, and his needing a team of regular folks to keep him in check.
If Sarah Palin – a la HBO’s “Game Change” portrayal – can be forced to cram before her Vice Presidential debate, why can’t Mitt do the same, and study up on the millions of average folks he wants to lead?
He has been known to say that Obama never worked in the private sector and doesn’t understand business. Well then, as a man who has been well-off most of his life, he’s proven not to be relatable to the average man. If he wants to convince independents and centrists –those often thought to be the swing vote in any given election – maybe he needs to start studying up on us poor folks too!