London Mayor Boris Johnson, who took offense last week at Mitt Romney’s comments that the previously-acknowledged security issues at the London Olympic games were “disconcerting,” found out yesterday just how hard it is to get all the details right.
Mitt’s statement would hardly seem controversial in the context made:
It’s hard to know just how well it will turn out…. There are a few things that were disconcerting: the stories about the private security firm not having enough people, supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials. That obviously is not something which is encouraging.
These problems would have been troubling to someone like Mitt, who is used to having the buck stop with him, and who of course knows a thing or two about Olympic security, having run the 2002 Winter Games without incident just months after 9/11. The head of G4S, the security contractor for the London games, had already told the Home Affairs Select Committee of Parliament the security situation at the games was a “humiliating shambles” for his company and the country. G4S’ failure to recruit and train adequate security forces required impromptu use of the UK military to fill in the gaps. One UK report indicates that up to half the security forces on the ground at Olympic park are now service personnel. Disconcerting? Of course.
Notwithstanding, BoJo and the UK media took Mitt’s sentiments and did what some of our own media and politicians do so well: distorted, diverted and blamed someone else:
There are some people who are coming from around the world who don’t yet know about all the preparations we’ve done to get London ready in the last seven years…. I heard there’s a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we’re ready. Are we ready? Yes we are!”
Why did this reaction seem so natural to the US media and Democrats? Any-who, apparently Boris hadn’t checked the zip lines. The humor starts about the 0:30 mark.
Boris’ plight inspired an internet meme yesterday. Just one of my favorites:
Maybe Boris should have been a little more disconcerted.
Of course everyone’s glad that security at the games has worked well so far and that there have been no truly serious incidents. But perhaps the whole kerfuffle about Mitt’s comments was overblown in the first place, especially the US media’s reaction to Mitt and to Boris. Perhaps their reporting should have been tempered by an understanding BoJo is “notoriously unpredictable,” yet predictably nationalist. But just maybe, as Mitt suggested in his comments in Israel, culture really is important. Not UK culture, but the US media’s culture. As Rich Lowry said in his piece in Politico today entitled “The media’s terrible trip”:
Despite all the conservative energy devoted to monitoring and critiquing media bias, it may be worse than ever. Why? The answer goes back to Romney’s comment in Jerusalem: the enduring importance of culture.
Imagine if a cadre of journalists were recruited to cover the Obama campaign from 100 devoted Rush Limbaugh listeners living in the 230-mile corridor from Midland to Amarillo, Texas. Imagine they were overwhelmingly traditionalist on hot-button cultural issues and heavily evangelical, owned five firearms each and largely socialized with one another and other conservative Republicans.
They could try their damnedest to be fair to the president whose politics they disdain. Still, their own predilections would inevitably show through.
In the real world, journalists tend to have the opposite of all these qualities, and on top of them are usually self-important and willfully blind to their own biases.
It’s a wonder they aren’t told “shove it” more often.
A buddy of mine is fond of saying that in high school his coach would tell their team that when they played away games they needed to be good enough to beat both the other team and the officials. Apparently the same applies to GOP politicians playing against both the Democrats and US media. You can’t whine, you just need to play at least “twelve points better.”
ADDENDUM by Jayde: CNN’s British journalist Piers Morgan said Romney was right (July 26, 2012). He thought it was all “a bit of a fuss about nothing.”
“It’s no secret over here that for the last three weeks the security around the Olympics has been a shambles,” said Morgan. “The outside firm they got in to run it has been all over the place – they didn’t have enough people and the army had to be drafted in.
So, Mitt Romney was only saying exactly what has been happening.”
“He’s run an Olympics, so I thought he was perfectly entitled to be critical,” Morgan continued. He said that the English press jumped on him because they wanted Romney to “talk us up a bit,” but the substance of Romney’s critique was on point.
“I thought it was a bit of a fuss about nothing,” said Morgan. “He was just speaking the truth which can sometimes be rather unpalatable.”