08/08/2012 01:37 pm ET Updated Oct 07, 2012

Candidate Romney: When To Keep Your Mouth Shut

A friend of mine, who once was a very important man in the film business, had a problem. One of the people who worked for him had a meeting with another executive who had a big title but no clout. The guy with the big title told my friend's employee that he had to do certain things. The employee told the executive "You're not my boss, you can't tell me to do anything." The employee was worried, but my friend told him that there was no way this guy get him fired. But then he offered what I regard as a very good bit of advice. He said "Never tell a man who has no dick, that he has no dick."

More recently, a woman I know was dealing with a very difficult man, trying to help him to save his life. Whenever she informed him that he had a doctor's appointment, he'd complain and say why can't we do it some other time. Time after time she explained to him that appointments were not easy to get, and she was not always available to take him to the doctor. When he asked her why not, she said "Ed, I have a life." The man she was talking to doesn't have much of a life. He was deeply hurt, and turned from difficult to impossible. That's the second thing to learn, never tell a man he has no life that he has no life.

Several years ago, I posted a piece on Huffington Post -- "Tea With Medvedev." I was, and still am, associated with a group that concerns itself with the effects of culture on progress. We made the great mistake of suggesting to President Medvedev that Russian culture was getting in the way on Russian progress, that other countries were improving their economies at a much quicker pace than his. Mr. Medvedev had previously been cordial and interested in what we were doing. He turned icy, stood up and left the room. After that I developed a third rule, never tell a country that is suffering from a weak economy that it lacks an economic or entrepreneurial culture.

Candidate Romney violated that rule last week, when he informed the Palestinians that they lacked both an economic and entrepreneurial culture. More than that, he announced it in front of their adversaries, the Israelis, who are all too proud of their own financial progress. I now have rule 3a, if you're ever going to criticize a civilization's culture, make sure you don't do it in the presence of its enemies.

The Palestinians were indignant, and other Arabs deeply offended. Candidate Romney seems to have forgotten about all the Palestinian and other Arab voters now living in the United States. I don't think they're much amused either. It never pays to tell those placed in a weakened state that they are weak. They may know that themselves and that makes it even worse. Candidate Romney has got to learn when to keep his mouth shut.