Former President James Carter was often referred to as a "Paper Tiger" - image althouse.blogspot.com
ABC news first reported that President Obama was picked up on an open mic noting that he’d have more flexibility after his election – this while speaking to outgoing Russian President Medvedeveon U.S. Missile Defense (ABC). The exchange, which lasted briefly, was immediately defended by the Administration as a simple conversation regarding the inability of the President to move things forward in light of the gridlock in Congress – the article Los Angeles Times article, Titled: Obama Clarifies Hot Mic Comment Made to Russian President” begins:
SEOUL -- President Obama pointed to an uncooperative Congress and hotly contested presidential election for his decision to put talks with Russian leaders over a missile program on hold, a rare instance of a president acknowledging domestic political limitations while on the international stage.
A slightly different version of events comes from the Wall Street Journal
article entitled: “Obama Makes Light of Missile-Shield Remark"
SEOUL—U.S. President Barack Obama is trying to downplay the significance of a comment, accidentally picked up by a live microphone, in which he cited his re-election campaign as the reason he won't tackle the divisive issue of missile defense this year.
The brouhaha over the comment came from Republican’s raising questions about the President position on missile defense changing if he were to be re-elected (WSJ). That is a reasonable considering the fact that “since President Obama took office, the White House has systematically undercut comprehensive missile defense and thereby placed the U.S. homeland and our allies at greater risk. On February 1, 2010, the Administration released its Ballistic Missile Defense Review Report, which indicated that the Administration would continue to pursue a less-than-robust effort to protect the homeland against long-range missile strikes.” (Heritage Foundation.)
However, also reasonable is the fact that gridlock in Congress has dogged the President since he had taken office with the first two years with a Democrat controlled House and Senate, and the last two with a Republican controlled House and a Democrat Senate. (Washington Times) One understands that neither side is willing to move one whit, especially on areas of Defense, with Democrats insisting on cuts, while Republican’s put forth alternatives – specifically in areas of Domestic spending. The problem also lays on the campaign trail, as the President seeks re-election and the GOP nominees are battling both themselves and the President, the rhetoric is at a fever pitch – the assertion that somehow “Congress” is to blame for his inability to move forward, must be taken with a huge grain of salt, considering remarks the President makes both on and off the campaign trail. It is what it is, politics as usual from both sides of the aisle.
However, the point missing from this entire dust-up over an open mic is the fact that the President is seen on the world stage as one who has his “hands tied” and unless reelected will not be able to accomplish much, if anything at all. How does one imagine the Iranian’s or the Chinese or North Korean’s, or those nations to the U.S. Southern border, such as Venezuela views our President at this point (and previously for that matter)? The operative phrase is “paper tiger”, a moniker by definition meaing a weak or ineffectual leader
From the world stage run by theocrats and dictators (elections held in some nations being what they are), a President lacking the ability to move things forward without being able to forcefully convince his nation and his Congress to see his point of view, gives those nations the signal that a nation is of no threat to operations as usual. Therefore, in Iran, for example, where they are consistently testing ballistic missiles and developing their nuclear capabilities, one would understand that the Mullah’s who run that nation, are likely to be bolder in their “saber rattling”. What is of concern is that they stop showing the world and actually launch a strike, either at Israel or the U.S. as they feel no threat from the U.S. Administration or they may feel that the U.S. is incapable of striking back (See the Washington Times Piece on the cuts to the Defense budget.)
Therefore, it would behoove the President, to put the Congress on notice, both sides of the aisle, specifically Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, to get something done, and knock of the impasse. He might also cut back on his partisan remarks, but both scenarios are unlikely as this Presidency, more than others, has fanned the flames of partisanship, since taking office. It was, and still is, the go-to “Blame Bush” for all woes statements that continue to boggle the minds of those who are more bi-partisan – in a manner- Own the Office, and get to work.
It may be a tad late for that, as November is fast approaching and the current front runners in the GOP contest (Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum) would have the support of the conservatives in the nation, as well as (according to job approval ratings) independents. It is probable that 2012 will see a new face on the world stage, either a moderate Massachusetts former Governor, or a more Conservative, Reaganese former Senator – both would take a stronger fiscal and national defense stance – and both would, if not forceful in their approach to the job, appeal to the nation and Congress, be in the same boat President Obama finds himself in now. It is however, doubtful that they would blame former President Bush, and might even be courteous to the outgoing President and “own” the position to which they are both elected and entrusted. One must ask themselves, is it better to be feared on the world stage, and live in relative peace (something we, as a nation have not enjoyed), or to be derided or lack of strength, and run a real risk of a war which would be fought on our own soil. It does appear to be an extreme statement, but from an historical perspective, not so much. Should the press continue to allow pick-ups (apparently there needs to be some education on that front), regardless of who the President may be, and point out errors made (both in the U.S. and on an international scale, it will continue to harm whoever the President may be. Of course, a quick civics course, and an ongoing briefing of world affairs, may be too much for the average journalist to digest – that said there are editors who might be more inclined, even in this day and age, to figure out if something is in the interest of national security. This may be asking too much, considering the glee with which the New York Times and other notable publications treated the Bush Administrations “secrets” as headlines, regardless of the costs to national security.