All It Takes to Unite the Olympic Games Host Country? A Guy Called Mitt Romney

You probably heard this story already.

The Mittster talked to NBC’s Brian Williams and he said, “There are a few things that were disconcerting.”

We’ve seen the stories out of London, of course.  The Mittster also heard those stories and he added, “The stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials – that obviously is not something which is encouraging.”

Probably did not sit well with UK Prime Minister David Cameron who rebuked Romney (according to HuffPo) with:

“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.”

What’s that they say about diplomats never unintentionally insulting another person? Think the Prime Minister got some tips from Whitehall?

But the Mittster did have some nice things to say about Great Britain during that NBC interveiw:

“But I can tell you that we have a very special relationship between the United States and Great Britain,” Romney said. “It goes back to our very beginnings, cultural … and historical. But I also believe the president understands that. So I don’t know agree with whoever that advisor might be. But do agree that we have a very common bond between ourselves and Great Britain.”

Except that the Mittster forgot he wrote something about it in his book. FP’s Joshua Keating notes that Romney’s book says Britain is a tiny island that makes stuff nobody wants:

“England [sic] is just a small island. Its roads and houses are small. With few exceptions, it doesn’t make things that people in the rest of the world want to buy. And if it hadn’t been separated from the continent by water, it almost certainly would have been lost to Hitler’s ambitions. Yet only two lifetimes ago, Britain ruled the largest and wealthiest empire in the history of humankind. Britain controlled a quarter of the earth’s land and a quarter of the earth’s population.”

Wait until Boris Johnson hears that.

Boris Johnson, if the name is not too familiar is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, a British Conservative Party politician and journalist, who has been the elected Mayor of London since 2008. According to Wikipedia, he was previously the Member of Parliament for Henley and Editor in Chief of The Spectator magazine. You might also remember him as the person who said, “Maybe when President Obama’s hors d’oeuvre plate is whisked away he will find a bill for £5.5m.”

That’s the “congestion” charge for driving in central London. According to the BBC, the Transport for London (TfL) confirmed the US Embassy London owed £5.2m in unpaid congestion charge. The US embassy said it considered the charge to be a “direct tax”.

Okay, yeah, that’s the guy.  And here he is hailing ‘Olympomania’ at Hyde Park, including leading the crowd in a chant of ‘Yes We Can,’ President Obama’s famous campaign slogan from 2008.:

“I heard there’s a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we’re ready. Are we ready? Yes we are!”
[…]
“Can we put on the greatest Olympics games that have ever been held?” he asked. “Can we beat France? Yes we can! Can we beat Australia? Yes we can!”

Ouch! The Mittster’s travel will also take him to Israel and Poland. We’re all ears.

Domani Spero

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State, USAID Must Learn From Afghanistan Errors. Whatabout Iraq?

Below is an excerpt from Andrew Exum’s piece in Abu Muqawama: State, USAID Must Learn From Afghanistan Errors.

The State Department rarely garners similar praise from the American people or its elected leaders. Republican congressmen on Capitol Hill talk a big game on national security and vow never to cut the military’s budget, while at the same time threatening to slash the International Affairs budget by 20 percent. U.S. military officers and troops are held up as the best of what America has to offer, while diplomats . . . well, few Americans are quite sure of what diplomats even do.
[..]
Unfortunately, the State Department is not very good at telling its story to either the U.S. Congress or the American people. When people effectively stand up for the budget of the State Department and make the case for a larger International Affairs budget, it is too often either U.S. military officers or conservative, “pro-military” defense intellectuals.  The State Department and its foreign service officers deserve some of the blame here. I recently finished John Lewis Gaddis’ biography of George F. Kennan, and Kennan’s life is a reminder that those Americans who are most knowledgeable about other cultures can often be the most contemptuous and ignorant of U.S. domestic political culture. Foreign service officers who do not hesitate to spend endless afternoons drinking chai with Central Asian warlords somehow can’t, by and large, stomach the occasional coffee with a junior congressman from Nebraska.

The result is that the State Department as an organization constantly feels that it is under pressure and underappreciated by its appropriators. We should not wonder, then, why such an organization fails to be introspective or critical of itself. That shortchanges both America and the State Department, though, because as Chandrasekaran’s book details, much of the civilian effort promised by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Afghanistan has been an embarrassment.

Actually he’s quite nice about this even when he called the Afghanistan civilian effort by HRC “an embarrassment.” He could have written something a lot worse, like — did you not learn anything from Iraq?

The State Department has been doing stuff in Iraq. Is the Baghdafication of Kabul really any better?  Did State learn anything from what went down in Iraq? And if it did, how come we’re now reading  Chandrasekaran’s Afghanistan edition of Imperial Life in the Emerald City?

As to being not particularly “very good at telling its story,” the State Department has no one else to blame for this. It insists on telling only the happy talk stories. The real world is not all happy talk. 21st century information consumers will not just swallow hook, line and sinker, everything that the 21st century statecraft machine puts out. Oh, wait, that’s the same 21st century statecraft message machine that is all confused and eating crap statistics anyway. You should hear the back story about that multimillion, excuse me, $16.5 million multi-year Kindle acquisition.  Secretary Clinton and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos were supposed to hold hands on the 7th floor, but it never happened.  I bet you want to know how come that’s indefinitely postponed. No, it’s not because she was traveling, silly!

The State Department, by the way, has some quite talented storytellers — authentic and even pee in your pants funny writers. But State is in such a schizo mess when it comes to social media that it runs after bloggers (well, not all of them, just some of them).  Sometimes it wields a large hammer, and whacks a mole or two just so everyone can appreciate its whack-a-mole ability and the “friendly” warning to those who potentially can be whacked also.

How can one help but … you know …. 🙄

Finally, introspection and self criticism, like innovation, (oh, that favorite 21st century statecraft word) are all by-products of an organizational culture that positively recognize the value of mistakes in the learning process.

Kipling writes in If

         If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same

Except that no one makes mistakes at State. Triumph is always crowned king and no one has ever heard of Disaster — except in one’s nightmares, or in very few instances, in OIG reports. But wait, those are redacted. Right. So technically, we are only acquainted with Triumph.

Domani Spero

SFRC Clears Cretz, Malac, Wharton, Laskaris, Ries, Koenig, Kirby, Armbruster, Holtz

The Hill reports that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) on Thursday unanimously approved the following nominees for ambassadorships, setting up their possible approval by the full Senate before the August recess.

  • The Honorable Gene Allan Cretz, of New York, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Ghana
  • Ms. Deborah Ruth Malac, of Virginia, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Liberia
  • Mr. David Bruce Wharton, of Virginia, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Zimbabwe
  • Mr. Alexander Mark Laskaris, of Maryland, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Guinea
  • The Honorable Marcie B. Ries, of the District of Columbia, to be an Ambassador to the Republic of Bulgaria
  • Mr. John M. Koenig, of Washington, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Cyprus
  • The Honorable Michael David Kirby, of Virginia, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Serbia
  • Mr. Thomas Hart Armbruster, of New York, to be Ambassador to the Republic of the Marshall Islands
  • Ms. Greta Christine Holtz, of Maryland, to be Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman

The nine nominees will now join Carlos Pascual in the wait for the confirmation of the full senate. Mr. Pascual who was nominated to be the State Department’s first Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources was cleared by the SFRC in March 2012.

Domani Spero