Romney’s “Europe Stinks” Narrative

A new poll out, this week, suggests the damage Mitt Romney has done to  himself and to the GOP on foreign policy competency is far more extensive than previously believed possible.  Bottom line: If Romney wins the election, Europeans will hate the US even more than they did during Dubya’s reign of never-ending stupid.  What’s going on, here?

Europeans, obviously, do not follow the endless fascination of the Romney campaign (zzz…). So, this negative view of Romney cannot possible be the result of evaluating his foreign policy positions.  Also: Romney does not articulate any policy positions. No, the problem Europeans have with Romney is most likely a frothy mix of European stereotypes of the dumb American, Romney’s “tour de blunder” overseas trip, and a broad story that the Romney campaign has used as an attack on the Obama administration’s domestic policies–a narrative I call: “Europe Stinks.”

That’s right: Romney has most likely damaged his foreign policy potential with our allies in Europe as a result of being the leader of a party that has tried to rally voters with the accusation that Obama wants us to be like Europe.  Spend months and months on the trail talking down Europe as some kind of Socialist economic nightmare awash with immigrants, out of control debt, hate for Christians, riots, and: “Tell him what  he’s won, Johnny!” It’s a giant shiny box of: Europeans resent you, now.

The irony in all this, of course, is that Romney spent his draft-dodging youth in France.  He could have played up that aspect of his character development and positioned himself as a Commander-in-Chief with an organic connection to our most important global allies.

Imagine a candidate Romney saying, “I know how to work with Europeans better than the President because I lived there, I spoke the language, I got to know run-of-the-mill European citizens in the same way that I know Americans–by talking with them about their hopes, dreams, and prayers. Not only do I know how to work with them on foreign policy issues, I know exactly how to bring European investment to the places we need it most in the United States.  My experience in Europe means more security and more jobs for America.”  Say something like that for a few years and Europeans will be eager to see you take the reins.

But, alas, that Mitt Romney–if it ever existed–is nowhere to be found in a GOP currently lost in the Twilight Zone of its own xenophobia.

In other words: the “Europe Stinks” narrative Romney has embraced by way of lambasting Obama’s domestic policy will, if Romney wins, not only have derailed any chance this country ever has at maintaining our social safety net, but also have deep-sixed diplomatic and economic relations with the EU.

A permanently damaged middle class and the end of European allies–you’re welcome!

Democrats should tread lightly on these EU opinion polls, but should remain aware of how much damage Romney has done to himself and the GOP brand. Nobody likes a candidate who brags about being liked more in Paris than the other guy–unless, of course, you are talking about Paris, Texas.

Still, Democrats would be wise to see how Europe has become a campaign topic in discussions of both foreign and domestic policy.  That is a big deal.

As debate prep revs up, Democrats will want to put a new card into the deck for Obama and Biden: a story about how economic recovery and the generation of new jobs depends not just on investments at home, but also attracting investments from our European allies.

And on the question of working with Europe to invest in, say, manufacturing plants in Ohio, North Carolina, or Michigan, the Obama campaign has a real opportunity to paint Romney as someone who has poked the EU in the eye with a sharp stick instead of extending an open hand.

It’s a way of shining a light on the Romney campaign’s language that could leave a bad taste in voters’ mouths about the GOP “Europe Stinks” narrative. Ultimately, all this talk about Europe could lead many people to give the Obama-Biden ticket a second chance.

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