It is hard to overstate the dangerous implications of what happened this week when President Obama was caught by an open mic sending a message to Russia's dictator-in-waiting to wait quietly till after the November elections, after which Mr. Obama could make concessions on America's national defense. The White House is trying to explain this incident away as par for the course in an electoral year. It is not.
Here, in essence, is what it appears to be: this was our commander in chief in league with an anti-American autocrat to dupe the American public until after it's too late. What makes it even worse is that the issue at hand--missile defense--has to do with protecting the American people against the likes of Russia.
We don't need to exaggerate what happened. All we need is to review what Obama, our President, was caught telling Russia's current president, Dmitri Medvedev, while the two met at the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea. Neither man knew the microphones were live and picked up their exchange. Here it is:
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: (reaching over and putting his hand on Mr. Medvedev's knee): This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.
President Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.
The Vladimir in question is none other than Vladimir Putin, who just won elections in Russia this month under a cloud of suspicion, to replace Mr. Medvedev, who has been a fig leaf president for the past four years while Mr. Putin has wielded power from his post as prime minister.
Mr. Putin, who has been open and public in his disdain for both the United States and President Obama in particular, opposes American foreign policy from Syria to Asia to Latin America. He is the poster child for a new breed of authoritarian world leaders who openly want to thwart America's intentions. Most recently, Putin used hostile rhetoric toward the United States as a tool in his re-election campaign, labeling opposition leaders puppets of the CIA. That followed Russia's decision at the United Nations Security Council to veto a U.S.-backed resolution calling for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to step aside.
The President's surreptitious hat-tip to Putin comes at a dangerous time for the American people and U.S. allies. North Korea is preparing to launch yet another long-range missile, and Iran is in desperate pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Meanwhile, the United States and its allies remain unprotected from the threat of nuclear missiles, and now it appears that Obama wants to cede even more ground to Russia on vital national security issues.
The President, probably sensing the potential gravity of the situation, quickly addressed the incident. He tried to defend himself yesterday by saying:
Frankly, the current environment is not conducive to those kinds of thoughtful consultations. The stories you guys have been writing over the last 24 hours is probably pretty good evidence of that. I think we'll do better in 2013.
But this is not how democracy works. In asking Mr. Medvedev to tell Mr. Putin to "give me space" until he can be more flexible next year if he gets re-elected this November, Mr. Obama was clearly telegraphing the willingness to give Mr. Putin at least part of what he wants on missile defense. This President has already given too much. In the New START strategic nuclear arms control treaty with Russia, President Obama agreed that U.S. missile defense capabilities must be reduced along with strategic nuclear weapons -- essentially laying down America's arms and its shield, as well.
Now it appears that President Obama wishes to go even a step farther in order to appease Mr. Putin. Where that step leads, we truly don't know. All we can see is the direction the President is already headed.
The exchange with Mr. Medvedev, lastly, only deepens and validates two already extant and related narratives about our President: one is that he harbors views that are inimical to the American people and only come out in unguarded moments. An example of that is when he said in San Francisco four years ago that Americans cling to their religion and guns bitterly when they're afraid of the future. The other narrative is that the President will be unshackled once (and if) he is re-elected, and will put in place a plan far more radical than he is letting on in public at the moment.
If concessions to Russia on missile defense are what Mr. Obama wants, he can make his case to the American people and ask them to endorse his policies. To hide them until it is too late and he is safely ensconced in office is unseemly.