Some supercilious sorts don’t even seem to try too hard – like American President Barack Obama, given to remarkable and repetitive chattiness when he’s precariously near open microphones. He is so accident-prone, in fact, that we’re forced to deduce that he personifies that most rare of hybrids – the schlemiel and schlimazel rolled into one.
Yiddish clearly distinguishes between the two categories of klutziness. The schlimazel is the one on whom soup is spilled, while the schlemiel is the one who spills it. The uncommon confluence of bad luck and clumsiness leaves one and the same character suffering embarrassment while serving as the instrument of his own embarrassment.
It’s bad enough that Obama chooses to make nice to foreign headliners and disclose to them defeatist strategies – the sort he cultivates secretly and most certainly shouldn’t want exposed to all and sundry. However, if the penchant to resort to such manipulative candor cannot be overcome, it should – one would think – be best practiced behind closed doors.
Obama’s predilection to prattle in the vicinity of plugged-in sound equipment can either denote extraordinary overconfidence and a smug presumption of invulnerability or it’s indicative of exceptional foolhardiness.
Whatever it is, Obama is serially careless.
Thus last November he chitchatted chummily with French President Nicolas Sarkozy during the G20 summit in Cannes. “I can’t stand him. He’s a liar,” a chagrined Sarkozy blurted in reference to the man both of them love to loath – Israel’s own PM, Binyamin Netanyahu. Word is that Sarkozy’s feathers were ruffled because Bibi didn’t credit him with Gilad Schalit’s release.
Pointedly, Obama not only failed to defend Netanyahu but actually expressed unreserved agreement with his cantankerous interlocutor. “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you,” Obama bellyached.
The trouble was that this frank articulation of unambiguous aversion towards Israel’s democratically elected head of government – a staunch ally of America – was inadvertently broadcast to journalists covering the event.
One would imagine that after his on-mic misadventure, Obama would be unable to again pull off the pretence of impartiality. Nonetheless, he audaciously did just that and welcomed Netanyahu to Washington recently as his forever bosom buddy. The approaching campaign season softens animus – or seems to. Accordingly, Obama spares no effort to convince his Jewish electorate that he’s not halfway as sinister as some say.
But when a politician loses fear of amplifiers and visible recording paraphernalia, all sorts of things are bound to spill out. And so at another international conference (the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit last week) Obama hobnobbed with another leader (outgoing Russian President Dmitri Medvedev) when that darn mic was (unbeknownst to him) switched on.
Thus unawares, Obama exhorted not only the Russian honchos but also the whole listening world not to fall for his electioneering blarney. His subtext was that he’s obliged to say one thing pre-election to hustle votes, but that afterwards, if he secures his second term, he’ll do another thing entirely.
This is how it went:
Obama: “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved but it’s important for him [Vladimir Putin] 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.”
The Obama-Medvedev banter wasn’t Israel-centered. It revolved around America’s planned anti-ballistic shield for Europe (mostly against Iranian attack). But Obama’s predilection for deception should disconcert us too because likely the same sort of double-dealing is now practiced in regard to our life-and-death perils.
Obama unabashedly establishes that what he promises now isn’t how he’d conduct himself on his final term, when the dread of the electorate is lifted from his shoulders. It’s not like we didn’t infer this, but Obama’s admission must intensify our intuitive insights. He indisputably plots his course exactly as we suspect.
Privately – with all the calculated conniving that implies – Obama relayed a message to Medvedev’s patron, Russia’s once-and-future boss Vladimir Putin, that greater “flexibility” vis-à-vis Kremlin opposition to American missile defenses will follow Obama’s reinstatement in the White House. Post-election (when Obama has nothing to lose), he’d be free to cut a deal with the Russians that would be deadly to his pre-election interests.
Once he’s impervious to voter-backlash, Obama in effect suggests to his Muscovite counterpart, he’d be prepared to please the Russians even if he thereby displeases the American people. But he needs a period of grace because the Americans he undertakes to bamboozle are also the very ones whom he’ll have to persuade to reelect him.
The purported leader of the Free World no less than offers the most powerful first-hand corroboration of his fecklessness to his prime geopolitical adversaries. Mind you, ex-KGB hotshot Putin wasn’t born yesterday.
In 2009 Obama terminated the missile- defense system for the Poles and Czechs. Obamaesque goodwill, though, went unrequited. Russia helped build Iran’s nuclear reactor at Bushehr, stymies anti-Iran sanctions and underpins Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.
That said, Obama’s latest cozying up to Medvedev represents a whole new twist on appeasement. There’s no getting away from the fact that Obama appealed for Putin’s forbearance in order to help him win reelection. Putin’s payoff would come when second- term President Obama accedes to his demands.
What Medvedev was asked to tip Putin about wasn’t supposed to be shared with American voters or overseas allies. From Obama’s words it emerges that he considered it essential that his capitulation to Russian pressure against missile defense development be kept under wraps – for now. Voters, hence, have every right to ask whether there are other surprises Obama might spring if reelected.
In that vein, Jewish voters (those who still care) need to ask whether Obama is being straight with them in his palaver on the Mideast, both as regards Iranian nuke ambitions and Palestinian cynical stonewalling.
Obama’s pro-Arab/pro-Muslim predilections mustn’t escape the scrutiny of American Jews, no matter how knee-jerk liberal most of them invariably are. If Obama – as the latest flap in Seoul signaled – isn’t shooting straight with the American public in general, odds that he deliberately deludes his Jewish supporters.
Worse than the incredible recklessness of making risky (if not altogether unethical) pitches while wearing a microphone, is the blithe manner in which Obama strove to brush the slipup aside. His flippancy all but screams out that he holds his plebian voters in thinly disguised contempt.
Even more distressing is the fact that he appears to have succeeded in laughing away the incident, as if it constituted no more than an actually endearing indiscretion involving pesky electronic gadgetry. He somehow managed to paper over the shocking content of his overheard conversation – conspiring with an inimical foreign rival behind the backs of his own voters, with an eye to duping these voters.
Hardly much can be more serious than that and potentially more politically disastrous. Still, Obama comes off as immune to what would quash the prospects of other incumbents. Lack of honesty with the voting public – especially when so glaringly exposed – should by logic be catastrophic to his reelection cause. And yet the fallout is barely perceptible, as if Americans refrain from dwelling on the ramifications of clandestine “flexibility” with Russian autocrats.
It’s no joke when the leader of the world’s sole remaining superpower proposes to placate a hardnosed pushy competitor who aspires to regain his country’s erstwhile superpower status. It’s worse when electoral advantage is linked to playing fast and loose with basic security. It’s worst when the president himself is unmistakably heard peddling this shady transaction.
These aren’t tendentious leaks from unnamed sources. What was unintentionally imparted to us is as credible as can be precisely because it wasn’t intended for our ears. Truth surfaces when arrogant jabberers let their guard down, feeling free to expound on hidden agendas – expediently hidden for very ulterior motives.
Without much ado, Putin was told that his irresponsible record will be rewarded by more gratuitous pliability from Obama. America’s allies everywhere must now be wary in the utmost extreme – and principally so Israel, which is the most threatened and loyal of the allies and in the vanguard of them all. Should Obama win his “last election,” we’ll all have lots to worry about.
No amount of post-gaffe lightheartedness on Obama’s part should be allowed to downscale our alarm about his possible reelection.
Jews have every reason to be leery of a second Obama term, after he’ll have waged his last campaign, as he himself stressed. Obama’s lack of candor regarding Israel has been demonstrated all too often. The above-quoted badmouthing of Netanyahu at Cannes is only one of numerous examples.
And we must always bear in mind that what we overhear by coincidence is surely a negligible fragment of worse utterances to which we never become privy. What the open mic divulges is but an infinitesimal indication of what’s said out of our earshot. But that fortuitous tiny tidbit is a fortunate omen because forewarned is forearmed.
We better hope this omen robs us of peace of mind – for the sake of our own self-preservation. All bets should now be off because Obama plainly doesn’t deserve the benefit of our doubt. Indeed, considering shenanigans such as those he broached to Medvedev, doubt becomes nothing less than mandatory.
Medvedev assured Obama: “I stand with you.” His endorsement, though, must elicit the precise opposite from us. In the wise words of playwright Tennessee Williams, “We have to distrust…. It is our only defense against betrayal.”