I’m usually very reluctant to ascribe deeper meaning to silly gaffes and made-for-TV stumbles by politicians because most of the time no deeper meaning exists. Period. Shit happens. Stupid shit happens a lot.
But two things make Mitt’s Grand Gaffe Tour an exception to this rule.
First and most important, talking up the innate superiority of the Israelis over the Palestinians isn’t, by any definition, a gaffe. That’s real, with real geopolitical consequences. He didn’t misspeak (and I’m not sure one can “misspeak” about such things anyway), and his initial claim to have been misinterpreted has been trumped by his decision to reiterate all the same points to the conservative audience at National Review.
Second, it’s hard to imagine Romney’s gaffes, missteps, and flat-out egregious mistakes happening if he had a different, i.e., solid, foreign policy team advising him. (Ignore the silly, DC-centric focus on whether his press team mismanaged the ensuing uproar.) Romney has no core foreign policy team. It’s also a team without a core. No surprise since it serves mostly to check the box of various conservative foreign policy constituencies. David Rothkopf can and does explain this part of it a lot better than I. Go read him.
The easy flourish to conclude with here would be drawing a heavy black line from Mitt’s team not having a core to Mitt himself not having a core. Maybe that’s true. But Romney is not the first presidential nominee to wind up saddled with an advisory team that is designed for political reasons to reflect the various constituent parts of his party instead of designed to get the real, difficult work done in service of the nominee. So you don’t have to reach the ultimate conclusion about Mitt’s own core — unless and until he fails to fix his team.
David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.