Differing Views On Political Aspect Of Romney Overseas Trip

By: CNN Posted By Doug Brown
By: CNN Posted By Doug Brown

(CNN) - Former Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark and Richard Grenell, a former foreign policy spokesman for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, sparred Tuesday on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront" over the role of politics in Romney's recent three-country tour.

"The trip really was for political purposes, not for foreign-policy purposes," said Clark, who also makes appearances as a surrogate for President Barack Obama's campaign. He added, "There must be some horserace reason why he is leaving the country."

Grenell said the trip's political dimension was not the Romney campaign's doing.

"He (Clark) used the word ‘political,’ and I think he's exactly right," Grenell fired back. “This is what happens when political reporters go overseas to cover a foreign trip.”

"These guys (reporters) were bored from the beginning. If you look at the Twitter feed, one reporter absolutely tweeted, ‘Why are we here?’ She had no idea," Grenell continued, apparently referring to a post by a newspaper reporter.

The reporter, Maeve Reston of the Los Angeles Times, wrote on Saturday morning, "The length to which Romney has gone to try to avoid making news on this trip is beyond mind-bending. Why are we here again?"

The news that did emerge included apparent missteps by Romney when talking about London's Olympic preparedness and a comparison between Israel and Palestine, when he said that Israel's culture "makes all the difference" and noted economic disparity between Israelis and Palestinians.

Grenell criticized reporters who covered Romney's trip, and said "of course" he would have liked better headlines.

"When you take a State Department reporter or a U.N.-based reporter on a trip, you get substance," he said. "You actually get issues like the former Polish president endorsing Mitt Romney, who understands what Barack Obama is doing in Syria by not helping the opposition. You get substance."

Grenell said another newspaper reporter, who was among several who shouted questions at Romney at the candidate's last stop, should be "embarrassed."

Romney gave no interviews to major newspapers, but did sit for several television interviews - including two with CNN - and answered three questions at a press availability in London. The questions were called out to Romney in a public plaza near Poland's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and a Romney press aide cursed at the reporters, though the aide later apologized.

Clark said politics were at play in this trip in a different way.

"So there are a lot of discussions about taxes and did he pay the right taxes and so forth, and why he won't release his returns and there was a Bain campaign, so probably... somebody said, 'Hey, you know. You need - credentialize yourself, go out there, see some allies, have a great trip," he surmised of Romney’s strategy and his campaign staff.

"That's not true," Grenell interjected as Clark made that point.

"Go out there, look presidential, don't say anything too controversial, come back and it will all have blown over," Clark added. "When you don't follow politics that closely, you might not see it. but when you followed it, you say, there's the strategy."

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