Warsaw: Last Chance Saloon

How do you know when your foreign campaign trip is not going well? When there are headlines like Today Romney visits Poland. Will there be further gaffes?, to be found today atop a piece by Mariusz Zawadzki in Poland’s most preeminent national daily, Gazeta Wyborcza.

In truth, the Poles already have something to gripe about when it comes to Romney, who likes to lambast President Obama for wanting to make America more “European,” which is supposed to mean “where everybody lives off the government,” and the like. Or in Zawadzki’s formulation of Romney’s message: “Obama draws insipiration from the capitals of Europe, [while] we belong to small-town America!”

Warsaw is, of course, among those “capitals of Europe.” Sigh. Once, he recalls, Europe was America’s most important ally, even for Republicans. But that was mainly during the Cold War; now we have international economic crisis instead, with what is now depicted as a decadent, decaying “social Europe” with its scandalous levels of government debt financing health care for all.

None of this past baggage bodes well for Romney’s visit, even as it is his “last hope” for achieving some sort of positive PR accomplishment out of his foreign junket. We’ve already had a furore about “Polish death camps” during WWII, not that long ago and out of the mouth of the President – surely Romney can at least avoid making that same mistake? Then again, he will be meeting in Warsaw with Lech Wałęsa, a figure as prickly as he is historical and world-renowned. That encounter could turn out to be a minefield, even as Wałęsa speaks no English – let’s hope that the translators will be skillful not just in language but in protocol! And that Romney at least remembers the old Solidariność leader’s name, something he failed to do when meeting with British Labour Party leader Ed Milliband!

UPDATE: I’m now made aware that Romney traveled initially to Gdańsk on Monday, 30 July and continued on to Warsaw the following day.

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