Critics of President Barack Obama can be found on all corners of Tampa, Florida, this week, even those of the European variety.
Six European Parliament members expressed disapproval with the president at an event sponsored by YG Network, a nonprofit aligned with a super political action committee funded by casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Echoing a familiar Republican charge, they said Obama has put the U.S. on a parallel path with Europe, where some nations are muddling through a fiscal crisis.
“Europe and America are suffering from the same problems,” Martin Callanan, a U.K. conservative and chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament, said in an interview a few blocks from where Mitt Romney will accept the presidential nomination tonight at the Republican National Convention. “We have an excessive debt, excessive borrowing and we have too high taxes, and we’re not competing with the rest of the world.”
Romney hasn’t endorsed the use of European politicians as surrogates in the presidential campaign, though the former Massachusetts governor has embraced the Republican charge that Obama’s economic policies are leading the U.S. into “European-style socialism.”
The group of European Parliament members sitting a few doors down from the Hooters restaurant in Tampa underlined the new reality in the time of mega-donors, fundraising groups and super-PACs: The campaign doesn’t always control the message.
Though Romney has said he doesn’t believe the U.S. is in the fiscal shape of Greece or Spain, that hasn’t stopped surrogates from pressing the issue.
The politicians from the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists delivered their remarks at YG Network’s convention headquarters named for Adelson’s wife, Miriam Adelson. Adelson and his wife gave $2.5 million each to the YG Action Fund, a super-PAC, in April.
Standing a few feet from the full-service bar, with more than a dozen leather couches and chairs and projection screen televisions tuned to Fox News, Callanan said Romney and running mate Paul Ryan will keep the U.S. from spiraling into economic disaster.
“It’s easy to be a politician offering free lollipops to everybody,” said Callanan, who has become a favorite of U.S. conservatives. Yet “saying, ‘Look, we have to cut your benefits, we have to have less public spending in order to regrow the economy and in order to get our debt down and in order to avoid burdening the next generation with unsustainable levels of debt, that’s a hard message to sell.”
He spoke after a panel titled, “Hey America! Don’t take this road: The Europeanization of the United States.”
Callanan predicted Greece will leave the euro zone, though he said he doesn’t expect it will happen until after the U.S. election.
Obama’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Jan Zahradil of the Czech Republic, another member of the European Parliament and president of the alliance, said the Obama administration has failed in foreign policy. He pointed to the president’s decision to scrap a missile-defense agreement as a “betrayal” of the lawmakers in Poland and the Czech Republic who fought through domestic political pressure to support the initial agreement.
“We are bitter about it and we think that if it was upon a Republican administration, it would have never happened,” said Zahradil.
Callanan said he was invited to attend the convention by Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee. He said he was impressed with the pageantry of the event. The RNC did not return calls for comment.
“It’s unlike anywhere else in the world,” Callanan said with a laugh. “I sat up in the balcony yesterday and watched all the Texas delegation dressed in identical shirts and big hats and the Colorado delegation dressed in red.”
Meeting Romney and Ryan was Callanan’s ultimate goal, though he said that was unlikely to happen this week.
“I accept that we’re international observers, and they have an election to fight and they should be talking to Americans and not to us,” he said.