Every so often life spontaneously presents us with unexpected opportunities to teach kids early on why they should pay attention to the world around them, and to encourage their civic awareness. Teachable moments, as the saying goes, where we motivate youngsters into really listening to what our political leaders actually say, inspiring them to think for themselves, what those words mean.
This week’s exchange between the American president and Russian president in nuclear arms talks, caught on open mic, presents such an opportunity to reflect. Consider these comments, what they mean …
President Obama: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.
Russian President Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir (Putin, the incoming Russian president).
It could be construed the president doesn’t want missile defense as a campaign issue, so, wait ‘til next year, and then President Obama will be flexible to meet Russian demands. Otherwise if he acted in an election year, he might be painted as selling us out. And wouldn’t that seem, exactly the case?
I will transmit the information to Vladimir? Who’s calling the shots, us or them?
When Vladimir gets the information, he’ll certainly be appreciative Obama is someone he can flexibly do business with. It is an extremely revealing statement, more than a gaffe.
First, Obama did say it. It reveals as soon as he’s unrestrained by democracy, then things will be different. You wait until I’m re-elected, and I don’t have to answer to anybody, as it’s my “last” election. Then I’ll help ya out.
Again, read Obama’s words. Accountability to the people matters; it’s why we have elections.
Russia has opposed U.S. missile defenses for Europe, claiming the systems are secretly aimed at countering Moscow’s long-range missiles. The U.S. government has said the systems are not intended as an anti-missile system against Russia, but are focused solely on Iran’s growing missile arsenal.
What are we negotiating away … what do the Russians want? What does Obama get in return? We might never know. He’s not going to tell us while he’s running for re-election. He’s going to portray himself as tough, and spin arms negotiation as complex with a need for flexibility.
Does this depend on what the meaning of the word “flexible” is? According to Dictionary.com, the world “flexible” refers to that which bends easily. Flexible refers to that which is capable of being bent. Varying synonyms come to mind … elastic, stretchy, and changeable. Also, unreliable.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, October 1962, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, acting on the instruction of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, met John F. Kennedy, then President of the United States. Gromyko wrote in his Memoirs that Kennedy was very ideologically driven.
So, imagine during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviets are placing missiles 90 miles off our shore. Kennedy says to Gromyko…
JFK: On all these issues, I need space. Next month we have midterms. After the election I have more flexibility
Gromyko: I understand. I will transmit this information to Nikita.
Situation’s no different. The president put the United States in a submissive position, to a long-standing dangerous adversary. He might as well be seeking international permission. And he just might.
Meanwhile, Kennedy told the Soviets where they can go, and on American terms.
The political left has never favored missile defense systems. Certainly, Russia’s opposition to planned missile defenses in Europe lines up. Obama’s statement is hard pressed to be seen as anything other than planning concessions on U.S. strategic defenses, without telling the American people or congress up front, for fear of electoral retribution.
Which begs the question to the kids, and ourselves, is that fair? Would such flexibility have worked out in October, 1962? If we discover the leader of the country intends to hide their true intentions until after an election, what are the consequences?
It’s important for us today, and important for the future voters, too, to pay attention and be aware.