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.
[26 March 2012, Seoul, South Korea]
Maybe I watched too many James Bond movies in my day. But doesn’t this hushed conversation between the United States President and the Russian President send a chill up and down your spine? More so, because it was not meant to be heard by the American electorate. You know, the very people Obama expects to hand him his “last election” seven months from now.
Having endured a week of political fun and games, endlessly etching and sketching (the sole benefit being a boost in the share price of The Ohio Art Company), we’ve just had a bucketful of ice cold reality thrown in our faces. Arctic ice cold. Russian-winter ice cold.
Mitt Romney has argued for months that Barack Obama is a weak, naïve negotiator, particularly when it comes to international affairs and matters of national security. Romney has repeatedly charged Obama with failing to win crucial concessions from the Russians when he abandoned the Bush administration’s planned missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, and signed the New START Treaty in 2010.
Thus it came as no surprise that Romney was among the first Republicans to sound the alarm about Obama’s true intentions in his comments to Medvedev. The GOP frontrunner called the unexpected revelation of the two leaders’ conversation “an alarming and troubling development.” “This is no time for our president to be pulling his punches with the American people,” Romney pounced. “And not telling us what he’s intending to do with regards to our missile defense system, with regards to our military might . . .”
From the beginning, Obama said his goal was to “reset” this country’s relationship with Russia. In 2009 his dutiful Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, famously hit the red “reset” button she had given to the Russian Foreign Minister. A “reset” button is one thing. Depending on the circumstances, a so-called “reset” (whatever that means, exactly) may or may not be a useful approach.
But a “pre-set” button is something altogether different. In essence, Obama told Medvedev that he’s got his finger on a “pre-set” button, and plans to use it to solve all the security and missile-defense issues that the Russians have put on the negotiating table. The problem is, it’s not time yet to press that button. Obama clearly indicated he already knows how he intends to satisfy the Russians’ concerns. He just isn’t sharing this information with the American people right now.
Don’t push me, Dmitry. Ask Vladimir to hold his horses. Give me some space, a little time. I just need to get beyond November 6, 2012. It will be my last election. And, afterwards, I’ll have much more freedom to do what I’ve wanted to do all along. No political downsides and few legal restraints. You will not be disappointed. Tell Vladimir.
With so much hanging in the balance—American national security, military defense, and leadership in the world—can we agree that the overheard exchange between Obama and Medvedev should be shouted from the rooftops? Should be held up to public scrutiny? Should be probed in the same way that any other politician’s pre-election assurances to any special interest group (much less to a historically adverse foreign power) would be scrupulously examined?
Let this be a clarion call to put away our childish political toys. To quit playing silly word games with our nation’s future, until this election is wrested from Obama. To stop parsing every syllable that comes out of the mouth of every Republican presidential candidate every single day.
The Republican nominating contest is de facto decided. Gingrich is over. Santorum is so over. Paul is forever. But, wait, listen to Obama’s whispered conversation: The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming.
27 March 2012
*etch (verb):  to fix permanently in or implant firmly on the mind; root in the memory. (Random House Dictionary of the English Language. 2nd ed.)
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