Michael Barone

Note Obama's use of the first-person adjective. Most American politicians speak of "the" election. Obama calls it "my" election. This sort of personalization comes naturally to a leader whose first public reaction to the death of a Florida teenager was, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."

But of course what's really damaging here is the implication that Obama has a hidden second-term agenda.

Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich were all quick to pounce. "President Obama signaled that he's going to cave to Russia on missile defense, but the American people have a right to know where else he plans to be flexible in a second term," Romney said.

Romney went too far in characterizing Russia as "our number one geopolitical foe." But Russia is at least a strategic competitor and, despite Obama's "reset," not a particularly friendly or helpful one.

Already in his first term Obama propitiated Russia by canceling missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic, both NATO allies. "Were they trading Poland?" headlined the Polish tabloid Fakt yesterday.

And Obama certainly surprised the Catholic bishops with his Health and Human Services decree that Catholic hospitals' health insurance must include coverage of procedures they consider sinful. What further surprises are in store for them and others in a second term?

Obama felt obliged to defend his statement by saying it will take "the next nine, 10 months to work through some of the technical aspects" of missile defense. That's weaker than Kerry's response.

Some commentators are saying Obama's words will hurt less than Romney's press spokesman's "Etch-a-Sketch" analogy. But that hurts mainly in Republican primaries, and Romney seems well on his way to the nomination.

Obama's comment reminds general election voters, most of whom dislike his current major policies, that he might go even further "after my election."

The Republican National Committee has already cut a 60-second spot on Obama's words. You can expect to hear them as often this year as voters heard Kerry's damaging sentence in 2004.

Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM