While reading Charles Krauthammer’s column in the Washington Post about the comments President Obama whispered to Dmitry Medvedev that were picked up by a reporter’s microphone, a further thought occured to me that I did not address in an earlier post on my blog on the subject. These comments were made in a public setting in front of what I imagine were dozens of people, if not more. There were TV cameras, microphones, still cameras, reporters, and the president could not have harbored the slightest expectation of real privacy. Yes, there is a lot of background noise on the audio, but I believe I can say without sounding too cloak-and-dagger that lip-reading is not unheard of even in the modern era. Every Sunday during football season we see NFL coaches talking into their headsets with their play-books over their mouths to prevent spies from the opposing team from gathering intelligence. Surely even if the President thought the microphones and cameras were off and the noise would drown out his whisper-diplomacy, he should have realized that the stage he shared with Medvedev was not the place.
So what was going on? Are we to believe the President’s assurances that this message being passed along to Vladimir Putin was completely innocuous, despite the fact that the explanation he gave later was, as Krauthammer put it, “rubbish?” Or was it a Biden-like gaffe? Or was it simply hubris that must come so easily when one is the most powerful person on the planet, an over-confidence that says, “I can conduct superpower business right here in front of the whole world. Just watch me.”
We may never know the true reason. But beyond the quest for an immediate explanation is another more chilling notion. If this is the kind of thing the President will say in a public setting with the world’s press corps in the room, what on earth will he say behind closed doors? One need not be a conspiracy theorist to feel a knot in one’s stomach when contemplating that thought.
Also posted at Speak With Authority