NOW with Alex Wagner | July 27, 2012
>>> in sleepy london town , it seems there's no place for a gaffe-prone man. on the eve of the olympics , mitt romney makes the special relationship especially awkward and trips out of the starting block. can he shake off the kinks and make england his paradise? enough of the british rock pun. friday, july 27th , 2012 . this is "now." i'm luke russert in for my look-alike alex wagner. joining me today, rana foroohar, msnbc contributor jonathan capehart of the " washington post ," heather mcghee, vice president of demos and michael hastings , author of "the operators." for the former president and ceo of the 2002 olympics , visiting the london games should have been the easy part of governor mitt romney 's international tour. instead, it's been something of a false start , starting with this.
>> there are a few things that were disconcerting, 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.
>> the british media is now taking the governor to task for criticizing the country's olympic preparation. today's "daily mail" headline reads who invited party pooper romney ? the " london times " says nowhere man. romney loses his way with gaffe about the games. and "mitt the twit." mitt romney is perhaps the only politician who could start a trip that was supposed to be a charm offensive by being utterly devoid of charm and mildly offensive. this is how british prime minister david cameron characterized it yet.
>> we are holding an olympic games in one of the busiest, most active bustling cities anywhere in the world and of course it's easier if you hold an olympic games in the middle of nowhere .
>> after the dig by prime minister david cameron , romney began walking back his comments and this morning on "today" offered gushing pra ining praise for london 's handling of the games.
>> i read the same reports about all the challenges being faced by the organizing committee but after being here a couple days, it looks to me like london is ready and of course, it is hard to put on games in a major metropolitan area and what they've done that i find so impressive is they took the venues and put them right in the city.
>> so impressive, putting venues in major metropolitan areas . jonathan capehart, you wrote today quote, showing signs of mitt in mouth disease . what is the clinical definition of mitt in mouth disease ?
>> i just showed some of the symptoms right there. slamming the host city of the olympics before -- the day before you go to see the prime minister of that nation. but there's another thing he did that i don't know if we are going to bring up. after his meeting with prime minister cameron, he walks out in front of the number 10 downing street for the classic shot and then says hey, by the way, i met with --
>> we're going to get to that. we're going to get to that. in terms of international customs, if you think of the uk, that's a slam dunk if you're going over there. does the question come up now if this is what happens with the uk, what happens with india, what happens with china, what happens with pakistan, what happens with venezuela?
>> absolutely. i have been worried about how romney has handled the china talk for some time now. i think he's way too high-handed with that. you can see a number of comments in the media recently about how he will be tough on them and it is important to be tough but behind the scenes , particularly with china in a delicate situation, but just to go back to europe for a moment, the thing that amazes me, he doesn't seem to be looking back even at a year's worth of his ttory. if you remember tim geithner went over to give them a thrashing and they said go solve your own problems. they don't want to hear this from us.
>> the point of a trip like this is to look presidential. look presidential and look presidential. that's it. there should be only upsides, especially you talked about a slam dunk . it's the olympics , too, we're talking mr. olympics . romney 's whole brand is based off the fact that he saved the salt lake city olympics . to come there, he sits down with brian williams , gets off a flight, he's jet-lagged, talking to one of the greatest interviewers out there and says these things, takes a pretty hard stand against the people of the host nation.
>> i want to play not only the david cameron criticism, but the mayor of london said this in front of 60,000 screaming people.
>> i hear there's a guy called mitt romney who wants to know whether we're ready. he wants to know whether we're ready. are we ready? are we ready? yes, we are.
>> heather, you work in this field. what do you do there?
>> to be fair, he may have angered most londoners but he did collect nearly $1 million from barclays bank and other wall streeters so yeah, i think he was there. he raised a lot of money from a scandal-beleaguered bank and that's also part of his brand as well. he had to do that and say he's mr. financial sector . unfortunately, it was r timing for him t o go.
>> there are 20 more banks under investigation right now. we don't know where the next part of the scandal will come from.
>> the point you had earlier, jonathan , about mi-6. i want to play what he said about that earlier.
>> i appreciated the insights and perspectives of the leaders of the government here and opposition here as well as the head of mi-6.
>> michael, i will go to you. you know national security . the mi-6, britain did not acknowledge its existence until 1994 .
>> i think generally again, i'm going to say jetlag. that's my only answer. you're going to go meet, again, you're taking all these meetings with all these government officials , to show that if you were the president of the united states , you could handle not only how we deal with the world but also our national security . so you take these very sensitive meetings. now, the way to handle this is not to come out and say it in a press conference, it's to get your aides the leak he met with mi-6. but you don't want to be out there saying you met with that organization.
>> one of the rules of international diplomacy , two of the rules, they mirror fight clubs rules. remember? rule number one of fight club , you do not talk about fight club . rule number two of fight club is you do not talk about fight club . you are not supposed to acknowledge the fact that you have gotten a behind the scenes briefing from the head of british intelligence or anyone's intelligence agency .
>> it's certainly an interesting dynamic that if you're trying to show off your foreign policy portfolio, that you make an intel mistake like that, considering one of the big things he's been critical of president obama about was leaks coming from the white house .
>> very good point.
>> let's talk about the president a little bit. he's on the defense, mainly about the "you didn't build that" attacks that have been coming from the romney campaign. kimberly strassel said this in the " wall street journal " which i found interesting. quote, you didn't build that is swelling to such heights that it has the president somewhere unprecedented, on defense. that mr. obama felt required, teeth gritted, to address the "you didn't build that" means he his vaunted focus groups are sounding alarms. he has ads up around the country saying what i really meant was this. heather, how much is this a problem for him as we head into these olympic games ?
>> it's as much of a problem as obviously the television ads before people finally just actually turn them off and this election season can continue to try to make it a problem. what's really interesting about it, though, is that the idea that it's trying to express that in fact, if you are successful in this country, it's not only because of your own effort and why is that important, why is that something we're even talking about right now is because we actually have a presidential candidate in mitt romney and a party that is saying that the most successful people in this country, the millionaires and billionaires, it's okay that hundreds of them don't pay any taxes, that mitt romney himself has a tax rate that's less than half of most teachers and firefighters.
>> for the president to be, we have to close up this segment, but for the president to have to play this much defense, that's a big deal .
>> it is a big deal . for him to have to respond to it in campaign commercials in speeches shows how much of a problem this has been. what the president said in context makes complete sense, is exactly what you said, but if you have to explain over and over and over again your simple message it wasn't that simple.
>> we live in the sound bite world and it gets crazy when it gets run with. coming up, where's the beef. as governor romney prepares for the next leg of his overseas tour, there are new questions about his foreign policy plan. but is there a leg up when it comes to israel? that's next.