Polish icon Walesa wishes Romney 'success' during visit
By NBC's Garrett Haake
GDANSK, POLAND -- Mitt Romney received a warm welcome here on Monday during the final stop of his foreign tour, winning strong praise from one of Poland's most influential political figures that seemed to border on an endorsement.
Former Polish president and Nobel Peace prize recipient Lech Walesa, on whose invitation Romney has chosen to visit Eastern European ally of the United States told Romney, today he wished him "to be successful," but stopped short of saying he was endorsing Romney.
Jason Reed / Reuters
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney meets with former Polish President Lech Walesa in Gdansk, Poland, July 30.
"I wish you to be successful because this success is needed to the United States, of course, but to Europe and the rest of the world, too. Gov Romney, get your success -- be successful!" Walesa said to Romney during a photo spray at the conclusion of a meeting between the two men.
The supportive words for Romney, who also met with current prime minister Donald Tusk, were welcome good news for Romney after his campaign was plagued by charges of insensitivity after making remarks at a fundraiser suggesting that wide economic discrepancies between the Palestinian and Israeli people are the result of cutural differences between the two peoples.Walesa's conservative politics align on many respects with the U.S. Republican Party, and he remains a highly respected figure here after helping lead Poland out from behind the Iron Curtain.
"And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things," Romney said at a fundraiser during a monologue extolling Israeli prosperity.
That quote in particular, which was circulated in an Associated Press story, prompted strong pushback from the Romney campaign.
Romney's chief campaign strategist, Stu Stevens, called the story "completely manufactured" and said the Romney campaign was never given a chance to respond to allegations of racism. Stevens said the AP turned an economic observation into a perceived slight, and argued that Romney has previously made similar observations in his books and speeches.
Romney spent his additional time in Poland afternoon visiting two sites of special significance in the U.S.-Polish alliance: the Westerplatte memorial, marking the first shots fired in the second World War, and the Solidarity monument, to Poland's anti-communist efforts.
Poland's long-standing military ties to the United States played a part in the Romney campaign's decision to visit here. This morning, a senior adviser told reporters Poland's contribution of the third-most troops of any nation to the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan was a sacrifice Romney could be expected to note in a planned speech tomorrow in Warsaw.