Elisabeth Meinecke

It's getting ridiculous. Apparently, Romney hurt Spain's feelings by suggesting the American economy might not want to end up like the one in Spain, and the AP then suggested Romney might take advantage of 'Diplomacy 101' should he become president.

First, the AP account:

WASHINGTON (AP) — If Mitt Romney becomes president, he might need a crash course in Diplomacy 101.

He irritated Britons and Palestinians during a summer tour abroad and has declared Russia to be America's No. 1 geopolitical foe. Just last week, the Republican candidate, who plans a foreign policy speech Monday, raised eyebrows in Spain by holding it up as a prime example of government spending run amok.

That left Spaniards confused, and threatened to reinforce Romney's perceived handicap in international affairs, precisely at a time when lingering questions over the Sept. 11 attacks against the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, has President Barack Obama on the defensive.

"I don't want to go down the path of Spain," Romney said Wednesday night during the first presidential debate. He argued that government spending under Obama has reached 42 percent of the U.S. economy, a figure comparable with America's NATO ally. "I want to go down the path of growth that puts Americans to work."

The remark was Romney's latest to cause international offense during a campaign that much of the world is closely monitoring.

The sensitivity reflects a wide understanding that Romney could prevail over President Barack Obama and take over as leader of the world's top military, economic and diplomatic power. If Romney becomes commander in chief, he could face a testy beginning with Europe's economic laggards such as Greece, Italy and Spain, whom he has beaten up regularly throughout the campaign.

No one contests that Spain's situation is dire, its economy in deep recession and unemployment hovering around 25 percent. But Spain's level of government spending is actually low by European standards, and significantly less than Germany and Scandinavian countries with far healthier economic prospects. Spain's woes were chiefly caused by the collapse of a property bubble that had fueled more than a decade of booming economic growth.

Spanish reaction to Romney was swift.

"What I see is ignorance of what is reality, but especially of the potential of the Spanish economy," said Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria.

Maria Dolores Cospedal, leader of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's Popular Party, noted that "Spain is not on fire from all sides like some on the outside have suggested." Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo called it "very unfortunate that other countries should be put up as examples" when the facts are skewed.

So Romney hurt Spain's feelings by talking about their poor economy. Read this September account of Spain's economic state from the Forbes blog entitled, "Spain Reminds Us That The Worst Is Yet To Come In Europe":

Spain, which has the 4th largest economy in Europe, is currently struggling with high unemployment (the highest unemployment rate in Europe), increased borrowing costs, a stressed banking system and rising tensions amongst its citizens as it relates to austerity measures being considered by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Does this sound all too familiar? Take out the word “Spain” and insert the word “Greece” and the first sentence might have been the beginning of one of my market commentaries from several months ago.

The saga in Europe continues as economic and political tensions continue to escalate. ECB President Mario Draghi pledged this summer to “do whatever it takes” to preserve and protect the euro.

In doing so, he essentially pledged the financial resources of the ECB to help stave-off a full, blown-out banking crisis in Europe. In the case of Spain, the ECB has granted a €100 billion euro ($128 billion U.S.) loan commitment for its own banking system.

A government commissioned audit was released earlier today and detailed which banks are in need of funding according to their own stress tests. The results of the stress tests showed a capital shortfall of €59 billion euro, far less than the original €100 billion euro loan commitment, but concerning all the same.

...

With the ECB aid, however, comes the request for a commitment to austerity measures. In this regard, Spain is rumored to be considering new spending cuts and restrictions on early retirement to help balance their own fiscal budget woes. This has led to great unrest in the streets of Madrid in recent days, similar to what we saw not so long ago in the streets of Athens.

Similar to the streets of Athens? So, in other words, Romney hurt Spain's feelings by being honest.  I understand that diplomacy is about maintaining relationships, but that doesn't mean you don't call it like it is when speaking honestly to the citizens of your own country. It's important to remember that Obama, the alternative to Romney, doesn't exactly have a stellar record when it comes to dealing with foreign allies.


Elisabeth Meinecke

Elisabeth Meinecke is TOWNHALL MAGAZINE Managing Editor. Follow her on Twitter @lismeinecke.