Commentary Magazine


Topic: Dmitri Medvedev

Obama’s Weak “Hot Mic” Explanation

The president is trying to brush away concerns about his disturbing comments to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, but his excuse is a lot of the same spin we’ve been hearing from the White House since yesterday:

“The only way I get this stuff done is If I’m consulting with the Pentagon, with Congress, if I’ve got bipartisan support and frankly, the current environment is not conducive to those kinds of thoughtful consultations,” Obama told reporters following a meeting with the presidents of Russia and Kazakhstan. “I think the stories you guys have been writing over the last 24 hours is pretty good evidence of that.” …

On Tuesday, Obama said his comments, though not intended for public consumption, were “not a matter of hiding the ball — I’m on record” about wanting to reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles. Though he spoke bluntly to Medvedev, Obama insisted that the thrust of his remarks was in line with what he said in his Monday speech at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and in other public statements.

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The president is trying to brush away concerns about his disturbing comments to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, but his excuse is a lot of the same spin we’ve been hearing from the White House since yesterday:

“The only way I get this stuff done is If I’m consulting with the Pentagon, with Congress, if I’ve got bipartisan support and frankly, the current environment is not conducive to those kinds of thoughtful consultations,” Obama told reporters following a meeting with the presidents of Russia and Kazakhstan. “I think the stories you guys have been writing over the last 24 hours is pretty good evidence of that.” …

On Tuesday, Obama said his comments, though not intended for public consumption, were “not a matter of hiding the ball — I’m on record” about wanting to reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles. Though he spoke bluntly to Medvedev, Obama insisted that the thrust of his remarks was in line with what he said in his Monday speech at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and in other public statements.

Read the New York Times coverage of Obama’s explanation this morning to get an idea of how fast the media is trying to sink this story. The spin is that Obama was simply being pragmatic. Of course he can’t deal with an issue as complex as missile defense during an election year, what with all those radical Republicans in Congress trying to sabotage his chances in November, and the media jumping all over every little perceived controversy. “I think the stories you guys have been writing over the last 24 hours is pretty good evidence of that,” Obama told reporters this morning. Can you believe the nerve of the press to actually report on the president’s hot-mic conversation with Medvedev?

If Obama had been caught on the hot mic saying, “This is my reelection year. After my election, I can actually get something done on this,” that might mesh with his excuse today that he can’t “get this stuff done” because the politically-charged election year “is not conducive to those kinds of thoughtful consultations.”

But Obama didn’t say that. He said: “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.” That doesn’t sound like someone who is primarily concerned about reaching a bipartisan agreement with Congress. That sounds like someone implying that he can personally offer more after he’s no longer beholden to voters (the key words being “my last election”).

As Charles Krauthammer explained on Fox News last night:

‘This is my last election.’ That’s his way of saying with a nod and a wink, ‘Look, you guys have a free hand because you run a dictatorship, your elections are rigged. Well, ours aren’t rigged, but once I get passed my last election, I’m unleashed. I can do anything I want.

And what he’s saying is, ‘you know that reset I began three years ago where I completely undermined our allies in Eastern Europe. I cancelled the missile defense system and I began a process in which our supremacy in missile defenses is now negotiable, which the Republicans have never allowed to be negotiable.’

‘Well, after election day, I can’t speak about it now of course because it’s my last election and Americans won’t actually like that — after election day, I’ll be open.’

This speaks to the deepest concerns conservatives have about an Obama second term.

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Re: Obama’s Revealing Comments to Medvedev

To add to Pete’s post on President Obama’s revealing exchange with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, it should be noted that we now have two such incidents from the president. His first saw him insulting Benjamin Netanyahu with his French counterpart when he thought the microphones were off. In this regard, Obama fares quite poorly when compared with his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Bush had a memorable hot-mic moment during his presidency. It occurred as the Second Lebanon War raged on and the international community was hoping for a cease-fire. Bush was talking to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, both of whom suggested, while they thought their microphones were off, that they didn’t much like UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan for a cease-fire, as it would not actually solve anything. Bush said to Blair:

The irony is, what they really need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this sh–, and it’s over.

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To add to Pete’s post on President Obama’s revealing exchange with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, it should be noted that we now have two such incidents from the president. His first saw him insulting Benjamin Netanyahu with his French counterpart when he thought the microphones were off. In this regard, Obama fares quite poorly when compared with his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Bush had a memorable hot-mic moment during his presidency. It occurred as the Second Lebanon War raged on and the international community was hoping for a cease-fire. Bush was talking to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, both of whom suggested, while they thought their microphones were off, that they didn’t much like UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan for a cease-fire, as it would not actually solve anything. Bush said to Blair:

The irony is, what they really need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this sh–, and it’s over.

He was, of course, correct. But the point is that when the microphones were off, Bush was–to no one’s surprise–just as supportive of our allies and as tough on our adversaries as he was in public. These moments might seem insignificant, but they reveal why some presidents are able to win the trust of our allies, and others are not. Our most candid moments will always play an outsized role in others’ approximations of our moral compass. This is even more so when they confirm a pattern of behavior.

I don’t remember if Bush had any hot-mic incidents with his Russian counterpart, but Condoleezza Rice had a famous one with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in 2006. The two were arguing about Russia’s lack of support for the American-led aid effort in Iraq. Here is the UK Telegraph’s writeup of the exchange:

Mr Lavrov tried to explain that the international community should not become involved in Iraq’s political process – something that Miss Rice opposes – but should be involved “in support of the political process.”

“What does that mean?” Miss Rice demanded.

After a long pause, Mr Lavrov replied with a sneer: “I think you understand.”

“No, I don’t,” she shot back. As Mr Lavrov refused to lend Russian support to the new aid programme, Miss Rice grew increasingly irritated.

“I just want to register that I think it’s a pity that we can’t endorse something that’s been endorsed by the Iraqis and by the UN,” she said. “But if that’s how Russia sees it, that’s fine.”

The article notes that the other foreign ministers barely spoke at all during the exchange. That’s because they usually rely on the Americans to register the West’s disapproval of Russia’s mischief making.

Well, they used to.

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Obama’s Revealing Comments to Medvedev

ABC’s Jake Tapper reports that at the end of his 90-minute meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev today, President Obama said he would have “more flexibility” to deal with controversial issues such as missile defense, but incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to give him “space.”

The exchange was picked up by microphones as reporters were let into the room for remarks by the two leaders.

Here’s the exchange:

President Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.

President Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…

President Obama: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.

President Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.

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ABC’s Jake Tapper reports that at the end of his 90-minute meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev today, President Obama said he would have “more flexibility” to deal with controversial issues such as missile defense, but incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to give him “space.”

The exchange was picked up by microphones as reporters were let into the room for remarks by the two leaders.

Here’s the exchange:

President Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.

President Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…

President Obama: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.

President Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.

I imagine scores of voters will find it comforting to know President Obama is sharing his plans for a second term with both Dmitri Medvedev and Vladimir Putin, even if he’s keeping them secret from the American people. And can anyone guess what it means when Obama says he’ll have “more flexibility” after his “last election”? A hint: This is a president who shelved his predecessor’s plan to build a missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic in order to “reset” our relations with Russia – and Obama did this without receiving any concessions from Russia in advance or since. (Russia has, in fact, been a consistent thorn in our side.) This action was also (rightly) seen as a betrayal by our allies in Eastern Europe. We can only imagine what a second Obama term would mean in terms of unwise concessions and reckless agreements with Russia, Iran, North Korea and countless other nations.

Like Jimmy Carter before him, we have a president today who, by instinct and disposition, is hard on our allies and weak toward our adversaries. It is not the kind of thing you hope to find in a commander-in-chief.

The unmasking of Barack Obama continues — comment by comment, law by law, act by act.

 

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