President Obama's explanation today of his private request yesterday, captured on an open microphone, of Russian president Dmitry Medvedev for some "space" and "flexibility" until after November's election, simply compounds the problem.
"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.
Obama is being disingenuous: His private comments to Medvedev were not about reducing nuclear stockpiles. They were about missile defense: “On all these issues, particularly on missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space,” he said. And Obama didn't just ask for “space” until after Election Day. He promised: "After my election I have more flexibility." So Obama was promising more accommodation to Vladimir Putin's Russia next year, not simply reiterating his commitment to nuclear weapons reduction.
Obama's new comment is also revealing. What does Obama mean by saying that the current environment isn't conducive to "thoughtful consultations" with the Pentagon, as well with Congress? Obama is, it seems, suggesting he'll be able to override military advice more easily once he gets past the election. That's good to know. And that his consultations with the Pentagon fall for Obama into the same category as negotiations with congressional leaders from the other party. This is revealing—and scary.
Finally, Obama doesn't seem at all aware of how inappropriate his whole line of discussion with Medvedev was. 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.
Obama vincendus est.