Why is Mitt Romney visiting Poland? It’s obvious he wants to recognize Poland’s special relationship with the United States since the Cold War. But it also highlights Obama’s record of political gaffes and missteps with one of our most trusted allies in Eastern Europe.
Here is a list:
May 2012: Obama refers to “Polish Death Camps”
While awarding a prestigious Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski, a famous Polish resistance fighter from World War II, President Obama bungled his speech by referring to the Nazi death camps in occupied Poland as “Polish Death Camps.”
Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk demanded an apology for the President’s comments, but they went unheeded.
The White House dispatched spokesman Tommy Vietor to clarify the statement. “The President was referring to Nazi death camps operated in Poland,” Vietor said, without apologizing for Obama’s gaffe.
Later the White House revealed they sent a letter to Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski regarding the incident, but it still did not contain an apology.
March 2012: President Obama’s “hot mic” promise to Russia
This moment, which then Russian President Medvedev vowed to “transmit” to Vladamir Putin, raised the eyebrows of Poles who were surprised that Obama was begging for “space” regarding the missile defense.
“Were they trading Poland? Puzzling Obama talk with Medvedev about the missile shield” the headline blared in the largest Polish tabloid.
May 2011: President Obama’s token visit to Poland
Many viewed Obama’s visit to Poland in 2011 as a “reset” of relations between the two country, but the president only stayed 24 hours and did not deliver a major speech to the Polish people as previous American presidents had done.
Obama instead held a press conference with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, insisting that he was “part of Poland” because he came from Chicago.
“[I]f you live in Chicago and you haven’t become a little bit Polish, then something’s wrong with you,” Obama said.
April 2010: President Obama goes golfing during presidential funeral
When Polish President Kaczynski was killed in a plane crash in April of 2010, President Obama made plans to attend the funeral for the Polish president, but trip was canceled due to a hazardous volcanic ash cloud over Europe.
Many Polish-Americans were angered, however, as President Obama instead went golfing while the funeral took place without him in Poland.
September 2009: Obama announces plans to scrap the missile defense program in Europe
Obama announced that he would scrap the missile defense shield program in Europe, developed by President George W. Bush, angering Poles as it signaled a key victory for Russia.
February 2009: Biden says White House is ready to “press the reset button” with Russia
Shortly after Obama was inaugurated, Vice President Biden signaled in February of 2009 that the Obama administration were willing to “press the reset button” in negotiations with Russia over missile defense sites in Poland.
November 2008: Obama contradicts Polish President on missile defense
In November 2008, before Obama took office Polish President Lech Kaczynski said that during a phone call with the president-elect, Obama said that “the missile-defense project would continue” in Poland.
That sparked a controversy, after Obama’s senior foreign policy adviser Denis McDonough issued a statement refuting Kaczynski’s version of the call, insisting that “President Kaczynski raised missile defense but President-elect Obama made no commitment on it.”
Afterwards, Kaczynski was forced to issue a statement walking back his comments.