How's This for Flexibility, Mr. President?
It was a shocking disclosure just two years ago. In Seoul, South Korea, President Barack Obama’s voice was picked up on a hot mic as he told Russia’s Dmitri Medvedev: "Tell Vladimir [Putin] I can be more flexible after the election."
It was an unprecedented confession by an American head of state. It was shocking – or should have been – because it showed the president of the United States conspiring, literally whispering assurances to a foreign leader that may not have been consistent with his own public pronouncements to us, the American voters, or to the world.
American presidents are not supposed to be dealing behind the hand or under the table with foreign leaders. It speaks of a fundamental lack of trust between the governors and the governed. Our liberal media – always in the tank for Mr. Obama – yawned and brushed it all off.
Mitt Romney tried to raise the issue, but he stumbled badly. He pronounced Russia “our number-one strategic enemy.” If he had been elected, how could he have dealt with Putin’s Russia with that deeply flawed pre-supposition?
Russians are not our enemy. Nor should we let Vladimir Putin’s Great Power ambitions make the Russians our enemy. Successful U.S. presidents from Harry Truman through JFK to Ronald Reagan maintained the view that the Russian people were our friends, however much their dictatorial rulers tried to make them our enemies.
President Obama has done virtually everything wrong in dealing with Russia. He let Hillary Clinton present them with a misspelled “reset” button in 2009. That button was red, but it was a green light for Russian aggression against the Republic of Georgia. It signaled the Obama administration’s willingness to let bygones be bygones and let Putin’s seizure of several Georgian provinces stand. Flexible.
Next, Mr. Obama stiff-armed the Poles and Czechs over missile defense. He withdrew an American offer of help to our new NATO allies while wishfully thinking this would make Putin more amenable to aiding us with Iran’s nuclear program. Putin pocketed the concession and gave not an inch, nor a millimeter on Iran, or, for that matter, on Syria. More flexible still.
Now, we have Secretary of State John Kerry tripping over his shoelaces with every public utterance. We’re going to impost sanctions against the ruling Russian clique – the crowd that used to be known as the nomenklatura. They won’t be able to travel freely in the West. They won’t be able to access their offshore bank accounts, presumably.
But this is a ruling elite that can already command the best that a country spanning twelve time zones can offer. They will have their dachas on the Black Sea (and now they will have easy access through a newly acquired province in the Crimea).
But Secretary Kerry hastens to add that this is not a “threat,” not “personal.” Does he believe that? Does anyone?
So much for this administration’s post-election flexibility. The latest public opinion polls show that the bloom is off Barack Obama’s red rose. Americans are increasingly becoming disenchanted with his left-wing politics and his mistrustful dealings with foreign dictators.
Remember that open hand with which he approached the Iranian mullahs? How has that worked out?
Meanwhile, this administration is showing manly firmness with at least one foreign nation. The Obama State Department has taken to counting Jews in Judea and Samaria and is daily berating the Israelis about settlements.
They are doing this on behalf of the PLO. That terrorist outfit lined up unapologetically with the USSR for decades. Only when Western resolve helped bring down that evil empire did Yasser Arafat and his PLO cohorts shift sponsors.
Why the United States should be flexible with Putin and PLO boss Mahmoud Abbas never made sense. It makes even less sense now.
Ken Blackwell dealt with the Russians at the highest levels as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Bob Morrison dealt with them at the lowest levels in the Bering Sea over fishing rights.