LONDON – After vowing not to criticize American policies while abroad, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Thursday took a swipe at President Obama’s decision in 2009 to remove the bust of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill from the Oval Office, a decision that ruffled the feathers of some Brits.
“I’m looking forward to the bust of Winston Churchill being in the Oval Office again,” Romney told a crowd of about 250 people at a Thursday evening fundraiser at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel following a day of meetings with current and former British leaders.
The bronze torso of Churchill had been loaned to President George W. Bush following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and although it was due to be returned when Obama took office, British officials offered to extend the loan for another four years. Obama declined, and replaced the Churchill bust with one of President Abraham Lincoln, a Republican president whom Obama admires.
Romney’s idea of putting the Churchill bust back in the White House first surfaced in an article in The Telegraph, a British newspaper. In the story, two unnamed advisers said Romney would like to pay homage to Churchill if he is elected, with one saying the move would be “symbolically important.”
The same article also listed an unnamed adviser suggesting that Romney, compared with Obama, better understood the American-British relationship due to a shared “Anglo-Saxon heritage,” a remark that Romney's campaign quickly condemned.
Speaking to a crowd of movers and shakers in London’s financial sector, who paid from $2,500 to $25,000 to see the likely GOP nominee, Romney was effusive in describing his experience driving past the 12-foot statue of Churchill in London’s Parliament Square.
“You live here; you see the sites day in and day out,” he said. “But for me, as I drive past the sculpture of Winston Churchill and see that great sculpture next to Westminster Abbey and Parliament and with him larger than life, the enormous heft of that sculpture suggesting the scale of the grandeur and the greatness of the man, it tugs at the heartstrings to remember the kind of example that was led by Winston Churchill.”