ABC’s Jake Tapper and others are reporting a troubling exchange, clearly not intended to be public*, between Barack Obama and Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev at the end of a meeting in Seoul earlier today. It went like this:
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.
Obama is implicitly linking his ability to pursue the policies Russia would like him to pursue with regards to missile defense to the requirements of the election campaign – specifically the requirement to “sound tough” on national security issues.
He’s not saying “give me time because I don’t have time to schedule the necessary meetings and talk to the relevant people.” He’s asking for political wiggle room. And he knows that Putin wouldn’t be minded to “give him space” if there was any risk of Obama pursuing a missile defense policy that was unacceptable to Russia. A nod’s as good as a wink, as we say in Britain.
Everyone understands that politicians seeking election have to pander to their domestic constituencies and allies, but pandering to a foreign nation – and a dangerous strategic rival at that – is an alarming new tactic.
And while it was bad enough that Obama recently recruited a friendly foreign leader to his re-election bid in the shape of British Prime Minister David Cameron, this is surely the first time that an American president has asked the leader of a corrupt, hostile and thuggish nation to tacitly support his campaign.
It wouldn’t, however, be the first time a leading Democrat has sought to cooperate with the Russians for political gain. Ted Kennedy infamously traveled to the Soviet Union with an offer to help its communist rulers deal with Ronald Reagan in return for the Soviets helping the Democrats challenge Reagan in the 1984 election. (More on Teddy’s escapades here and here.)
Of course, Obama has already shown himself eager to bow to Russian concerns over missile defense, abandoning plans to station elements of a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. In fact, it’s hard to see what further concessions Obama could make to the Russians with regard to missile defence, short of putting that whole 1962 misunderstanding to one side and letting them stick a few tactical nukes in Cuba.
And we know what Obama got in return for that particular aspect of his much-vaunted “reset” policy: continued Russian hindrance of international action to thwart Iran’s nuclear program, Russian belligerence over the Nato intervention in Libya, and, most recently, Russian obstruction of moves by Western nations to stop the bloodbath in Syria.
The White House and the MSM can spin this all they want (“this is not the kind of year in which we’re going to resolve incredibly complicated issue like this”) but it’s a dramatic reminder of Obama’s inclination (and that of Democrats, and the liberal-left in general) to appease nations hostile to the United States, and of the president’s utter inability to demonstrate moral authority when dealing with the nastiest characters on the world stage.
Let’s hope the RNC is already working on turning Obama’s plea to Putin into an election ad, and that whether it’s Romney or Santorum facing Obama they bring this up at every opportunity. I’ll even offer my services as speechwriter, free of charge, to the Republican candidate:
“I will not ask the leaders of regimes whose interests often conflict with ours to give me ‘space’ and ‘flexibility’ so that I can pursue national security policies which they find acceptable. I will do whatever is in the interests of the United States, whether those regimes like it or not.”
It would be good to hear the Republican candidate call out regimes such as Russia for their corruption, hostility to the West and support for mass-murderers in stronger language than the above, but I fear that if they did so the MSM would paint such language as “extreme” and “unhelpful,” so they might need to tone-down the rhetoric during the election campaign. Before the US can properly confront the Putins of this world, it needs to get the Obamas out of the way.
*Between this and the Obama-Sarkozy belittling of Benjamin Netanyahu, expect the president’s advisers to keep a sharp eye out for rogue microphones between now and November.