We don’t often blog about foreign policy in this space, but I am going to make an exception today because I think the president’s hot mic moment reveals what the president thinks about us, the American voters.
Certainly, the president wants to do right by this country and also the world at large. But his desire to be released from having to pay what he must regard as undue attention to the opinions of U.S. citizens comes across so plainly in these unguarded words.
The left is scrambling to downplay President Obama’s comments to the Russian president. But it’s going to be hard to do it this time. Charles Krauthammer nailed it:
I think that the key word here in that exchange was Obama saying to the Russians, 'this is my last election.' It's not just that 'I have another election and I'll be occupied with other issues, let's talk about this. It's a complicated want in December.'
'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.'
The president’s attempts to clarify his remarks have only made it worse. He said:
"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. And Obama insisted his comments to Medvedev were "not a matter of hiding the ball—I'm on record" about wanting to reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles.
As Bill Kristol points out, he was promising more accommodation and suggesting that he won’t have to listen as much to advice after the election. Also disturbing, the president didn’t seem to grasp how inappropriate the comments made to a foreign leader were:
It's one thing to acknowledge election year imperatives when discussing domestic issues at home. It's quite another to do so when discussing foreign policy with a foreign leader. A president of the United States, meeting with a foreign leader abroad, should surely maintain the posture that he's acting in the best interests of the United States at all times. Others can explain election year considerations sotto voce if necessary. But it's deeply inappropriate for the president to discuss election year considerations—especially with a foreign leader whose country is often hostile to U.S. interests. Obama's comments are therefore not only an acknowledgment of his thorough politicization of American foreign policy. They also represent a self-inflicted diminution of the stature of the American president in the world.
Fox’s ubiquitous Jehmu Greene, who speaks mostly in White House talking points, tried to marginalize the president’s critics by charging that they are saying that the president is “a Russian.” Shame on you, Ms. Greene. That is simply not true. Nobody has said anything remotely similar to that. This is a straw man argument.
What is being gleaned from the president’s remarks is that he remains a creature of the faculty lounge, naïve about foreign relations, and eager to be set free from the concerns of the insular public that elected him.
By the way, Mitt Romney’s response was excellent.