In which the President of the United States is caught on tape offering a wink and a nod to the Russians on a critical US national defense issue:
Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.
Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…
Obama: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.
Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.
You'd think our president would have learned his lesson about sensitive discussions with other world leaders in close proximity to live microphones. Evidently not. This exchange with Medvedev reminds me of the "Etch-A-Sketch" comments from Mitt Romney's advisor last week, in that both were self-inflicted wounds that inadvertently reinforced concerns articulated by each man's detractors. This mistake is worse because the words came from the president's own lips and dealt with a very specific and sensitive national security question. Just as Obama's SuperPAC was quick to use Eric Fehrnstrom's words against his boss, Romney has already seized on the president's whispered remarks to advance a potent line of attack:
@Mitt Romney: Fill in the blank. @BarackObama: I'll have more flexibility to _______ after the election. #ObamaFlexibility
Most Americans already believe Obama's worldview is slanted too far to the left, and frown upon several of his major "accomplishments" in office. Here we have Obama quietly assuring a borderline-hostile, possibly illegitimate regime that he'll enjoy increased flexibility to play ball with them against American interests after he's been liberated from the yoke of voter accountability. Romney's tweet drives at the heart of the logical follow-up question: What else would President Obama attempt to pull off after washing his hands of the irritating business of democracy? I'll leave you with a few thoughts on the subject of the president's hushed remarks:
(1) President Obama kowtowed to the Kremlin on missile defense shortly after entering office. At the Russians' behest, he canceled a long-planned Bush-era agreement, infuriating our allies in Poland and the Czech Republic.
(2) The president strongly supported the new START treaty, which disproportionately extracted American concessions. One of its sticking points in the US Senate was the fact that Russian negotiators insisted that a clause in the document's preamble was legally binding and restricted US missile defense activity. The White House, Democrats, and some Republicans denied this. Russia's Duma disagreed. Despite this meaningful disconnect, we agreed to the treaty anyway. It looks like the Russians are still wedded to their interpretation and that our president is very open to obliging them -- but only after American voters lose their ability to actively object.
(3) US missile defense matters:
UPDATE - Romney resumes his pummeling, and the RNC releases a rapid response video:
“This weekend, the president happened to be somewhere where the microphone was left open,” Mr. Romney said. “You may have heard that. It can be revealing — in this case, it was. Now when the president of the United States is speaking with the leader of Russia saying he can be more flexible after the election, that is an alarming and troubling development,” Mr. Romney said. “This is no time for our president to be pulling his punches with the American people, and not telling us what he’s intending to do with regards to our missile defense system, with regards to our military might and with regards to our commitment to Israel and with regard to our absolute conviction that Iran must [not] have a nuclear weapon.”
UPDATE - Our Polish allies are understandably distressed by Obama's cryptic comments.