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A Simple Statement of Fact

March 28, 2012

by J. Andrew Zalucky

Common wisdom says that a politician makes a “gaffe” when he or she actually tells the truth. It’s not what you say that gets you in trouble, its the fact that you got caught saying it in public. Sometimes a gaffe can show a lack of discipline that merits some alarm, especially when said on the campaign trail. But there are times where I find the sensationalism of the modern media blows things totally out of proportion. You want an example? Take this latest “gaffe” by President Obama to see what I mean. Here he is talking to Russian Puppet President Dimitri Medvedev,  about the proposed missile defense shield in Eastern Europe:

For some reason, people in the media (particularly Conservatives) have reacted to this slip as if its some “massive, damning revelation” about President Obama’s foreign policy. While I’ve always been annoyed by those journalists who always and uncritically give Obama the benefit of the doubt, I feel I have to jump to his defense in this instance. What he said to Medvedev was no more than a simple statement of fact.

More flexibility? Gee, what could he possibly mean?

When a President is faced with re-election and is opposed by a House of Representative filled with members who are also up for re-election, he is constrained by certain political realities. In case you somehow failed to notice- during the 2010 election cycle, President Obama faced fierce opposition from the Republicans on nearly every policy initiative. Now, being the opposition party, this only makes ideological sense in the case of legislation such as health-care and environmental policy. BUT, he even faced opposition from Senate Republicans on renewing The START Treaty. That’s right…The START Treaty…one of the landmark achievements of the Reagan/Bush Years, something which pertains to the interests of all Americans (and Russians for that matter), and a cornerstone of modern nuclear disarmament. He was eventually able to get the Senate to ratify the treaty. But the fact that the Republicans took such an obstinate attitude to continuing the policy shows that, yes- an election season limits his options.

In a guest article in Foreign Policy, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is rightfully critical of Russia’s cynical policy stance on Syria and other matters, but makes some sweeping generalizations when it comes to the current administration:

The record shows that President Obama has already been pliant on missile defense and other areas of nuclear security. Without extracting meaningful concessions from Russia, he abandoned our missile defense sites in Poland. He granted Russia new limits on our nuclear arsenal…what they (the American people) are getting is a sad replay of Jimmy Carter’s bungling at a moment when the United States needs the backbone and courage of a Ronald Reagan.

But was it not Reagan who proposed the first START Treaty in 1982? And if Carter was so weak on Russia policy, why was he able to get Breznev to agree to the earlier SALT II treaty? (And why did he then boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympics when Russia invaded Afghanistan?)

And for all of his bluster, what does Mitt Romney actually have to offer when it comes to policy concerning Russia? Does he really think that a more hawkish and pugnacious rhetorical stance will be enough to make Russia change its posture on intervention in Syria?

And, what if he, when elected President, ended up facing an unusually fierce and Liberal Democratic majority in the House of Representatives? If caught on camera in a similar situation, does he really think he would say anything different to Vladimir Putin?

I doubt it.

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