Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's criticism of the London Olympics was a national embarrassment for the United States, a top aide to President Barack Obama said today.
Romney's remarks were widely seen as a gaffe and were ill-timed as his visit to Britain kicked off an important foreign tour aimed at burnishing his diplomatic credentials ahead of the US presidential election in November.
"I'm happy (British Prime Minister) David Cameron had the last word, because I thought it was embarrassing for our country," Robert Gibbs, a senior advisor on Obama's re-election team, told ABC's This Week program.
Within hours of landing in London, NBC television broadcast an interview in which Romney said it was "hard to know just how well" the Olympics would turn out and said there were "a few things that were disconcerting."
He even questioned the British Olympic spirit, adding: "Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment? That's something which we only find out once the Games actually begin."
Cameron duly responded with what was believed to be a veiled attempt to belittle one of Romney's crowning achievements, his rescue of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City from financial ruin.
"We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world," the British leader said. "Of course it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere."
Gibbs said Romney's decision to "stand in the country of our strongest ally," and question whether or not Britain was ready for the Olympics "does make you wonder whether or not he's ready to be commander-in-chief?"
"It's clear that voters in this country wonder aloud whether Mitt Romney is ready for the world, and I think the world is not yet ready for Mitt Romney," the former White House press secretary said.
Instead of seizing the initiative on a subject he has detailed knowledge of, Romney's remarks left him on the back foot and he later issued several clarifications.
One of the Republican candidate's top aides said the remarks would not have a long-lasting impact on Romney's chances of defeating Obama in the November 6 election.
"I don't think that a gaffe or a YouTube moment is really going to make or break this particular election," Kevin Madden, a senior Romney advisor, told "This Week."
"Headlines that come out of London on one day are not going to be as important as the overall view that people take when it comes to our economic prosperity here at home and then our safety and security around the globe."
Madden said Romney's subsequent visit to Israel would allow the Republican contender to prove his mettle on the foreign stage.
"I think that's going to be much more important as a judgment on this particular trip than anything that happened" in London, he said.