Obama's Muslim problem

Obama has a Muslim problem; California GOP in trouble; secret help for Syrian rebels; and other top Friday stories

Published July 27, 2012 12:36PM (EDT)

Obama’s Muslim problem bigger than Romney’s Mormon problem: More voters know that Romney is Mormon than know that Obama is Christian, according to a new Pew Poll. While 60 percent of voters correctly identified Romney’s religion, only 49 percent could identify Obama’s, while nearly one in five voters -- 17 percent -- think he’s Muslim. About 19 percent of voters say they are uncomfortable with Obama’s faith, including 65 percent who think he’s Muslim, while just 13 percent are uncomfortable with Romney’s faith.

RomneyShambles: Only a bit of British slang is capable of capturing how poorly Mitt Romney bungled what should have been a foolproof trip to London during the Olympics -- Omnishambles. As in, shambles in every way possible. But since it’s Romney, the British press has taken to calling the affair RomneyShambles.

The response was swift and vicious in a uniquely British way after Romney questioned the preparedness of Londoners for the Olympic Games just moments after arriving on British soil Wednesday. There was a rebuke from U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, and another from London’s conservative Mayor Boris Johnson. And this morning, the secretary of state for culture, olympics, media and sport told the BBC, "We are absolutely ready. We will prove Mitt Romney wrong.”

The British press is having a field day in a way that puts the American press’ outrage machine to shame. Even the conservative corners of Fleet Street are pouring gas on the fire. Rupert Murdoch’s the Sun reads today: “Mitt the twitt.” The Telegraph declares despondently, “If Mitt Romney doesn’t like us, we shouldn’t care.” Romney aggressively walked back his earlier doubts about the game, saying he is “convinced” London is ready and that the games should be “fantastic.”

The lesser gaffes: But questioning the preparedness of the games was hardly Romney’s only misstep. He also improperly revealed that he had met with the head of MI6, apparently not realizing that the director of the Secret Intelligence Services wanted to keep his meetings secret. Romney also apparently forgot the name of Ed Miliband, the head of the opposition Labour Party, referring to him in a meeting as “Mr. Leader.” And finally, in a bit of dialectic confusion, he referred to “backside” -- British for rear end -- of No. 10 Downing Street, the prime minister’s residence.

While it's mostly comical, there are real consequences here, both abroad and stateside. The whole purpose of Romney's trip was to demonstrate that he can "look presidential" and in command of foreign policy -- a weakness of his -- in general, and more specifically to show that he can repair the "special relationship" between the U.S. and the U.K. that President Obama has supposedly damanged. He seems to have failed in both counts here.

California GOP in omnishambles: The Golden State hasn’t been a particularly friendly environment for Republicans in a long while, but the party is in dire straits at the moment, facing huge financial problems that are forcing it to abandon its Sacramento headquarters. The San Francisco Chronicle reports, “The crisis emerged after state party officials, facing an $850,000 shortfall in late June, fell behind in rent, phone bills, payments to Internet vendors and printers, and worried they would have to cut employees' health care insurance payments.” Since then, they’ve been forced to lay off staff and abandon the headquarters, though they’ve negotiated down the debt.

Obama ready to secretly help Syrian rebels: Reuters reports that the White House has “crafted a presidential directive, called a ‘finding,’ that would authorize greater covert assistance for the rebels, while still stopping short of arming them. It is not clear whether Obama has signed the document, and U.S. officials declined to comment on the finding, which is a highly classified authorization for covert activity. But in recent days, the Obama administration has signaled publicly it plans more help for the rebels.” The situation in Syria has been deteriorating quickly and the move could be the most aggressive action the president has taken thus far in a conflict where he’s faced pressure from both parties to do more.

By Alex Seitz-Wald

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2012 Elections Mitt Romney