PUBLISHED: 09:01 EST, 26 March 2012 | UPDATED: 17:53 EST, 26 March 2012
President Barack Obama was caught on camera Monday boasting to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would win reelection in November, giving the ‘flexibility’ to make a deal on ballistic missile defenses in Europe.
The unusually frank exchange came as Obama and Medvedev huddled together on the eve of a global nuclear security summit in Seoul, South Korea, unaware their words were being picked up by microphones as reporters were led into the room.
This is the third time Obama has landed himself in hot water after being picked up on a microphone that he didn’t realize was still on. Some have wondered why the president, the most public figure in the world, hasn’t learned his lesson.
Last fall, he and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were recorded talking about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during which Sarkozy said the PM was a ‘liar.’
Last April, he was caught privately bashing Republican Rep Paul Ryan during a conversation with campaign donors.
However, a former Press Secretary to President George W. Bush, Dana Perino, now a Fox News commentator, said the hot mic comments might have been intentionally broadcast — as a way to signal to the world that a second term would bring greater leeway in international relations.
In the remarks Monday, Obama urged Moscow to give him ‘space’ until after the November ballot, and Medvedev said he would relay the message to incoming Russian president Vladimir Putin.
US plans for an anti-missile shield have bedeviled relations between Washington and Moscow despite Obama’s ‘reset’ in ties between the two former Cold War foes. Obama’s Republican opponents have accused him of being too open to concessions to Russia on the issue.
PRIVATE REMARKS MADE PUBLIC
In the conversation, President Barack Obama is asking outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to give a message to Vladamin Putin, who was recently won a third term in office.
Here is a full transcript of the remarks, according to ABC News, which first reported the comments:
President Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.
President Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…
President Obama: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.
President Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.
Leaning toward Medvedev, Obama was overheard asking for time — ‘particularly with missile defense’ – until he is in a better position politically to resolve such issues.
‘I understand your message about space,’ replied Medvedev, who will hand over the presidency to Putin in May.
‘This is my last election… After my election I have more flexibility,’ Obama said, expressing confidence he will win a second term.
‘I will transmit this information to Vladimir,’ said Medvedev, Putin’s protégé and long considered number two in Moscow’s power structure.
The exchange, parts of it inaudible, was monitored by a White House pool of television journalists as well as Russian reporters listening live from their press center.
Russia strongly opposes the US-engineered bulwark being built in and around Europe against ballistic missiles.
The United States insists it is intended as protection against a missile attack by countries such as Iran, but Russia says it fears the system could weaken its nuclear deterrent.
The White House, initially caught off-guard by questions about the leaders’ exchange, later released a statement recommitting to implementing missile defense ‘which we’ve repeatedly said is not aimed at Russia’ but also acknowledging election-year obstacles on the issue.
‘Since 2012 is an election year in both countries, with an election and leadership transition in Russia and an election in the United States, it is clearly not a year in which we are going to achieve a breakthrough,’ U.S. deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said.
‘Therefore, President Obama and President Medvedev agreed that it was best to instruct our technical experts to do the work of better understanding our respective positions, providing space for continued discussions on missile defense cooperation going forward,’ he said.
BEWARE THE HOT MIC: A BRIEF HISTORY OF PRESIDENTS AND PRIME MINISTERS CAUGHT MAKING PRIVATE REMARKS
The remarks to President Medvedev weren’t the first time presidents, or even President Barack Obama himself, have been caught saying things they thought were private. Here are a few recent examples:
November 2011 — During the G20 Conference in Cannes, France, President Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy caused an international uproar after Sarkozy said he was fed up with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
‘I don’t want to see him anymore, he’s a liar,’ Sarkozy says.
Obama replies: ‘You’ve had enough of him, but I have to deal with him every day.’
April 2011 — President Obama doesn’t realize that a microphone was left on during a private meeting with campaign donors in Chicago and was heard making remarks about Rep Paul Ryan, the Republican who was spearheading efforts to dramatically cut federal spending and repeal Obama’s healthcare law.
‘When Paul Ryan says his priority is to make sure, he’s just being America’s accountant… This is the same guy that voted for two wars that were unpaid for, voted for the Bush tax cuts that were unpaid for, voted for the prescription drug bill that cost as much as my health care bill — but wasn’t paid for. So it’s not on the level,’ he said.
May 2010 — At the press conference celebrating the passage of Obama healthcare law, Vice President Joe Biden introduces the president then turns to embrace him. Microphones, piped into live TV being broadcast across the country, picked up Biden tell the president: ‘This is a big f****** deal.’
April 2010 — British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was forced to apologize to Gillian Duffy, 65, after he met with her to smooth over her anger about the country’s budget. As he got into his car, Brown was still wired to a Sky News microphone and was overheard telling an aide: ‘That was a disaster.. They should never have put me with that woman. Whose idea was that? Ridiculous.’
Asked what was wrong, Brown responded: ‘Everything, she was just a bigoted woman.’
July 2006 — During a G8 meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, Prime Minister Tony Blair walks over to chat with President George W. Bush and the two begin discussing the Lebanese group Hezbollah and its conflict with Israel. Bush is upset that the United Nations isn’t taking leadership of the crisis.
‘You see, the irony is that what they need to do is to get Syria, to get Hezbollah to stop doing this s*** and it’s over,’ Bush tells Blair.