My first instinct was to look past today’s “Anglo Saxon” flap because it relied on an unnamed “advisor” – and that could mean just about anyone – being quoted in a conservative overseas newspaper.
But as the day has progressed, the significance of the story has grown, and it’s getting harder to overlook. The UK’s Telegraph had this overnight report on Mitt Romney, who landed in London this morning, and his plan to improve U.S.-British relations.
In remarks that may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity, one suggested that Mr Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries than Mr Obama, whose father was from Africa.
“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have”.
Romney and his inner circle have dabbled in racially-charged language in a few instances, as we’ve seen of late with references to President Obama as “foreign” and talk of “free stuff.” But the subtext of this quote – in effect, Romney will be tighter with the UK because he’s white – is far more offensive.
It didn’t take long for the Romney campaign to knock the story down. A campaign spokesperson said of the Telegraph quote, “It’s not true. If anyone said that, they weren’t reflecting the views of Governor Romney or anyone inside the campaign.”
I’m glad to hear it, but there are some lingering questions.
Greg Sargent had a good review of the speculation.
A number of people are speculating on Twitter and elsewhere that they’ve identified the culprit: Nile Gardiner, who is the co-chair of Romney’s working group for Europe. The original Telegraph story suggests the speaker is a member of Romney’s foreign policy team.
As some readers have pointed out, Gardiner has also written for the Telegraph and has used similar language about the “Anglo-Saxon dominance” of world affairs.
But I can tell you that I spoke to Gardiner this morning on the phone, and he flatly denied that he was the person who spoke to the Telegraph.
There’s been no talk, as near as I can tell, of the campaign trying to find the source and/or firing him or her.
In the meantime, Vice President Biden has weighed in, too, which necessarily raises the visibility of the controversy.
“Despite his promises that politics stops at the water’s edge, Governor Romney’s wheels hadn’t even touched down in London before his advisors were reportedly playing politics with international diplomacy, attempting to create daylight between the United States and the United Kingdom where none exists. Our special relationship with the British is stronger than ever and we are proud to work hand-in-hand with Prime Minister Cameron to confront every major national security challenge we face today.
“On every major issue – from Afghanistan to missile defense, from the fight against international terrorism to our success in isolating countries like Iran whose nuclear programs threaten peace and stability – we’ve never been more in sync. The comments reported this morning are a disturbing start to a trip designed to demonstrate Governor Romney’s readiness to represent the United States on the world’s stage. Not surprisingly, this is just another feeble attempt by the Romney campaign to score political points at the expense of this critical partnership. This assertion is beneath a presidential campaign.”
For what it’s worth, as of this afternoon, the Romney campaign has not asked the Telegraph for a retraction.