Remember when Janice Soprano shot her fiance to death after he punched her in the mouth? Then she calls Tony to come over and help her. He mops up the blood and has his thugs chop up the body.
"All in all, though," Tony tells his sister sincerely, as he drops her at the bus station, "it was a pretty good visit."
By Sopranos standards, all in all, Mitt Romney had a pretty good visit overseas. But by political standards, it was more like Munch's "The Scream."
When President Barack Obama went abroad in July 2008, searching for some foreign policy cred, European leaders smothered him with love and respect.
More than 200,000 Germans thronged to the Victory Column in Berlin, hailing him as "Redeemer" and "Savior." In a joint press conference in Paris, a smitten Nicolas Sarkozy was so touchy-feely that even Obama looked a little embarrassed.
Poor Mitt Romney had no such magic carpet ride. He insulted the British and infuriated the Palestinians while pandering to the Israelis and American Jewish voters, including donors like the Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson who tagged along.
Egged on by some of the same neocon advisers who brought us the Iraq pre-emptive invasion, Romney offered "Go ahead, make my day" diplomacy, promising to back a pre-emptive Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
In an inadvertently hilarious grand finale in Warsaw, where Romney was pandering to American Catholics by dropping
Obama gave four press conferences and plenty of individual interviews when he went abroad as a candidate. But when reporters traveling with Romney mutinied as Mitt left a wreath-laying at a war memorial in Pilsudski Square, pressing to know why he was shutting them out, campaign spokesman Rick Gorka shot back crudely that the press should kiss a part of his anatomy, noting incongruously: "This is a holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect."
The true measure of how inglorious the trip was? The top Romney strategist, Stuart Stevens, assured the press how glorious the trip was.
He took the cascade of chuckleheaded moments and tried to plant the crazy idea in our brains that they were a mark of Romney's steadfast character. "He has a tendency to speak his mind and to say what he believes," Stevens said, "and whenever you do that, there will be those that disagree with you, and there will be those that agree with you."
Romney himself tried the same silly spin with ABC News, telling David Muir when asked about the damaging headlines: "You know, I tend to tell people what I actually believe, and referring to the comments that were made in the media is something which I felt was an honest reflection of what was being concerned, or what was concerning folks."
Mitt's foray showed some new colors, as he intended, but they were not flattering ones. We now know how little he knows about the world, how really slow on his feet he is, what meager social and political agility he has.
Wherever he went, whatever situation he was in, he remained frozen in himself. It was reminiscent of the stinging review of an Oscar Wilde lecture by Ambrose Bierce, who wrote that Wilde was a "gawky gowk" who "wanders about posing as a statue of himself."
The odd odyssey underscored Mitt's off-putting mix of opacity and insularity. Weren't American elites once more worldly, like the Kennedys and the Harrimans? Romney was in the forefront of a revolution in American finance, he was the governor of an important state and he was an elder in the Mormon church. But that's all the stuff he doesn't want to talk about, so we're left with a narrow spokesmodel, banally handsome with an empty look.
Barack Obama created a character called Barack Obama, a remote, superior sort who comes down from the mountaintop during campaigns to assure us that he's just like us.
Romney is not on the mountaintop. He's here, mingling among us, present but absent. A fence wrapped around a wall.
Stuart Stevens is right when he says it's easy to imagine Romney in the White House. I can visualize him right now, lapidary and frozen, in the Rose Garden. A statue of himself.
Maureen Dowd writes for The New York Times.